RAMI GERSHON is a picture of innocence as he rests his wiry frame following his first training session as a Celtic player.
The Israeli defender greets you with a warm smile and a handshake, which, though strong, does not betray the fact that it comes from a man who describes his competitive urges as stupid and crazy, while freely admitting he is not averse to kicking his six-year-old nephew should the youngster threaten to get the better of his uncle in their kickabouts in the back garden.
The edge to his play had already been brought into sharp focus by agent Dudu Dahan – Celtic's latest go-to man – who stated on his Twitter page that fans could look forward to seeing a player who would "kill" for them in every game. The chances are, they will get their first look at his committed style when Celtic play Steaua Bucharest in Marbella on Tuesday night, a friendly which will be broadcast live by ESPN.
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It will mark the start of Gershon's six-month loan spell from Belgian club Standard Liege, though Gershon has already set his steely stare on the three or four-year contract that Celtic are prepared to offer should he impress. Gershon insists he is fully fit, which comes as good news for Neil Lennon as Kelvin Wilson is suspended for the games against Hearts and Dundee United, while Efe Ambrose is on Africa Cup of Nations duty with Nigeria.
So, what does he believe he can bring to the side? "I don't like to speak too much about my qualities," he says. "But, if I need to say something, then I'm really a team player. I give everything for the team. I don't think about my own job. I want to help everybody else.
"My agent says I would kill for the team and he's right, that is the type of character I am. I give everything on the pitch. People can see that when I play. I just like to win at everything I do. Even when I play football with my nephew, I cannot let him beat me. He is only six or seven, but, if I think he is going to beat me, I give him a kick."
The smile with which this is delivered suggests Gershon may well be joking, but you can't be sure. He is self assured, and, throughout the negotiations to complete his move from Belgium, remained confident the deal would go through, the paperwork finally obtained in Paris on Wednesday.
Gershon wants to make up for lost time and restart a club career which stalled at Liege. He has no regrets about his decision to swap Israel for Belgium, just frustration at a lack of competitive action.
"I damaged the meniscus in my knee. Then, in my first training session back, I broke my jaw," he says. "I'm stupid, I was motivated too much. I was sliding into a tackles like crazy. In the end I hurt my face on the knee of one of my team-mates – my best friend. Altogether, I was out for almost four months, and the player who came into the team did well and kept their place. It became a good time for me to leave."
The defender could be joined by further signings, with Celtic ready to make a bid for Chivas USA midfielder Juan Agudelo and Juwon Ashaniwa, the FC Ashdod left-back watched by chief scout, John Park, in a match for Nigeria on Wednesday. Celtic have been warned they face competition for Australian Tom Rogic, though, with both Reading and Fulham also interested in the Central Coast Mariners winger.
"We're still interested in him," said Brian McDermott, the Reading manager, of a player who is likely to be fielded against Steaua on Tuesday and who could be available for as little as £400,000. "He's with Celtic for five days and I think something with them will either happen or it won't. If he wants to have a look at Celtic then it's his prerogative."