New chapter can start now for Celtic's fringe stars

MUCH has happened in the 53 days since Celtic defeated Dundee United 3-1 then stepped up to receive the SPFL Premiership trophy at a packed and rejoicing Celtic Park.

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Ronny Deila talks to some of his players, including Derk Boerrigter, centre, during a training session
Ronny Deila talks to some of his players, including Derk Boerrigter, centre, during a training session

A new manager and assistant, Ronny Deila and John Collins, will tonight oversee their first game in charge of the Hoops in the much more tranquil surroundings of the Hofmaniger Stadion in the picturesque Austrian town of Bad Wimsbach.

While the game against Russian side, FC Krasnador, will undoubtedly be more functional than riveting, with a swathe of substitutions sure to break up any flow, for a handful of players it can provide the first few steps on the road to recovery.

Everyone in the squad which travelled to Austria will be starting afresh under the manager who has replaced Neil Lennon.

But Deila has poured over DVDs of last season, and further back, to get a handle on what he has inherited.

He has a good working knowledge of who are the main men in his team, those who can be relied upon when the chips are down, and those who have, so far, proved they can not.

It is the players in the last group who have most to gain from the series of warm-up games which Celtic will kick off tonight.

Deila would have had to search hard for any telling contribution made by the likes of Derk Boerrigter, Amido Balde and Teemu Pukki in their first season at the club.

For the money paid, individually and collectively, they provided little, though Pukki did at least end the campaign on a high by scoring against St Johnstone in the final week to take his tally to seven.

At his previous club, Stromsgodset, Deila showed his ability to make players better. With the aforementioned trio, there is plenty of scope to do that.

But, while it is a new start for all, those who have failed to make any real breakthrough will also be aware this period of assessment by the new management team coincides with the transfer window being open.

Deila will know what funds he has at his disposal to augment areas of the team he has identified as being in most need of bolstering.

Anything he can bring in from the sale of those deemed surplus to requirements will boost that kitty.

Deila has watched intently as all the players have been put through their paces at Lennoxtown and now in Bad Leonfelden.

He has sat down with them and got an insight into their personalities, their character, and their determination to be part of what he is planning.

Now comes the moment he will get to see if this corresponds with what they bring to the table when the whistle blows, or whether some simply talk a good game.

While 23-year-old Balde was always touted as 'one for the future' due to his lack of experience, and allowances were also made for 24-year-old Pukki as he had been moved around from Finland to Germany then Scotland inside the space of three years, Boerrigter's age and CV put him in a different category.

At 27, and boasting regular football with Ajax in the Eredivisie and European competitions, he should have hit the ground running.

Instead, Boerrigter appeared to hit everything else, including opponents' boots and bodies.

The tag of being less than battle-hardened - which he claimed was inappropriate as he had actually played on with a broken back while in his homeland - was soon attached to him, and he did little to shake it off, much to Lennon's chagrin.

It was perhaps an early wake-up call for Boerrigter that Deila has already mentioned he is in the market for wide players as both the Dutchman and James Forrest missed so much of last term.

Certainly, there is fighting talk coming from the man who reputedly cost the best part of £3million.

"Last season was a really bad season for me," acknowledged the player who scored just once in his 22 bit-part appearances.

Boerrigter added: "I had a lot of injuries, and my first priority is to get really fit, like when I played for Ajax.

"They were good seasons for me. I want to get back to that level and to stay at that level."

Deila will want to see proof of that on the field, not just read about it in newspapers.

In full flow, there is no doubt the flying Dutchman does have something to offer, and will excite the fans. But, the people who pay their money to watch Celtic are no mugs.

Having initially warmed to him when he made daring bursts with the ball during his debut against Ross County, their admiration cooled as he failed to deliver on the promise he showed and limped off, not only on his debut, but in several subsequent games, disappearing for weeks on end nursing another injury.

The one thing which does not seem to have taken a hit, however, is Boerrigter's confidence.

He still believes he can be an key figure in the Celtic side, and told the club's website: "If I can get the ball on the sideline and dribble, then I can be important and an option for the team with my pace and crossing.

"Hopefully, I can use it a lot."

The Dutchman continued: "In my first game of the season last year, I showed a little bit of what I can do.

"Hopefully, I can get more games like that and show the fans what I can really do."

First of all, however, he has to impress new manager Deila, and not just during the regular chats he has been enjoying with the boss.

"I like the new manager," said Boerrigter. "He's a really good guy.

"Socially, he's really nice. He talks to you and lets you know what he expects of you.

"I've been very impressed with what I have seen.

"I didn't know much about him before he came here.

"But, straight away, he had a meeting and introduced himself.

"He told us a bit about his life and what he expected of Celtic, of us, and of himself."

For Boerrigter, and a handful of others, the time to meet those expectations begins now.


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