The Scottish Mail on Sunday

Ange: Griffiths must earn fans’ backing

Moyes has sympathy for young Celts defence after six-goal battering

- By Graeme Croser AT CELTIC PARK

CELTIC manager Ange Postecoglo­u has placed the onus on Leigh Griffiths to win back the support of the club’s fans.

A section of the Parkhead crowd repeatedly booed the returning striker after his appearance as a substitute in the 6-2 friendly defeat to West Ham yesterday.

It was the 30-year-old’s first match involvemen­t of pre-season and also the first time he has played since a police investigat­ion into social-media messages sent to two teenage girls failed to establish criminalit­y.

Griffiths (right) recently signed a new one-year contract but new boss Postecoglo­u insists the Celtic supporters are entitled to make their own judgment on the player.

Postecoglo­u said: ‘If Leigh works hard at training and produces the kind of football he can, scoring goals, I’m sure the crowd will get behind him.

‘That will be down to Leigh and his performanc­es.

‘I won’t be telling the Celtic supporters anything. They’ve followed this club a lot longer than I’ve been here.

‘My job is to produce a team they are proud of and we let

AS David Moyes watched his centre forward Michail Antonio tear Celtic’s young defence apart there was empathy for the plight of Dane Murray and Stephen Welsh.

As an emergent Celtic centreback, the West Ham boss once walked in the shoes of the young duo. He won a league winner’s medal as part of a successful team featuring the likes of Charlie Nicholas, Danny McGrain and Paul McStay in 1982, yet moved on a year later.

Moyes would need to wait for management to reach elite level and his Premier League firepower was just too much for Ange Postecoglo­u’s youthful back line to cope with.

‘I know what it is like,’ said Moyes after the final whistle. ‘You have to have great big you-know-whats to play for Celtic, especially if you are a young centre-back.

‘It is really difficult. So you have to be patient with them.’

Yet patience is something Postecoglo­u can ill afford as he attempts to navigate the Champions League qualifiers with an inherited squad that is desperatel­y short of defensive options.

New signing Carl Starfelt is quarantini­ng. Christophe­r Jullien is injured. Nir Bitton is suspended. And Kristoffer Ajer finally left the premises following his £13.5million transfer to Brentford. The Aussie has no choice but to dig deep into the club’s playing reserves.

Moyes (right) continued: ‘Centreback­s are really hard to get anywhere now. Look at the level and the prices of quality defenders — Ben White going to Arsenal for £50m. If you don’t have the money, you are going to have to give young players the chance to develop and hope they improve while they are playing.

‘But when you play for the big clubs, you don’t get the chance to not get it right too often, you have to perform well.’

With the qualifying tie against Midtjyllan­d balanced at 1-1 after last Tuesday’s first leg, Postecoglo­u decided the risk of injury was worth taking against the opportunit­y to give his makeshift yet strongest available XI an outing.

Alarm bells rang as early as the fourth minute when Antonio skipped effortless­ly past Murray and forced Vasilis Barkas into the save.

Culpable for Midtjyllan­d’s firstleg goal, the Greek would again fall short of redemption in this game.

And yet it was Celtic who took the lead, the goal coming as Moyes’ defence regrouped following the enforced substituti­on of defender Angelo Ogbonna.

Sharper to the ball than Manuel Lanzini, Callum McGregor took his time and used Craig Dawson as a guide as he shaped a clean finish into the far corner.

Although Celtic’s front six were looking sharp and causing problems, with Ryan Christie again bright and bubbly, West Ham soon started to find the gaps in the team’s creaky foundation­s.

Jared Bowen forced another save from Barkas before the roof caved in. An unforced error from Murray led to the equaliser, the youngster’s square pass being intercepte­d and shuttled on to Antonio, who mimicked McGregor’s patience before picking his spot.

It was Welsh’s turn to be exposed at the second, a probing pass from Pablo Fornals setting the defender into a foot race with Antonio that he was simply incapable of winning.

Again, the forward was able to trust in his technique as he gave Barkas the eyes and whipped in an all-tooeasy finish through a gaping near-post gap.

The third came from the penalty mark as Ismaila Soro, caught on the wrong side of Antonio, bundled into the forward. John Beaton pointed to the spot and Mark Noble rolled home. Both managers switched goalkeeper at half-time and it was the familiar face of ex-Motherwell man Darren Randolph who soon wore an exasperate­d expression as he just failed to prevent Christie’s header crossing the line.

Liel Abada’s assist, a cross-ball from the right, offered more evidence that he will be a good signing while Christie’s hunger to beat Ryan Fredericks to the delivery suggests he will remain an important asset for as long as he remains in Glasgow. On for Barkas, Scott Bain was soon enduring similar anguish. Exposed as Benrahma advanced on goal, Bain couldn’t make himself big enough to fill the goal as the forward restored the two-goal deficit.

In what was a pre-planned move, Postecoglo­u then changed his entire outfield team.

If the sight of James Forrest trotting on was welcome to the 18,000 supporters inside the ground, Leigh Griffiths’ emergence was met with a mixed response.

West Ham scored a fifth when Bowen beat Nir Bitton to the ball and improvised a cute finish but there was little for the manager to learn from the remainder of the match.

All that was left was for the fans to let out a final sigh of indignity as Armstrong Oko-Flex, a youngster who left Parkhead earlier this year, arrived as a sub and helped himself to a goal via the aid of a deflection.

Moyes insisted the scoreline was no reliable gauge of how Celtic will fare in Denmark on Wednesday.

He added: ‘I thought Celtic played very well for the first 30 minutes. They missed a couple, we missed a couple, but I thought Celtic looked sharper as if they were a bit more into the games than we were.

‘We grew into it a little bit more and we have some power and pace up front that can cause a lot of problems.

‘I think Celtic will have a good chance in Denmark because they showed some good stuff today.

‘Obviously, the big thing is to try and not concede any goals.’

CELTIC (4-1-4-1): Barkas (Bain 46); Ralston (Urhoghide 56), Welsh (Bitton 56), Murray (Hjelde 56), Taylor (Montgomery 56); Soro (Robertson 56); Abada (Forrest 56), Turnbull (Rogic 56), McGregor (Shaw 56), Christie (Henderson 56); Edouard (Griffiths 56).

Subs (not used): Doohan, Bolingoli. Booked: None.

WEST HAM (4-2-3-1): Fabianski (Randolph 46); Fredericks, Dawson (Alves 77), Ogbonna (Diop 7), Cresswell; Noble, Fornals (Holland 87); Bowen (Forson 87), Lanzini (Coventry 67), Benrahma (Oko-Flex 77); Antonio (Johnson 72).

Subs (not used): Martin. Booked: None.

Referee: John Beaton.

 ??  ??
 ??  ?? 21 Celtic’s starting back four in yesterday’s match against West Ham had an average age of 21
HEADS UP: Celtic skipper McGregor talks to young defender Murray while (inset) Benrahma scores West Ham’s fourth goal
21 Celtic’s starting back four in yesterday’s match against West Ham had an average age of 21 HEADS UP: Celtic skipper McGregor talks to young defender Murray while (inset) Benrahma scores West Ham’s fourth goal
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom