They may not be the most salubrious surroundings, and he may be exercising himself more now than at any point during Dundee’s victory over Morton, but it still remains the closest the American has got to first-team football this season.
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Imprisoned by his own inactivity, Celtic’s third-choice goalkeeper has been gently agitating for several weeks now to be permitted temporary leave of Lennoxtown and was finally granted that relief on late on Friday afternoon when he signed the papers for a month-long loan move to the ailing first division club. The 24-year-old might have only been acting as back-up to Rab Douglas on Saturday, but simply being involved on a matchday again was a release from his growing frustration.
Cervi’s situation with Celtic is an awkward one. Having completed pre-season as deputy to Lukasz Zaluska, the towering custodian was relatively content to tolerate life among the substitutes, knowing that his chance was just an injury or mistake away. However, the arrival of Fraser Forster at the end of August changed things. “Now it takes two injuries for me to get a game and as much as you don’t want that to happen, you find yourself thinking about it,” he admits with commendable candour. “It can happen once, but for it to happen twice is almost unheard of.”
While the obvious response for a player desperate to play matches would be to ask for a transfer, the current scenario at Celtic complicates things further. The agreement with Newcastle United to sign Forster remains only temporary, while Zaluska is understood to be keen to return to Poland, such is his dismay at being dislodged from the team by the young Englishman. The departure of one or both would leave Cervi, who is under contract until the summer of 2012, as the only senior goalkeeper at the club and suddenly gift him the kind of chance that he craves.
“It’s difficult,” he concurs. “We’ve all just got to sit tight, but especially me because my situation is a little different from Lukasz; I’ve always been a reserve [Cervi has yet to make a competitive first-team appearance], but at the same time I need games. I’ve got 18 months left and I’d like to give it a shot and get in there and if Celtic need me in any capacity – even if it is just to sit on the bench – I have to be there for them, because they employ me and that’s where my first responsibility is. But I’ve been begging for the chance just to get games anywhere I can get them.”
Cervi’s increasing desperation has been fuelled by a recent realisation; being third choice for his country makes being third choice for his club untenable. Having represented the USA at under-23 level he was invited to train with the senior team ahead of the World Cup finals and received his first summons for a friendly with South Africa last month. Once again he was idle, but the opportunity to sit on the bench for that game served as a reminder of what he stands to gain.
“If I can get games for Celtic and I’m playing well then there’s no reason why I shouldn’t get called in over and over again,” Cervi says, projecting his thoughts far beyond a first division bench. “We’ve got great goalkeepers with the national team and I know physically and in terms of ability I can compete with them, but I need a chance and I need games. It was actually a godsend that the call came, because it helps myself or my agent put even more pressure on the club to try and get me out on loan.”
So is it time to think about leaving Celtic permanently? “I think that point came when I got the call for South Africa,” he replies without hesitation. “I think Neil Lennon knows how I feel, because I’d like to think it’s obvious. It’s not going to do Celtic any good to have me sitting around moping.”