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Scepovic's name rings a bell, will it strike a chord?

SCEPOVIC?

Stefan Scepovic's father scored the goal which knocked Celtic out of the UEFA Cup in 1989, now he will seek to make amends by contributing the goals which will help him put down roots in Glasgow. Picture: SNS
Stefan Scepovic's father scored the goal which knocked Celtic out of the UEFA Cup in 1989, now he will seek to make amends by contributing the goals which will help him put down roots in Glasgow. Picture: SNS

Scepovic? Celtic supporters of a certain age might have a nagging feeling that the name rings a bell. If they forgive him for some procrastination before signing for the club for £2.2m they may eventually buy replica shirts with Stefan Scepovic's name across the back. But 25 years ago it was his father, Sladjan, who first left a little footprint on Celtic's history.

Scepovic Sr scored a goal for Partizan Belgrade which put Celtic out of the 1989 UEFA Cup. "I wasn't even born then but I have watched the video," said Celtic's main summer signing last night, fresh from his move from Sporting Gijon via a dalliance with Getafe. "It is a famous goal in Belgrade and he has told me about it a lot."

Celtic are the 11th club of Scepovic's career and Scotland will be the sixth different country in which the Serb has been employed. He has earned a wage in Serbia, Italy, Belgium, Israel, Serbia again, Israel again, Spain and now Scotland. That's a lot of moving, a lot of turbulence, for a footballer who is only 24. He has signed a four-year contract and if he lasts even three-quarters of that he will have spent longer at Celtic than at any other club in his nomadic back story.

"I know Celtic is a big club with a lot of history and great fans," he said. "I want to prove I can play at a big club like Celtic. That's the reason I am here."

So why so many moves in the past? "I think that it was because I left my country when I was so young and it was difficult. I went to Italy and they wanted more experience. It was a big experience for me, I learned a lot. Then I didn't play, I wanted to play, I asked to go out on loan and I went to some clubs on loan because I wanted to play. I went a long way but I am back."

Think of all the Celtic strikers over the past six or seven years who could be described as a success for the club, (sometimes if only because of their impact after arriving for a low transfer fee): Kris Commons, Gary Hooper, Georgios Samaras and Scott McDonald, perhaps Leigh Griffiths, Anthony Stokes and Tony Watt, too. Three Scots, an Englishman, an Irishman, an Australian and a Greek. What they have in common is not nationality but their previous employment: all of them came from within British football, from clubs in either Scotland or England.

Not since Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink eight years ago can Celtic claim to have signed a striker from a foreign club who has made a lasting impression on the team. Signing from within Britain has been no guarantee of success - Daryl Murphy? Diomansy Kamara? - but the wastage has been far higher when Celtic have taken strikers from overseas. Morten Rasmussen, Mo Bangura, Pawel Brozek, Miku, Lassad, Amido Balde, Teemu Pukki and Holmbert Fridjonsson have come for anything ranging from loan deals to nearly £3m. Each was cheered into the premises and acclaimed as the new this or the new that, and each of them was spirited out of the place with the footballing equivalent of a blanket over their heads to thwart photographers.

At £2.2m, Scepovic costs the sort of money which raises expectation among fans without guaranteeing the quality to deliver either goals or success. The sum is very close to what they paid for Bangura, whose combination of cost and ineffectiveness amounted to a sort of transfer perfect storm.

But it is also in the same ballpark as the fee paid for Hooper, the best striker signed by any of the last three Celtic managers. Under Ronny Deila, Celtic have been crying out for height and strength from a centre forward capable of leading the line. Physically, Scepovic looks the part. But time will tell and he arrives only from a Spanish second division side. He was asked what he would bring to Deila's team.

"I do a lot of movement. I go into spaces. But maybe if I speak the other teams will look in the newspapers and they will know . . ."

It was a line delivered with a laugh. Scepovic may have to win over some supporters sceptical about just how enthusiastic he was about coming to the club, but he spoke with disarming good humour inside a suite at Parkhead. He immediately broke into a broad smile, and a shake of the head, when an anecdote from his past was put to him. Was it true he had once been locked in a toilet before a game?

"It's not true! Really! I was in the dressing room of the other team because we were playing a friendly against a small team from a lower division. I passed the kit man's room and I went inside because there was a toilet. There was no toilet in the dressing room so all the players went in there. I was the last one in, like always. I was maybe one minute inside the kit man's room before he opened it when he saw I was there. The newspapers put it that I was in there for two hours! It wasn't true!"

Toilet doors, opposition defences: Celtic's new man will have to open them both.

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