New Celtic striker plots path to first team

AS HE watched his new Celtic team-mates finally catch their delayed flight to Turkey yesterday, Iceman Holmbert Fridjonsson was coming to terms with the fact he is being thawed out slowly by his new club.

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Holmbert Fridjonsson has been left at home while team-mates have headed for Turkey
Holmbert Fridjonsson has been left at home while team-mates have headed for Turkey

Neil Lennon is determined to allow the striker time to find his feet before exposing him to the harsh reality of first-team football.

The 20-year-old agreed to join the Hoops from Icelandic club, Fram Reykjavik, in November. But his four-year deal only began on January 1.

The hitman and the Celtic support were stripped of any idea Fridjonsson would be thrown straight into the heat of battle by Lennon, who has made it clear the new Bhoy will need to undergo considerable prep work before he is unleashed.

The learning curve for the new Bhoy began at Lennoxtown in mid-December, after he enjoyed a brief rest following the completion of the Icelandic season.

He had hoped it would pick up pace in the warmer climes of Turkey this week, where Fridjonsson could have been given the chance to pull on the Hoops for the first time in the Antalya Cup.

However, a slight injury scuppered those plans, and he will instead be reporting to a near-deserted Lennoxtown training complex for treatment while his team-mates take on Trabzonspor in their opening tie tomorrow night.

Despite this disappointing setback, he is a man on a mission - and that's to force his way into Lennon's plans sooner rather than later.

But, already, Fridjonsson has noted what he is up against, and what it will take to dislodge those ahead of him in the pecking order.

He said: "I will have to work for it, but it's my aim to get into the team."

Lennon has emphasised the need to have flexibility in his striking department, and this could be Fridjonsson's trump card.

His height and power is what first caught the attention of Celtic, and he would like the opportunity to bring this to the side.

Fridjonsson said: "In Iceland, I played in a 4-3-3, so I was used as the target man.

"But I play in a 4-4-2 with the Iceland Under-21s, so I am flexible.

"I want to play some games and, hopefully, score goals.

"It's a lot to hope for, but that's what I want to happen in the next few months."

Fridjonsson is using this waiting time to study how this Celtic team ticks, and he likes what he sees.

He said: "The style here is quite similar to Iceland.

"It's good football, and the game has been growing in Iceland.

"But here it is quicker and the tempo is at a higher intensity. The physical side is much better, too.

"It means I have to think more quickly. But, playing with better team-mates will, in turn, make me a better player."

Fridjonsson - who is making the difficult transition from part-time to full time - is a willing student as he embarks on the second phase of his football education.

"I am training with my new team-mates every day, so I think it will come quickly," he said of the first-team opportunity he so craves.

"I like how we play with a lot of crosses, so hopefully I can get into the box a lot.

"I am a big, tall striker, good in the air, and I have good technique."

Fridjonsson carries in his armoury a certain self-confidence, which all strikers need.

But he appreciates what a sea-change his life has undergone since he knocked back the chance to move to Holland and opted for the Scottish ticket instead.

Now, it is all about settling, on and off the park.

While spending a week living in a hotel with your team-mates might not appeal to everyone at the club, especially the family men among the group, for Fridjonsson it would have been the perfect opportunity to get to know everyone that bit better.

And it would sure have been better than returning home to an empty house every day after treatment at Lennoxtown.

When you get your big move, especially so young, the acclimatisation is not just about adapting to a new club, but to a new environment and lifestyle, as Fridjonsson explained.

"My family and girlfriend were over just before Christmas, but I am living on my own now," he told the Celtic official match programme.

"My girlfriend can't move over until the summer because she's finishing her studies in Iceland.

"It will be hard for me to adapt on my own because I have never lived away from Iceland before."

He has been given every help in adjusting, however, and has nothing but praise for the way his team-mates have rallied round.

"The squad have been great with me so far," he explained.

"Everyone has been kind and willing to help me.

"Derk (Boerrigter) has particularly helped, and Nir Biton has been driving me to training.

"This is my first time in Scotland, but I heard the nature was similar to Iceland, so I knew I'd like it.

"The people are really nice.

"They are very warm and kind, and supporters have even noticed me in the street, which I wasn't expecting - not this soon, anyway."

If he can recover from this niggly injury and make the breakthrough he is targeting, that's something Fridjonsson will find is all part of being a Bhoy.

Football

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