PO Box 306, Glasgow, G21 2AE, Scotland

so farewell then...

johan mjallby

Another Swede shoots through the escape hatch and winds up in Spain. Hopefully Hedman will follow his more illustrious countrymen sooner rather than later.

Mjallby was signed by the much maligned Dr Jo on the eve of the 5:1 demolition of the huns in November 1998. During the previous 9 years with AIK he had done a fine job in the midfield but rarely featured there for Celtic. Through necessity his debut (in said 5-1 game) was as a central defender and there he basically stayed.

Prior to his signing one of NTV's contacts in Sweden informed us that Mjallby was 'a winner' based mainly on his championship winning performances the previous season and his form at international level (he scored in Sweden's 2:1 win over England a few months prior to joining us). His fee of 150,000 was ridiculously low for the quality of player he was.

He settled in quickly and relished his role as 'Robo-Tim' crashing into tackles with apparent relish, but he also possessed some fine football touches.

He collected his first winners medal in the 2000 League Cup final after the Barnes fiasco had fully unravelled. Indeed it was Mjallby who scored the first post-Barnes goal, heading past Rab Douglas to start a 3:0 win at Dens Park.

When MON arrived Mjallby didn't immediately feature, generating rumours that he might be surplus to requirements. But he kept his head down and when his chance came he grabbed it.

That chance was the opening Old Firm game of the season - you know the one. Just before half time, and with the Celts not playing with their early game venom, Rangers were pushing hard to claw their way back in to the match. To add to the situation Paul Lambert had picked up an injury that required his substitution. Enter stage left Johan Mjallby. Not only did he shore up the midfield so well that we barely missed Lambert, he also went shoulder to shoulder with Italian dough-bag Lorenzo Amoruso, knocking the love lump straight into the ground and trotting off with a huge grin on his face.

More or less from that day he became a fixture in the team (helped it must be said by the cancer-related absence of Alan Stubbs). In 2002 he captained Sweden to the World Cup in Japan and South Korea, sadly being knocked out when Hedman couldn't be bothered to save an easy shot, and he was still part of the squad that competed in Portugal this summer.

He leaves Celtic to join Levante, newly promoted to the Primera Liga. Not only will he have to contend with playing for, potentially, the whipping boys in Europe's strongest league but his manager is walrus moustached Berndt Schuster, the man who played for - and fell out with - both Barca and Real Madrid (refused to play in World Cup on the say-so of his wife). Whatever happens it won't be a dull season for the big man.

We wish him all the best.

AB MURDOCH