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Striker aiming to prove value without need for a price tag

THE strikers brought to Celtic since Neil Lennon became manager three- and-a-half years ago can be separated into three distinct categories:

Holmbert Fridjonsson is settling into life in Glasgow but ackowledges it will take time for him to get into the swing of playing for Celtic
Holmbert Fridjonsson is settling into life in Glasgow but ackowledges it will take time for him to get into the swing of playing for Celtic

those signed for over £1m, those brought on loan and those bought for buttons. In descending order of transfer fee the most expensive seven-figure recruits were Teemu Pukki, Gary Hooper, Mo Bangura, Amido Balde, Daryl Murphy and Anthony Stokes. Brought on loan, although not kept for long, were Pawel Brozek, Miku and Lassad Nouioui. From the "young and cheap" basket there was Tony Watt for £80,000 and now Holmbert Fridjonsson for £100,000.

There has been understandable scrutiny and criticism of the forwards bought by Celtic, with Lennon last night attending the KNVB Cup tie between Heerenveen and AZ Alkmaar in which past Celtic targets Alfred Finnbogason and Aron Johannesson both played. It has been the department with which they have had the most problems and highest number of failures. Of the aforementioned list, and allowing for the fact that Pukki and Balde deserve more time to be judged (and Fridjonsson has yet to be introduced), only Hooper and Stokes can be regarded as unequivocally good signings; Hooper cost £2.4m and Stokes £1.2m.

The reporting of transfer fees can be a vague business these days as clubs often withhold the exact information - Lennon was irritated last week by reports that £3m was paid for Pukki, claiming the true figure was much less - but the amount of money paid for players is still enormously significant in terms of defining how a signing is perceived by supporters. The most obvious example of that was across Glasgow at Ibrox. Tore Andre Flo scored 37 times in 72 competitive games for Rangers - an excellent record - yet nothing he did could eclipse his £12m transfer fee and he was dismissed as a failure.

Celtic occasionally talk of going to a £4m transfer fee if the player is suitable but generally their ceiling is around the £2.5m mark. When they recruit at even that level there is a widespread expectation - not necessarily an accurate one - that Lennon has bought a finished article. When a player arrives for that kind of money and fails to make a positive early impression, like Pukki has, the criticism is predictably unsparing.

The opposite also applies, though. There was no burden of expectation on the teenage Watt when he arrived from Airdrie United - for him to score last year's winner against Barcelona made for an astonishing story - and the same can now be said of Fridjonsson. Even Celtic cannot afford to squander £100,000 here, there and everywhere but a few speculative acquisitions are sensible at that level. If the scouting reports are to be believed the 20-year-old from Iceland will force his way into contention in the second half of the season.

When he spoke to the media at Parkhead yesterday, Fridjonsson acknowledged that settling into life in Scotland will be far easier because he does not carry a burdensome price tag. "It will take time to settle because there is a huge difference in playing for a club like Celtic," he said. "In Iceland I wasn't a professional but now I am and I will need to adjust. Hopefully it will help that I didn't come with a big transfer fee and there isn't as much expectation.

"Glasgow is much bigger [than Reyjkavik, where he played before]. I've had a few fans notice me. The fans are a lot kinder and welcoming in Scotland. In Iceland I played in the Pepsi League [the country's premier division] where there are 1500 fans at games. Last Saturday I was introduced to the crowd at the Hibs game. I was pretty nervous talking in front of the fans but I managed to get through it."

If asked, Fridjonsson lists his strengths as his height, his ability in the air and when holding up the ball, and his effectiveness at linking with team-mates. "I can give the team a target to push forward and I am also very good in and around the box," he said. "I will create for the team but hopefully I will score more goals than I create."

He looked suspiciously tanned for an Icelander spending December in Glasgow - he has just been to Tenerife on holiday - and full fitness must be regained given that his previous club, Fram Reyjkjavik, ended their season in September. "I am training every day and some times twice a day. It will take a little while to find my match fitness but hopefully I will be ready to hit the ground running. I believe in myself."

n Fridjonsson was promoting a deal in which season-ticket holders can have two free tickets for the game with Partick Thistle on January 1. Fans can claim their tickets by visiting the ticket office or on www.celticfc.net

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