Lennon hails Celtic legacy of Samaras

TWELVE months ago, Georgios Samaras was voted Player of the Year by the Celtic supporters.

Loading Comments
Share
Print
Kris Commons celebrates with Georgios Samaras after the Greek's goal secured Celtic's first Champions League win on the road at Spartak Moscow
Kris Commons celebrates with Georgios Samaras after the Greek's goal secured Celtic's first Champions League win on the road at Spartak Moscow

Today, a huge swathe of those same fans are ready to bid him a less-than-fond-farewell as the Greek international counts down the weeks until his six-and-a-half-year career at Parkhead comes to an end.

Such a swing of opinion is in keeping with the lack of consistency which has defined Sami's time in Scotland.

For every game in which he has left spectators gasping in awe, there has been one in which he has left them screaming in frustration.

However, the title 'Greek Tragedy' is trite, based more on a good tabloid headline than any fact.

And, if we are, indeed, watching the final act of his performance as a Celt, manager Neil Lennon is eager to ensure his achievements at the club, and contribution - both domestically and in Europe - are not allowed to be tainted nor sullied.

Coming from the man who was ready to show him the door after his performance in the Scottish Cup semi-final defeat to Ross County three games into his tenure as interim boss, and who subsequently handed him a new contract while admitting he is the type of player who can get a manager the sack, it is quite a reference.

Though he would prefer Samaras to stay, Lennon is coming to terms with the fact this complex personality has reached the conclusion that, at 29, he needs the fresh challenge moving from his comfort zone will provide.

Lennon is aware that, given his unwillingness to commit to a new deal, a portion of the club's support believe Sami should not be anywhere near the first team as they cruise towards the conclusion of another championship- winning season.

But the manager is mindful Sami has another World Cup on the horizon with Greece, and believes he deserves to be allowed to go to Brazil in the best shape possible.

Besides, Lennon would not be happy if the winger-cum-striker's Celtic career was simply allowed to drift to an ignominious end with him playing the part of some kind of bad guy.

"I don't think that will be the case because he has done too much already for this club for fans to think of him that way," said Lennon. "We do have a negative attitude at times, when you are talking about football in this country.

"Whether you are talking about players, or teams or clubs, it always seems to be a case of talking it up well, then there is always an, 'Ah but' at the end of it.

"Or, when they look at players and what they can do, they always talk about the negative in his game. To me, Sami has been great, and I am sure he will want to end his time here - if that is going to be the case- on a high."

There have been plenty of those along the way. For a club which, for so long, could not buy a win on the road in Europe, he became Lennon's go-to guy.

Sami's response was to score in five consecutive away games, including the winner in Celtic's first ever Champions League success away from Parkhead, when they defeated Spartak Moscow 3-2 in Moscow in October 2012 to set them up for a place in the last 16.

Europe is so often the stage which brings him into the spotlight, but Samaras has also been a serial contributor in big domestic matches, including vital Old Firm games.

A classic hat-trick against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park earlier in the season and a stunning sub appearance the night the championship was clinched at Firhill were other reminders of just how good in-the-mood Sami can be.

It's what made him a £6million buy for Manchester City when he was bought from Heerenveen as a gangly 20-year-old, before the oil money came gushing into that club.

It is what made Gordon Strachan not only entice him north on loan after it all went sour at City, but then convince Sami to accept a huge cut in his wages to make the move permanent weeks after he had helped Celtic make it three-titles-in-a-row at Tannadice in May 2008.

And it is what made clubs throughout his time at Parkhead enquire about his availability.

Spanish club, Hercules, made a bid for him in 2010, but it was rejected. Atletico Madrid, Sampdoria and Trabzonspor are among others to have come calling.

They were not the only clubs to be disappointed. The player himself has refused lucrative overtures from others, including Russian side, Rubin Kazan, even when some at Celtic might have preferred if he had accepted.

Kazan were prepared to pay wages of £60,000-per-week, and the deal would have made Sami - and Celtic - quids in. But money has never been the god for the man with the Jesus-style haircut and beard.

In that sense, and in so many more, Sami is not your typical footballer. His contentment, not his bank balance, is what weighs heaviest with him. That extends to off the park, where he yearns for a quiet life.

Consider how many times he has featured on the front pages or the feature pages of any newspaper during his seven seasons here.

Chances are, you can't think of even one occasion. Likewise, there is nothing about his behaviour on the field which marks him as any kind of bad Bhoy.

Sure, he can infuriate when he makes the wrong decision, running up a blind alley or losing possession when a pass was called for, or side-footing his shot when the ball is crying out to be smacked.

Even more exasperating can be the way he holds his head in his hands, as though he simply can't believe he has just done something which the fans will tell you has done with ridiculous regularity.

But, then, just when his fiercest critics are ready to vent their spleen, Sami will pull off that special turn, or glide past five opponents on one of his loping runs before scoring with a sublime finish.

The proof that the good far outweighs the bad is confirmed by the fact there is no shortage of clubs ready to offer him the new start he now appears to crave.

Lennon does not know how much it will take to replace him, but he does know he will be saying goodbye to a class act.

"Sami is a good player and, when he is in the mood, he is unplayable at times," is the manager's summation. "The age-old question is, can he find that consistency?

"Well, for a good 18 months here, he certainly did that.

"He's been a big, big player for me, and can take a lot of satisfaction, if and when he does leave, for his contribution to this club."

Football

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on Evening Times on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis. If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

158039

Have you got a story?

Contact the news desk on 0141 302 6520 or email news@eveningtimes.co.uk
A weekly round up of social highlights

A weekly round up of social highlights

Cat's Eyes on Glasgow

Why I am raving about Lady Gaga, the Hanoi Bike Shop and Scotland’s Ambulance crew

Times Out

Entertainment

Lifestyle

TV Advert
Gail’s Gab

Gail’s Gab

Gail Sheridan is a mother-of-one and wife to Tommy and she likes to get political with the hot topic of the week in her column Gail’s Gab.

Michelle McManus

Michelle McManus

Sussed in the City

What have you done to your face Renee Zellweger

Janice Bell

Janice Bell

You couldn’t make up half the stuff that happens to PA Janice Bell- some of the jams she gets herself into are worth a story or two.