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so farewell then...
“You’ll never be a player son.” - John Brown to Craig Beattie.
Now there are some who will doubtless agree with that assessment of Craig Beattie; his first touch isn’t that great, he can appear very clumsy indeed and he has proven to be seriously injury prone.
But on the credit side he has pace to burn, a willingness to battle and most of all we have goals; Craig Beattie knows where the goal is and has a decent habit of sticking the ball there.
A decent case has already been presented on Celtic Quick News outlining his importance to Gordon Strachan’s Celtic. This season, for example, didn’t yield too many goals thanks to that hamstring again, but two that spring readily to mind are the winner against Hibs in February and the opener against Aberdeen the same month.
And while he didn’t find the net against Hearts early in the new year it can’t be argued that his introduction certainly turned the game in our favour.
Legend has it that Beattie was as blue nosed as you could get, right up until John Brown and Co. released him (Beattie was the last player Walter Smith signed during his first spell as Chief Orc). When Celtic heard that Rangers had released a player who had terrorised the youth leagues with his scoring record they couldn’t get round to his house quick enough to offer a contract. Beattie happily signed, now keen to get back at the Ibrox club.
His first real foray into first team duty came in season 2003-04, as he emerged in December to score his first top team goal in a League Cup tie against Thistle at Firhill. From there he featured on the bench fairly often, occasionally making it on to the park.
March of 2004 saw him take part in two huge games. First up he came on as a sub against Rangers in the Scottish Cup at Celtic Park as we attempted to finish their season for good. Celtic were leading at the time and still had the upper hand. The idea behind bringing Beattie on was to use his pace and hit them on the counter attack.
Within minutes he had been sprung down the right wing. There wasn’t a defender anywhere near him. Rangers goalie Klos elected to charge out and caught him somewhere around the waist, leaving him flattened on the track.
The referee awarded a free kick, but decided that a high challenge from a goal keeper 30 yards from his goal that didn’t involve the ball at any stage was a yellow card offence. Go figure. Beattie seemed dazed for the remainder of the game.
The following Thursday he took the field as part of the Celtic line up that faced Barcelona in the UEFA Cup, although he wasn’t playing his usual forward role.This time he was deployed as a right winger, the idea being that his pace would cause them problems.
He did manage one decent run and cross, but never really got into the game (unsurprising really, he never played as a winger prior to that game and was never asked to perform that role again afterwards).
His involvement was cut short by a half time fracas in the tunnel that saw Rab Douglas red carded. A substitution was required to replace the goalie and Beattie was withdrawn.
He pretty much never really saw the light of day first team wise for the remainder of the season.
But his potential had been recognised by teams further afield. During the summer of 2004 Beattie was the subject of a £1m bid by Spurs. We rejected it but the fact that an EPL club had shown an interest in him was an encouraging sign that we had a real player here.
With Larsson away and O’Neill seemingly stuck for any decent replacement ideas the stage seemed set for Beattie to force his way in to the team. On the pre-season tour of the USA he scored in every game, including goals against Chelsea and Man U. But before a ball could be kicked in anger his hamstring gave out and he was sidelined for 8 months.
By the time he was fit again the side was already running on empty, stumbling towards the horror show at Fir Park. Indeed Beattie actually got us that far by firing in a late winner against Hearts at Tynecastle a couple of weeks earlier.
He had scored a couple of weeks prior to that, an important equalising goal against Hibs which turned uout to be no more than a signal for the Hoops to collapse towards a ghastly 3:1 home defat. Yet despite his contribution he couldn’t force his way in to the team on Cup Final day that season.
Basically Beattie suffered from the same problem that afflicted most young players at Celtic during that time; Martin O’Neill’s generals.
The change of manager, while a blow at the time, allowed a new culture to thrive at Celtic Park and Beattie was one of the first to benefit.
To fill the apparent gap up front we signed Zurawski and (on-loan) Aliadiere from Arsenal, but as soon Strachan saw Beattie playing the young Gunner was finished. Why bother with a loan signing when you have a ready-made goal threat on your books?
Beattie missed on the Artmedia fiasco, but came off the bench to rescue a point at Fir Park four days later. The next game saw him again appear from the bench and score, wrapping up a 2:0 win over Dundee United, but the goal he scored will be the one that most people remember him for; Maloney cutting from the left floating the ball into the right of the box and Beattie meeting it full on the volley and crashing it into the far corner of the net.
A couple of weeks after the Ibrox defeat Beattie finally managed to force his way into the starting line up. He began to get goals in important matches (1:1 with Hearts in October) and even when he didn’t score he was maturing as a forward and contributing in build up play (5:0 against Motherwell in October also).
He was our top scorer at the end of October, then the roof fell in. He came on as a sub against United at Tannadice with Celtic leading 3:2. In the closing stages of the game he was sprung through the offside trap with Petrov. Instead of squaring to give the Bulgarian an empty net tap in he shot himself, but it went wide. Petrov went berserk - rightly. Beattie looked sheepish, and not just because of the poor call he had just made. His hamstring had gone again and his season was over.
As a supporter I can say it was frustrating because we were denied the services of, at that point of the season, our most prolific goal threat. For Beattie it must have been torture; another season ruined by a hamstring injury.
Nevertheless, he still managed some useful contributions and goals (even getting his first Scotland goal)and he could also consider himself unlucky not to get a goal in the cup final.
His departure was all but inevitable when McDonald signed.
Beattie is a very useful forward, but his fitness record makes him unusable to Celtic. We just can’t be waiting for ever for him to be fully fit.
£1.25 million straight off the bat with a further £500k to come dependant on appearances etc. makes the Beattie deal a very impressive piece of business. He joins Mogga at West Brom, so he should be playing in a team that plays decent football and hopefully he’ll do better than big John did down there.