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Van Dijk has a responsibility to Celtic to stay focused amid transfer speculation

I F Ronny Deila is to be believed, Virgil van Dijk will still be a Celtic player tonight even if he wasn't one yesterday, or at least not one with enough respect for his employers to turn up for work.

SELECTION HEADACHE: Virgil van Dijk was able to play against Maribor, but not against Dundee yesterday. Picture: SNS
SELECTION HEADACHE: Virgil van Dijk was able to play against Maribor, but not against Dundee yesterday. Picture: SNS

Deila did a good job of protecting Van Dijk yesterday. This young, imported manager has problems crowding in on him and the number of doubters and detractors is growing with every poor result.

Whatever you think of him, Deila has not hidden and neither has he been afraid of making big calls.

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Celtic are floundering and he'll need a tin helmet and flak jacket if things don't begin to click soon but he cannot be accused of going missing. Yesterday he stood by a player who let him down.

Van Dijk faced "a lot of emotions" and "a lot of thinking," Deila said, adding that "speculation is hard for the mind". We don't know Deila well enough to be sure if he really buys into the lines he was peddling or whether he was doing his best to manufacture a plausible excuse for Van Dijk's withdrawal of labour. Maybe he was privately furious. He wouldn't be the only one.

According to Peter Lawwell on Friday Celtic had received phone calls asking whether Van Dijk was for sale, inquiries which they had given "no encouragement". No formal bids had been received, he said, with the transfer window closing at 11pm tonight. In the snakes-and-ladders game of football transfers that amounts to being only halfway across the board.

Pretty early, then, for Van Dijk to put the back of his hand to his brow and start swooning.

Stress isn't a matter to take lightly and when Van Dijk told Celtic he wasn't mentally fit to work yesterday there wasn't anything the club could do but excuse him from duty on Tayside. But neither can stress be abused or exploited. Trying to force the club into selling him by refusing to play, or ensuring he would not jeopardise any potential move by getting injured at Dundee, would be inexcusable.

Let's give him the benefit of the doubt and instead put it down to mental tiredness, as Deila said. But earning thousands of pounds per week brings a set of responsibilities. Not buckling under a bit of transfer speculation is one of them.

Celtic won't thank Van Dijk for making them look small yesterday. Those supporters who paid to follow the team from Glasgow, or from around Scotland, or from Ireland, travelled home thinking less of him.

And Another Thing . . .

Those on the Rangers board who haven't been around for long might believe that fans raising red cards during games is some sort of quaint ritual, something observed at Ibrox fixtures like Simply The Best and the national anthem. Hoisting up the red cards happens so often - again on Saturday, in the 18th and 72nd minutes - that it now serves no purpose other than as a harmless way for the aggrieved to let off steam.

We know how supporters feel about this board which runs the club by lurching from one desperate bail-out to the next. But how do they feel about Dave King? It's not so long ago that King was as close as it gets to being a unifying figure for the Rangers support. Now?

His disappearing act has been interpreted as a clever waiting game by some, and as a dereliction of duty by others.

The Rangers board wanted King to underwrite the £4m issue of new shares to existing stakeholders but he turned them down, apparently because they would not provide full disclosure of the club's accounts.

No sane investor would ever pump in serious money without seeing the books. It was the height of cheek to ask him.

King has said he doesn't want to buy up shares for a takeover because the money would go to people he doesn't believe should profit. Fine. He won't underwrite this new share issue because he cannot see the books. Fine. But this is the man whose offer of £30m - on his terms - is still available.

Or supposedly it is. Weeks and weeks of silence from King on all of this has become unforgivable. We know what he won't do for Rangers, but we're no longer sure what he will.

And Finally . . .

So what is it to be, Roy? In the course of a single radio interview at the weekend Ross County chairman Roy MacGregor bemoaned a vague loss of identity at his club in recent seasons - it seemed to be a reference to their high number of foreign signings - and then willingly coughed up confirmation that Patrick Kluivert had applied for the manager's job. MacGregor is sharp and clever enough to know he had just given a positive County headline to every paper in the land.

One of the important elements of Derek Adams' success in Dingwall was the length of time he spent in the job: nearly seven years, albeit with a brief spell at Hibs in the middle of that. How long would Kluivert last before being sacked/resigning/headhunted? A year? Six months? Of course, there's no point wasting brain time on this.

There is not a cat in hell's chance of Kluivert being County's next manager. What MacGregor needs is a man who'll hang around for the long haul and establish them at a higher level than they have enjoyed before. Last week he sacked the only one who's ever managed that.

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