PO Box 306, Glasgow, G21 2AE, Scotland

so farewell then...

stephen crainey

A six figure sum for - let's be honest - a peripheral first team player that we paid nowt for anyway? Sold!

I suppose that's one of the reasons the youth set up exists. One of Crainey's big selling points was the fact that he was a naturally left-footed defender, traditionally a problem position for us. During the 80s we had Graeme Sinclair, Brain Whittaker and Anton. The 90s dealt us the skilful but diffident Wdowcyzk followed by the dire Lee Martin. Of course Boyd was there, but he isn't left sided, and moved to central defence in any case. Tosh McKinlay couldn't really defend but could deliver a mean cross, while Mahe got very mean if you crossed him, and sported a bizarre Mohawk haircut for a while.

Hardly a hall of fame.

The first time most Celtic fans clapped eyes on Crainey was grainy black and white footage of him weaving in and out of milk bottles pretending to be the young Jimmy Johnstone in a mock up flash back sequence for the Jinky video. But let's face it you can't make a serious judgement of a player's ability based on that, so let's move on.

Crainey first appeared, like so many of our young players, at the fag end of season 1999-2000 as Kenny Dalglish tried to stir up some interest in the string of meaningless games that we were playing. Tall, reasonable pace and a decent tackler he didn't look too bad at all. He could also hit a decent free kick, as Hibs found out.

The following season under OFM he found himself used mostly in the CIS Cup, scoring a cracking equaliser at Tynecastle and eventually gaining a winners medal having replaced the bludgeoned Petta after about 5 minutes of the final against Kilmarnock.

His big chance came the following season in Valencia. Due to injury and family illness we found our squad somewhat stretched prior to game in Spain. Crainey was drafted in and certainly didn't let anyone down in an extremely tough game.

He featured in a fair number of league games after that, making his Old Firm debut in a 1:1 draw at Ibrox in Spring 2002, but to be truthful many fans had already arrived at the opinion that Crainey wasn't going to be a serious long term player for us. As long as people are trying to get down the wing he's fine; as soon as they cut inside him he's nowhere. Last season at Dens Park even Mark Burchill did it to him, and scored.

On the plus side, he's good in the air, still quite quick, and hits a pretty decent pass. Wee Strachan signed him, but now he has no idea who will be picking the side at St. Mary's.

We wish him well.

AB MURDOCH