• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Dundee United 0 Celtic 2: life goes on at last for one, but another's days look numbered

"People don't realise that playing football is our life.

Steven Mouyokolo delights at coming on as a substitute for Neil Lennon's side
Steven Mouyokolo delights at coming on as a substitute for Neil Lennon's side

Take it from us and we don't have much left. Of course we have our families, but we were born to play football."

Steven Mouyokolo

THE gangly, bearded figure of Georgios Samaras strode purposefully through the rain, past the team bus and dumped his gear in the boot of a car. Taxi for Sami. The private hire car was taking the Greek striker to a destination he resisted the temptation to disclose to the wider world.

Samaras, however, is on his way out at Celtic and may find time in the fallow weeks before the champions return to action to secure another club. His future is at his feet, the immediate past gilded by a goal against Dundee United, his horizon brightened by both the certainty of lucrative employment and the prospect of playing in the World Cup.

The months ahead hold fewer certainties for Steven Mouyokolo. Moments before Samaras had walked towards the taxi the 27-year-old Frenchman had talked frankly and without self-pity of how another serious injury had ensured that there must be doubts about where precisely he will play football next season.

Mouyokolo, who came on for the last few minutes of Celtic's impressive victory over United, was, of course, just pleased to be on the pitch. A cruciate knee injury disrupted his career at Wolverhampton Wanderers and a ruptured Achilles tendon suffered in September has dominated his life at Celtic.

"I got the injury in training, less than a week before the first Champions League group game against AC Milan," said the central defender. "I had the ball, there was a bad movement and I just felt a 'boof!'. At first I thought it was just a kick, but no. It was my Achilles."

With only a one-year contract at Celtic, Mouyokolo could have been forgiven for believing that the severity of the injury meant he had played his last game for the club. However, he reacted with a resilient attitude complemented by physical effort.

"For the first three days, it was hard mentally. But I'm a positive guy. So I worked hard every single day for seven months. Today was the result of all the work I've done, on my own and with the medical staff," he said.

"Were there days when I was really low? Not really. Life goes on, you know? There are people with more difficulties than Achilles or knee injuries. After you are down for a day or two, what are you going to do? Cry every day? You just have to take it and stay positive."

His routine has been simple. "I've had a few days off, but usually it has been physio, gym, pool, then physio, gym, pool again. And again. On my own for about six months."

He added: "There was never a point when I thought I wouldn't come back. I was never scared like that at all."

His introduction towards the end of the match was a reward for that effort. "When I got on the pitch at the end, the feeling was just: 'Finally'. People don't realise that playing football is our life. Take it from us and we don't have much left. Of course we have our families, but we were born to play football. So when that is taken away, it is frustrating."

He wants to stay at Celtic, adding: "There are politics at every club and other people will take that decision."

These "politics" cover the business realities of football. Neil Lennon, who watched his side give another irresistible performance, will now use the break provided by his team's exit from the William Hill Scottish Cup to scout for players.

He seems increasingly resigned to losing Fraser Forster, the England internationalist goalkeeper, and Virgil van Dijk, the Dutch centre-back, is sure to be a target for other clubs. Lennon, though, can be consoled by the enduring vibrancy of his team. This is a squad that has to be both bolstered and improved for the rigours of the Champions League but Celtic remain dominant domestically, an unoriginal statement of fact but one that Lennon feels may not have been made with regularity by some pundits.

Saturday brought further pleasing evidence, particularly in the shape of recent recruits in the shape of Leigh Griffiths and Stefan Johansen. The former Hibs striker must change his behaviour off the pitch but on it he gives Celtic pace and threat.

Johansen was, at Tannadice, less conspicuous than of late but he offers more than a hint of future worth. He was taken off to allow Mouyokolo to make a brief but jubilant return. The Frenchman must now hope he can share a park on a regular basis with the Norwegian.

Contextual targeting label: 
Football

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

224723