The striker is a figure who occupies a privileged status of especially strong affection in the hearts of most football fans, and there are few names which provoke such profound adoration around in the east end of Glasgow as Henrik Larsson. Even 16 years after the Swede’s final appearance for Celtic, his goalscoring feats (242 in 313 games) in the hoops remain the gold standard against which every one of his thirty plus successors have been held, with varying degrees of favourability. Following Edouard’s hat-trick against Hamilton, the proverbial pandora’s six-yard box was opened once again begging the question: just where does Edouard rank among those who have taken on the goalscoring burden for Celtic in the post-Larsson era? With the Frenchman potentially reciting his swansong this season, it’s worth revisiting the question and casting a glance across Celtic’s pantheon of mercurial marksmen, prolific poachers and brainless crisp bag chasers to take inventory of our various attempts to plug the Larsson-shaped hole in our squad. And what better way to do this topic justice than with an arbitrary and highly subjective series of rankings?
Only those who have made at least 5 appearances will be included, meaning now would be the appropriate time to give an honourable mention to those strikers whose presence in a Celtic jersey can be summarised by an abstract appendage to this list (a la Brozek, Atajic, Kapo et al) – their contributions range from the insignificant to the briefly traumatic, but have been largely forgotten. Finally, while putting the ball in the net is the raison d’etre of every striker, some context is important – if breaking down a strikers impact is a binary consideration of goals and appearances, then sometimes the latter statistic is just as important as the former.
Brought to the club by Tony Mowbray in January 2010, Rasmussen might have turned out to be the best signing amid a rag-tag group of average acquisitions. Cliched punditry labels permitted, the Dane was one of those ‘old-fashioned forwards’ who ‘comes alive in the six yard box’. This was evidenced by a couple of well-poached goals against Dunfermline and Hamilton before he was rather abruptly dropped, adding only one more to his tally against Hibs. Neil Lennon deemed him surplus to requirements for the following season and he was homeward bound where he remains to this day. Another theoretically productive goalscorer with scant returns in a Celtic shirt.
The flailing Finn brought in to replace Gary Hooper at the start of the 2013/14 season, he bears a striking resemblance in both appearance and name to the Teemu Pukki who struck a respectable 11 times in the Premier League for Norwich last season… One player he certainly didn’t bear any resemblance to, unfortunately, was his English predecessor. Spent most of his time at Celtic chasing his own shadow and, barring a promising start with two goals in his first two games, he was clearly not going to be the player to take up the goal scoring mantel in the hoops. A fairly sizeable transfer fee paid to Schalke for his services compounded the disappointment felt by the support, made even worse by his sale right when he started to look like the player who briefly sparkled in the ‘best league in the world’.
Another unmistakably Deila-esque flop who many people would no doubt have as low down as his Turkish compatriot, it’s fair to say Çiftçi’s shortcomings in a Celtic jersey have been greatly exaggerated since his departure. Coming from Dundee United in 2014 following an excellent season at Tannadice, Çiftçi assumed the number seven jersey filled by so many Celtic icons and, thus, burdened with considerable expectation. He unquestionably failed to live up to the billing but the white-hot form of Leigh Griffiths played a significant role in that as well as a significant disciplinary ban at the beginning of his stint at Celtic Park which prevented him from playing in the league for over a month. Wasn’t able to win over the supporters and by the time he was pawned off to the likes of Plymouth Argyle on loan he was a shell of the player he was when he arrived. While a couple of promising moments have been overlooked since then, he nevertheless falls in the bottom quadrant of Celtic strikers.
A perfect example of a player not blessed with an abundance of talent but who performed his role in his given squad very well. The Tunisian was a back-up striker during his brief time at Celtic in 2013 but his performances, including three decent goals, showed he was worth every penny of his free transfer. Lacked a lot of the quality necessary to cut it in a very good Celtic side playing knockout football in the Champions League, but his attitude was as spot-on as his shooting was wayward.
Jo Inge Berget
Probably better remembered for the goals he scored against Celtic than either of the two he scored for the club, Berget formed part of a supine conglomeration of distinctly average European players brought in by Ronnie Deila. A loan signing from Cardiff, he featured heavily in the early part of the 2014/15 season before being cut from Deila’s plans. He would bite his former manager in the arse the following season with a pair of goals at Celtic Park for Malmo, a game in which he showed all the talent completely absent while wearing the hoops.
Although Sheridan ultimately didn’t make the grade at Celtic Park, he showed some promise during his spell with the club. He knew how to put the ball in the back of the net, and he demonstrated this in very limited game time but after failing to win a permanent place in Tony Mowbray’s goal shy outfit his time at Celtic was over. His subsequent career has cemented his status as a decent journeyman striker, and he even played some Champions League football with APOEL Nicosia.
Vakoun Issouf Bayo*
Hopefully this list will be re-read in 20 years time and people will scoff at the lowly position of Vakoun Issouf Bayo, and I will gladly accept the mockery and derision that comes my way… at the time of writing however this seems an unlikely outcome. It’s fair to say anyone who thought Bayo was merely the second incarnation of Amido Balde can draw some comfort from the Ivorian’s fairly inoffensive performances up till now (he was actually unlucky not to get a hat-trick on his first start last season). It appears he’ll spend this season out on loan at Toulouse, and he may yet carve out a career for himself at the club. As it stands his position is fully justified.
An experienced head brought in by Strachan to secure a domestic treble, Dublin satisfied his remit with professionalism and a goal in the Scottish Cup final. Clearly past his prime when he arrived at Celtic but there can be no complaints with his one meaningful contribution.
There are far less talented players in this list than Miku Fedor who nevertheless occupy a higher ranking than the Venezuelan. A loan signing from Getafe for the season 2012/13, he remains an anomaly as one of a number of Celtic players who couldn’t hack it in Scottish football in spite of their pedigree in far more demanding leagues. He played an important and selfless role in the now legendary victory of Barcelona, but his only other contribution was a brilliant finish at Tannadice before he was phased out of the team. His anonymity even in subsequent appearances remains a mystery and he ultimately returned to LaLiga having impressed few at Celtic Park.
Murphy’s lack of goal-scoring proficiency owes a lot to his managers’ shortcomings than the Irishman’s lack of application in Celtic colours. A promising player at Sunderland before joining Neil Lennon’s Celtic in 2010, his arrival on the field of play often coincided with Hail Mary hoof-balls which maybe didn’t play to his strengths – despite his obvious physical presence, he was a decent technical player. His record doesn’t lie and although he would go on to have a decent career in the English Championship his time at Celtic, with the exception of some promising snapshots, was a real disappointment.
A Neil Lennon project who, like his namesake Bobo, was a towering hulk who cut a domineering figure against any defender in the league. However, the only thing Titanic about Balde’s time at Celtic was its resemblance to the ship’s trajectory. In a Celtic team bereft of goals following Hooper’s departure, Amido fell well short of taking up the baton. He did have a couple of memorable strikes against Killie and Thistle (plus a goal in pre-season against Liverpool in Dublin) but the writing was already on the wall and his record was nowhere near good enough. Set off on an odyssey across the footballing wilderness after leaving Celtic and currently earns his living in Vietnam (Presumably as a footballer).
Brought in following a relatively fruitful spell at Hibs, he was a ubiquitous fringe player for a couple of seasons at Celtic. That he made over thirty appearances in a Celtic jersey and I’d wager that only the most lucid of Celtic fan could remember a single one of them, says it all. Saw a decent run of form in pre-season under Tony Mowbray before his abrupt exit in 2009, lamented by nobody.
Wherever the phantoms of Kazim-Richards’s Celtic stint crop up, they are often complimented by equally traumatic spectres of Carlton Cole’s time wearing the hoops. Signed in the same transfer window as the Turk, Cole was a veteran of the game down South, and, even with an underwhelming goal scoring pedigree behind him, he was a beloved cult hero at West Ham. What he was supposed to contribute to Ronny Deila’s ‘modern’ and ‘progressive’ style of European football is anybody’s guess. About as mobile as a capsized oil tanker, there’s no question that expectations were considerably lower for Cole’s time at Celtic and so when the inevitable came to pass there could be no disappointment. Both he and Kazim-Richards mark one of the worst transfer missteps in the club’s recent history but, as I say, you can’t fall short of the lowest of estimations. He was moved on before he could do any real damage.
I have no recollection of Ben Hutchinson making more than two appearances in a Celtic jersey (one of those as a substitute against Manchester United in 2008). A tall, powerful forward who ultimately found his level in the lower leagues of England where he is seeing out his career, his name occasionally resurrected in the most obscure Celtic trivia.
There are a number of very good and reasonable arguments as to why Bangura should go one step lower in this list and I wouldn’t contest any of them particularly strongly. While the man from Sierra Leone wasn’t able to notch up a single goal in the hoops, he did capture the imagination of the support – in that most of us were imagining how much Celtic’s scouts were paid to research this particular acquisition. Supposedly recommended by the esteemed Henrik Larsson while playing for AIK, in reality Bangura’s appearances came as a substitute and, given that Stokes and Hooper were providing a welcome distraction from his hapless cameos, memories of Mo Bangura are not as acrimonious as the man below him. An underwhelming and forgettable footnote in our striking annuls.
To my mind the Turkish international holds the unwelcome distinction of being the worst striker since Larsson. If Lionel Messi playing the beautiful game constitutes ‘poetry in motion’, then watching Kazim-Richards with a ball at his feet was like looking at the incoherent cave-scrawlings of a Neanderthal. Brought to the club by Deila to bring some physicality to a faltering Celtic team over-reliant on Leigh Griffiths’s 40 goals, Kazim-Richards effectively started the chain reaction that would see the Norwegian out of a job by May. Nothing more than a battering ram deployed to unsettle the opposition defence, in reality all he did was give them free-kicks. His two goals came against Hearts (an exceptionally well-taken volley that would almost give you the impression you were watching a professional footballer) and East Kilbride in the cup, but his signing marked a pronounced and ultimately terminal regression to the most backwards style of football – for which his manager would pay the price – and for that reason he regresses all the way to the bottom of this list.
Part 2 in our next issue.