|Play Our Guys Or Take on Loan?|
Written by Mullet on Saturday, 17th Jun 2017 10:52
I first noticed Bersant Celina a couple of seasons ago, he is one of a handful of names which get mentioned regularly by various fan and sportswriter accounts on Twitter and in the Manchester Evening News. He is the sort of talent that locals up here hold in high regard but haven’t seen too much of.
If Town fans have a tribal sense of pride and mysticism toward our youths, then City’s set-up is more the 21st Century global footballer factory, whose conveyor belt has a very high rejection rate.
When I suggested Celina as a potential target in pre-match chit-chat to a mate. “Seen much of him then?” brought the grinning admission, “Nah, but his highlights are decent”. Such is the modern way.
So, to see him here, seems slightly surreal for a number of reasons. Firstly, just type his name into Twitter and you’ll see lots of Bolton fans gleefully welcoming him to their club last week.
When reports first emerged Town were in a race, most Blues didn’t need to look at a map to know that the young man wouldn’t need to do more than change his alarm in the morning to make the switch to the Macron.
Secondly, Celina will come with a hefty and undisclosed loan fee, as well as wages that as a player on the periphery of the Citizens’ first team will be comparable to anyone he shares a dressing room with at Portman Road. Let alone that I might have to hope he is what he’s promised to be, merely to save my own record of drunken punditry and predictive flair for gum-flapping.
In the last 24 hours Town fans have seen and scrutinised many of the video highlights that have emerged. The fact that the most recent and inspiring ones come from his loan at FC Twente tells us why our first fears might have been so silly.
Celina was a Kosovan refugee who made his life and education in Norway representing their youth teams at international level before making the senior switch to his home nation. His life is nomadic and so it makes sense that his career might be too.
He spent his season on loan there alongside the much more hyped and recognised Turkish striker Unal. They combined all season with Celina scoring and creating plenty of goals and chances, five and five assists in just 25 games in fact.
What might sum up their relationship best is the period of 4mins 30 – 5mins or so of this video. Two tantalising crosses that Unal failed to convert, before a visionary through ball from our new man which was finished superbly. Incidentally, in the return fixture Twente won away with Celina seeing red.
If his heritage draws instant comparisons with Shefki Kuqi, then this evidence looks more like an equivalence of the two Darrens and we’ve snagged ourselves the Ambrose of the equation.
What comes across from watching Celina is echoed by the thoughts of a friend who works at City, and a couple of ST holders I went to immediately to gauge opinion.
“Left winger, cocky, greedy, can take on a man… too many times, good player but not good enough for us”, all came from the conversation as well as a surprise that he chose us.
At Twente Celina asked for the number 10 shirt as soon as he arrived. There was some concern from the club and apparently he was asked to reconsider (he wears 59 at the Etihad) but the expectation that came with replacing a recently departed star at the club and taking his number was part of the personality the diminutive flair player clearly exudes.
Also, what my Mancunian counterparts won’t have considered but Town fans will have jumped straight to is that Celina now joins Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Ryan Fraser and Tom Lawrence in a line of youngsters whose careers needed the experience and exposure Mick McCarthy offers here.
And that in front of hostile fans and difficult grounds, the Championship is a world away from where they usually play on pristine practice pitches. But it’s also a short step down from the fringes of a mega-rich club.
Celina is much more likely to fall into that category than previous City players such as Reece Wabara, Alex Henshall and Frederic Veseli.
There is of course the bridge between the two groups, Emyr Huws. Before coming to Town, he impressed as a City youngster then at Wigan, and while some bemoaned him being a Cardiff reserve, there was no doubt the talent these players have, and had already been produced by the Welshman with a little bit of research and remembering.
Reuniting the pair this summer is a mouth-watering prospect when you see the kind of chances Celina makes and remember the one Huws took at Villa to tread a path like Alan Lee in Suffolk hearts.
While no young starlet is a guarantee, if Conor Grant was last season’s Jordan Graham it’s worth remembering that even in a side and during a campaign as wretched and injury-ravaged as ours, Lawrence took until November to come good.
It was that big pitch and big team moment that saw him get his head down and begin to lift Town hopes and expectations. Celina must know this, or is he doesn’t those invested in his future did when they again sent him a world away from his most recently adopted home to Suffolk.
If his rise from 15-year-old prodigy to this point is interesting, the fact he has a drink-driving conviction and certain swagger might make a few people wonder if Mick will fancy someone who seems such the antipathy of the 'good bloke, good beard, good game' type drudgery that we all can fall into drumming out after a frustrating period as a Town fan.
However, if the signing of Garner was a mixture of confusing and concerning initially, then Celina makes sense. What came across from watching Garner’s goals and remembering what we’d seen previously, then it was all about the service. Something which has been lacking, as well as the finishing touches in the team. Celina offers that in abundance.
Bersant is clearly two-footed and comfortable on either wing, he likes to run at players and he can pick a cross or pass and while he wore the number 10 at Twente it seems he can also play that role is called upon.
What this potentially gives Town a player who can combine the roles of Danny Rowe and David McGoldrick and complement both of those players throughout the season. He explains his maturation in front of crowds of 25000 last season thus: "We normally play 4-2-3-1. I play as a Number 10 in front of the two midfielders behind the striker. I really enjoy playing that position and think that's the position I'm best at.
"I've learned that I can manage playing first team football in front of a big crowd. That's something I knew I could handle. It's good to come here and show everyone that I can."
With Garner’s ability to find simple headed goals and batter defenders silly, the pieces are starting to click a little for Town’s attack next season.
If we’re nowhere near the finished article, much like this latest signing there are signs and omens that only the heat of summer can produce whilst waiting for the season to get going.
Lastly, in his parent side Celina has also shown he can supply strikers of Sergio Agüero’s level. His brief and limited bows in Sky Blue produced this assist against the defending champions Leicester.
I’ve no problem with a year-long supplementation of this kind of player. Those who wanted the Huddersfield model so desperately in May, will also agree that no Championship can ignore the temporary lease of talent like this now. With so much of it hoarded by the big clubs, hoping to borrow the right player at the right time can reinvent a team.
We’ve also signed someone who has something none of our previous loans have - Dutch top level experience, the last player to have that was Tommy Oar and we all know how that went. But while there are plenty of reasons to assume this a 'same old, same old' move for us, it isn’t.
One City fan I spoke to assumed we’d bought Celina, such is their abundance of players and lack of need for him maybe. The likelihood of this being permanent is already slim, but as the chances of securing Lawrence became an early reason to regret and lose heart, what this modern method of recruitment does for his parent club is allow them to recoup £10 million fees as they did with Aaron Mooy and Huddersfield.
Of all the conditionals and could-bes it might not be wise to start talking and thinking of this move in terms of play-off success just yet. But it’s fun to hope and wonder for now.
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