Kennedy not buying ‘Turks in turmoil’ talk
Celtic coach wary of Van Persie’s threat
JOHN KENNEDY, the Celtic first-team coach, has warned against reading too much into the turmoil at Europa League opponents Fenerbahce and insisted their summer signing, Robin van Persie, remains a world-class striker.
The Turkish club spent heavily in the transfer window but failure to reach the Champions League has put new coach Vitor Pereira under increasing pressure, and there is a real chance he could be sacked if his side lose in Glasgow on Thursday night.
Pereira has also fallen out with summer signing Van Persie and while the Dutchman came off the bench to score on Sunday, the pair’s frosty relationship was caught on camera when the former Manchester United man clearly hesitated before weakly shaking his manager’s outstretched hand while sitting in the technical area.
Fenerbahce are on the same number of points as top-of-the-table Besiktas in the Turkish Super League, but the home defeat to Molde in the opening Europa League fixture and his handling of Van Persie, reportedly on a weekly wage of £220,000, has put huge pressure on Pereira, who was at one stage in the running for the Rangers job.
The Portuguese has opted to use Brazilian striker Fernandão ahead of the 32-year-old for most matches. However, Kennedy believes the Dutch captain will start on Thursday night and that he remains a threat.
“We don’t take any positives from talk of Van Persie having problems with the coach,” said Kennedy. “Based on what I’ve seen, Van Persie had a big impact on the game when he came on. I’d be very surprised if he didn’t start against us on Thursday. He is their best striker.
“Van Persie is 32 now and obviously at the other end of his career. But he is still a top, top player. His finish on Sunday night was excellent. He is very calm in front of goal. There is intelligence there.
“He’s still got legs and he’s definitely got a football brain. That’s sometimes the most important thing.
“With the experience he has, he looks after his own game. He is still a threat. He is always there or thereabouts when chances come into the box.
“He is scoring goals and they have got that in different areas of the pitch. We know what his strengths are and we need to make sure we look after that.”
A win for Celtic would all but make Group A a three-way fight between the Scottish champions and Molde and Ajax who face each other in Norway.
Kennedy, however, promised nobody at his club is getting too carried away with their chances. “Listen, people are saying Fenerbahce are a club which is struggling, but they’re not,” he said.
“They lost on Sunday night and had a disappointing result in the Champions League against Shakhtar Donetsk.
“But outwith that, they have been quite convincing from what I have seen. They have a lot of top players.
“They are in transition, with a new coach this season and about eight new players.
“But the players they have are very impressive – Van Persie, Nani and several other top-class players,
“It will be a tough game. Molde obviously got a good result against them two weeks ago but we have to make sure we bring our ‘A’ game on Thursday if we are to get anything out of the match.”
RIFT: Robin van Persie has fallen out with Fenerbahce coach Vitor Pereira