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Market deals Deila a pair of striking wild cards

TRANSFER deadline day is routinely described as high-stakes poker.

Peter Lawwell stood up for the table last night, sweeping two strikers into the Celtic fold.

It was an extraordinary end to the window but Celtic's chief executive, when he regains his breath after a frantic day, may consider it to be one of the most testing transfer trials of his tenure at Celtic.

First, Celtic cleared the decks with all the energy of a sailor on piece work. Out went Teemu Pukki, Amido Balde and Holmbert Fridjonsson, all on loan. With Tony Watt having already departed to Standard Liege, the Scottish champions were thus left with two recognised strikers in Leigh Griffiths and Anthony Stokes, both of whom have seemed less than assured choices under Ronny Deila.

Lawwell, then, had to deliver for his manager. The resurrection of the deal for Stefan Scepovic was on a par with the recovery of Lazarus. The 24-year-old Serb had rebuffed Celtic and was heading to Getafe from Sporting Gijon. That development brought condemnation from Celtic late on Sunday night. Last night the disgust was replaced with delight as Scepovic signed.

He was joined by John Guidetti, the 22-year-old Swede, who arrived in Glasgow last night to agree a loan from Manchester City. It is an intriguing mix of talent.

Scepovic is a known quantity but Guidetti has been monitored by Celtic for some time. The youngster is undoubtedly a gamble. At his best, he was lauded as the next great Swedish striker and franked this impression by a marvellous loan spell at Feyenoord. At his worst, he has been condemned as sluggish, prone to injury and yet another tyro who has not fulfilled his promises.

However, Deila has long-term contacts at Manchester City who used Stromsgodset, the Norwegian's former employers, as a feeder club. He will have done his due diligence on the forward and come to the conclusion that if he is a gamble then it is one worth taking.

He now has two candidates to fill a role that is crucial to the functioning of his team. Pertinently, too, Lawwell has addressed the concerns of fans. Scepovic and Guidetti may seem like an anarchist double act and it would be absurd to present them as the force that every Celtic fan craved. However, Celtic have now spent money and have proved themselves to be aware both of the deficiencies in the team and the demands of a support numbed by the exit from the Champions League.

Scepovic's latest U-turn will garner the headlines but there was an intriguing sub-plot to the day. It starred Virgil Van Dijk, the Dutch defender. Lawwell gave a series of press conferences at Lennoxtown on Friday and all carried the message that the club did not want to part with 23-year-old centre-half. The impression was that Celtic faced a turbulent weekend with Van Dijk agitating for a move. Any such pressure was resisted, however. Van Dijk remains at Celtic Park and this is an important sign to supporters that, while the business model is to sell players, the club retains the right to flex its muscles on occasion.

The retention of the Dutchman was a quiet statement of intent. The signings of Scepovic and Guidetti were more loudly proclaimed because they addressed the need of both manager and support. Deila has the aces he wanted. One of them, at least, has to come up trumps if the Norwegian's strategy is to succeed.

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