Commons fears schedule could damage Hoops title bid
Published 20/07/2011 | 05:00
Celtic are desperate to stop Rangers claiming a fourth successive championship for the first time in 20 years, yet manager Neil Lennon and his players have been hampered by a pre-season itinerary which looks as though it has been devised by a drunk throwing darts at a map.
The club returned to action by criss-crossing Australia to play three matches earlier this month. Tonight they head to Wales to face Cardiff City. On Sunday they open their league campaign with a visit to Hibs, then they have a challenge match against Wolves at Parkhead in the middle of next week.
They have elected to opt out of playing in the SPL the following weekend, coming instead to Ireland, where they will face Inter Milan and a League of Ireland XI in the inaugural Dublin Supercup.
Three days later, they return to Wales to take on Swansea in another friendly before travelling to Aberdeen for a lunchtime kick-off in the league four days later, after which it's all competitive action, with two Europa League qualifying round matches sandwiched between SPL fixtures.
It is a schedule which is more likely to hinder Lennon than help him, and Scotland midfielder Kris Commons admits it's not what the players would have chosen for themselves.
"It's not ideal for us to be going over to Dublin but things can't be changed," he said.
"They're going to be a tough test for us and might be an insight into what we face in Europe. We could possibly be playing catch-up straight away. Hopefully, no matter what happens, we're going to be top of the league."
Commons, speaking at the launch of Celtic's new away kit, claimed that he and his team-mates were determined to regain the title from their Old Firm rivals as a reward for their manager's determination not to surrender to the extremists who tried to drive him out of his post with death threats and parcel bombs.
"It gave the players a massive boost that the manager stayed but I don't think anyone would have blamed him if he had walked away," he said.
"Knowing the gaffer like I do, he's a strong man who feels like he has unfinished business in the SPL. He's got that sort of aura that makes you want to do better for him when he's on the sidelines.
"A lot of the stuff off the field made far too many headlines considering what was happening on the field."
Commons has also targeted an extensive run in Europe.
"I think that's where a club like us should define ourselves," he said. "If you can make an impact in Europe then people from the outside will see we can be a force and maybe that would help us attract a different calibre of player." ( © Daily Telegraph, London)