The best thing about the team’s performances in recent have, without a doubt, been the resurrection of our so-called fringe players and their return to a place of prominence in this team. It’s a truism of football that a crisis presents opportunities for players, and our often-overlooked footballers have a chance here to come to the forefront of the manager’s mind.
But I look at the likes of Liam Scales, James Forrest and now Iwata, getting into the team and doing well, and fulfilling important roles when called upon to do so, and I wonder if the term itself – fringe players, I mean – isn’t one that should be consigned to the bin.
It’s one of those football phrases that, the more I think about it, might not have a future in the modern game. Because what do we mean we talk about a fringe player anyway? Someone outside of the squad? What does that mean these days? The word “squad” is an evolving thing. When we talk about the squad are we talking the best eleven players plus eight or ten more? Are we talking about everyone registered for Europe? Or beyond that?
Would anyone have said Scales was “part of the squad” until recently? Or Iwata? Or Forrest? These are the sorts of players considered “on the fringe of the squad” … which is why it’s such a surprise for some people to see them in the team or on the bench. But really, what does it mean anymore to be “on the fringes?” Even if you accept that there are 18-20 players comprising your best eleven and some backups, are we to leave all the others out?
Looking at the bench at the weekend, who were you thinking might come in and play if we’d lost a central defender? Iwata, right? But he came in and played defensive midfield instead, which is his natural position. I would stipulate that a guy like that would be on the bench most weeks, a guy who can step in and function in different roles.
Forrest, because of his experience and his ability to put in big displays in big games, I think might be on the bench more often than not because his cool head is sometimes necessary if you want to contest a tough fixture or close out a tight game. S
Scales has been too damned good to ignore. I watched him grow into the Aberdeen team last season but never in my wildest imagination did I think he’d be playing at the heart of our defence on visits to Ibrox, Rotterdam and Livingston in quick section, and not look out of place. In fact, he looks like he was born to it. He’s a classic example of a player thriving under a new manager, and this is one of things, of course, that Rodgers has previous for.
What Rodgers did at the weekend was pretty near brilliant, and yet he was second guessed about it all the way, from Celtic fans to the so-called pundits. People like Keevins sneered from the sidelines that the decision to play Forrest on that plastic grotesquerie was some kind of vote of no confidence in Palma and Yang; it was no such thing. It was the manager picking the tools to suit the task at hand, and that’s what our big squad size allows for.
I still think we have too many players, but the beauty of this group is that it does give the manager the latitude to select players based on the job at hand, just as Postecoglou did, just as any elite level manager will do. And this will be even more evident with Rodgers than with the Australian because he’s more prone to tactical changes on the fly and mixing it up a bit.
So watch his team selections carefully.
But more than that, watch his subs bench choices, because that’s where you might see it first. Not for this guy the tyranny of the like-for-like swap; he will pick his subs bench based on what he might have to do in-game.
He will want options for if it’s tight and we need to hold our position. But he’ll also want options in case of injuries, or in case we need to step up a gear and chase a game.
There aren’t any fringe players anymore, that’s what I think. Rodgers will find a way to use everyone, because he’ll pick his team and his tactics based on the opposition, on the surface, on the and he will not be afraid to drop a big player if he think someone else can come in and do the job he needs doing on a specific day.
Like don’t be surprised if he picks Oh over Kyogo in certain games where he thinks we would benefit from that physicality. Don’t be surprised if he plays them both. I think we’ll see system with two up front before long.
As a Celtic fan, I am thrilled that we’ve got this guy back in the dugout, but even as a football fan who loves to watch the game, it is fascinating watching him work and trying to figure out what he’s up to.
I know what I watched at Ibrox and Livingston, I know they were masterful tactical displays, but the actual mechanics of how he did it … I have no more answer to that than The Mooch or The Mob Boss had, being on the wrong end of it.
You saw it on Martindale’s face in that interview at the weekend; he was shell-shocked that nothing he did against ten men even made a dent. When you consider the team that started the game, it is astonishing that we won so comprehensively. When you consider that we played for an hour with a man down it is almost unbelievable.
When you consider the ten men we had on the pitch at the end of the match, well that bordered on the miraculous. And this guy is just getting warmed up.