Celtic: Replacing Kris Commons would be a tough task

By Tom EnglishBBC Scotland
Kris Commons
Kris Commons has yet to sign a new contract with Celtic and is a target for English clubs

Celtic's recent propensity for missing the target when signing attacking players makes you wonder how Gary Mackay-Steven will fare if the talented Dundee United man does a deal to join the club.

An approach has been made, but Parkhead has been something of a Bermuda Triangle for forward-thinking midfielders and strikers over these past few years.

They've counted them in and they've counted them back out again.

The news that Jo Inge Berget, the lesser-spotted Norwegian, returned to his parent club Cardiff City this month would have come as no surprise to any Celtic fan given his total inability to make an impression on the team since Ronny Deila parachuted him into Glasgow in July.

The only shock, perhaps, was the realisation that Berget hadn't already slipped out of the country. He hasn't played since October and hasn't started a game since August.

There are many others in the pantheon of Celtic disappointments, of course.

Jo Inge Berget
Jo Inge Berget has returned to Cardiff City following an unsuccessful loan spell at Celtic

Wakaso Mubarak, the Ghanaian winger, has not featured in a league match since the first day of November. Aleksandar Tonev has been a frightful and highly publicised letdown on all fronts.

Derk Boerrigter has been beset by injuries and hasn't played since August, but even when he was fit he was unimpressive, a bit-part player seemingly with little future at Celtic Park.

The Celtic attacking Twilight Zone has also claimed the striker, Amido Balde, signed for a seven-figure sum, just like Boerrigter. In 23 games for Celtic, Balde scored just three times and was then farmed out on loan to Waasland-Beveren in Belgium, where he scored once in 14 matches. He's now on another loan spell, this time with Hapoel Tel Aviv.

Meanwhile, Teemu Pukki is on loan at Brondby. Pukki cost Celtic somewhere between £2.4m-£3m when he was brought in from Schalke, but he didn't work out either.

We can bring the list right up to date. Stefan Scepovic cost Deila £2.2m but he's got only four goals in 17 games. He may come good, but the jury is out.

Two seasons ago, Leigh Griffiths scored 28 goals in 42 games for Hibs, then scored 20 in 45 games for Wolves and Celtic last season. This season? He's got four in 19 and two of the four came in the same match. In Griffiths' defence, it's hard to get a run of goals when you're being denied a run of games. The striker has spent too long on the bench.

Leigh Griffiths
Leigh Griffiths has been unable to secure a regular spot in Ronny Deila's starting line up

Even John Guidetti is not immune, it seems. Brought in on loan from Manchester City, the Swede made an explosive beginning by scoring 11 goals in his first 12 games. He looked clever and unstoppable.

He's now gone six matches without a goal, a glut that looked nigh on impossible when he was banging them in so ruthlessly in his first three months at the club.

It's no wonder that Deila wants to energise his team with new blood. Aberdeen are leading the way in the Premiership and they don't look like they're going to buckle any time soon. There is a certain irony in that one of the architects of Aberdeen's improvement is a player that was once a Celtic man.

Since his move to Pittodrie, Niall McGinn has scored more than 40 goals; 22 two seasons ago, 14 last season and six already this season.

Celtic need more of that kind of wit and imagination. Mackay-Steven, at his best, can do a job for them. He's an obvious target, a player who is good enough to make a difference so long as he understands and handles the expectation at Celtic Park. That's part of the reason why too many others have fallen down of late.

Celtic have some redoubtable characters. Craig Gordon, Virgil van Dijk, Scott Brown and Charlie Mulgrew. In a championship run-in you'd hang your hat on them and others, one of the others being Kris Commons. If Aberdeen still have their momentum going into March and April then Celtic are going to need the type of players who know what it is to perform under pressure.

Niall McGinn scores for Aberdeen
Former Celtic forward Niall McGinn has been in fine form for Premiership leaders Aberdeen this term

There is a continuing impasse with Commons and the club. The player, who is 31 and whose contract runs out in the summer, wants a new two-year deal but the club are reluctant to give it to him. Whereas Neil Lennon saw Commons as the fulcrum of everything Celtic did when going forward, Deila sees it differently.

It seems he wants a higher-tempo and a bigger work-rate than Commons is able to give him. Stefan Johansen has filled that role in recent times and has done a good job. Commons has started in just 50% of Celtic's games in the league this season.

Ever since Lennon became manager of Bolton the vibe has been that Commons will join him there. The longer the stand-off continues the more probable Commons' exit becomes. It's a bizarre situation.

Commons has not been at his best this season, but he's still contributed goals and assists.

He was excellent against Kilmarnock last week. A force of attacking menace and creativity. Last season, he scored 31 goals in 46 games including 10 in the last 11 matches of the league campaign.

The season before he scored 19 times including seven in his last eight games. In 2011-12 he was subdued and out of sorts, but the previous season - or half season since he joined Celtic in the January - he scored 14 goals in 21 games including nine in his last 10.

John Guidetti
Celtic striker John Guidetti's early season scoring form has deserted him in recent weeks

This is a guy who scores and creates right to the last day of the season. This season of all seasons, Celtic might have need for a guy like that. Pound-for-pound and goal-for-goal, Commons is one of the greatest signings in Celtic's recent history.

He's 32 in August, that's true. And maybe he's not as high-energy in his defensive duties as Deila would want him to be. But the Celtic manager - and the club - are taking a risk here. If they allow Commons to leave for Bolton - or anywhere else - they'll do well to replace him.

Deila gambled on Berget, Wakaso, Tonev and Scepovic with little return. Gambling with Commons could prove a mug's game.