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so farewell then...
Until quite recently there were supporters who still held the view that Derek Riordan had a raw deal with Celtic, that the manager had been unfair with him, that he hadn’t really been given a chance. After all, his strike rate with Hibs was impressive. In fact, when we bought him he was being included in international squads.
Mostly they are wrong. He was rarely played as a forward, but the main reason for his failure at Celtic was himself. Riordan simply blew it; when his chances to make an impression came by and large he was found wanting.
When Celtic signed him in 2006 it was another coup for the club. Rangers had publicly courted him during the previous transfer window. While Hibs were refusing to be bullied into selling him cut-price, the press line at the time was the well worn, “Rangers and David Murray always get their man”.
Hibs found the Rangers offer of £25 plus all the back issues of the Rangers News he could eat unappealing and turned it down.
Meanwhile, Celtic made a quiet approach and on the morning of the Hearts v Gretna cup final announced that Riordan had signed for the Hoops.
The Rangers crest was cracked in two on every back page in the land, crisis at Ibrox screamed the headlines and the... OK I’m making this bit up.
Mostly it was ignored, covered up with stories about farmers driving their tractors up to Hampden for that day’s game.
He first appeared as a sub against Everton in the pre-season, but he wasn’t very involved in the game and seemed to spend most of his time gazing up into the South Stand, seemingly unable to believe he was a Celtic player.
He was on the bench for most games, occasionally getting a run out, but always on the left hand side of midfield, never up front.
Come January we were miles ahead in the league but looking a bit flat up front. Riordan got his chance at Fir Park and scored in the first 20 minutes, albeit in to an almost empty net.
But to all intents that was the end of his involvement in the match. He simply vanished.
He did the same at Inverness, scored the opener, again into an empty net, then vanished from sight.
The fact that he had found the target at all was enough to convince some that he was worth a prolonged run in the team. Indeed, when he was subbed during the Scottish Cup semi final there was widespread booing at the decision to remove him.
The only game where, for my money, he really made a serious impact was a home game against Motherwell in spring 2007.
Celtic had faltered badly after being eliminate from the Champions League in Milan. League points were being dropped and while we didn’t look like we could be caught, at the time a monday1
The next fixture was a home game against Motherwell and again the team mis-fired.Not until mid-way through the second half when JVoH headed down for Riordan to stab home the only goal did anyone relax.
That was a well taken poacher’s goal and might have been the springboard for better things - but again he let it slip.
Remember Naka’s league-winning free kick at Rugby Park in 2007? If Riordan had kept his head a bit better we might have been talking about his league winning goal that season. Just 30 seconds or so before we got that free kick Riordan had the chance to burst the net, but instead he blasted it over.
Successful careers can be built or destroyed on moments like those (think Henrik against St. Johnstone ’98).
Last season started brightly and he was one of the heroes in the penalty shoot-out against Spartak Moscow in the Champions League qualifier. But when he got a start a few weeks later in the League Cup at Dundee he was, again, the man who wasn’t there.
When Celtic were awarded a penalty in that game he grabbed the ball and put it in exactly the same spot as he had done against Russians. The ‘keeper read it perfectly and saved easily.
He did manage one very important goal, the equaliser against St. Mirren in December, but that was basically it.
His decision to go to the press in March and bemoan his position at the club was the final nail in his hooped coffin.
During his time at Celtic park he was involved in a number of court cases relating to civil disturbances. He was either cleared or the charges dropped due to lack of evidence, but the news that he had been banned from every night club (!) in Edinburgh having been spectacularly drunk surprised no one.
The one thing that can be said in his favour since he left is that he has resisted the temptation to really ladle into the club and the manager in the press. When asked by a journalists clearly fishing for an easy headline what he would advise any of his Hibs team-mates about going to Celtic he simply remarked that just because it hadn’t worked out for him didn’t mean the same thing would happen to them.
Mind you, who in their right mind would go to Derek Riordan for career advice?
Derek Riordan couldn’t.