One of the reasons which makes Chris Sutton worthwhile as a pundit is his willingness to speak his mind.
As a player the former Celtic striker was never afraid to take team-mates to task and that fearlessness is just as evident in his broadcasting career.
Since Celtic’s meltdown in Molde two weeks ago, a tie Sutton worked on as a co-commentator for BT Sport, there have been no shortage of pundits piling in to say that the end is nigh for manager Ronny Deila. For his part, Sutton believes that those obituaries may have been premature, although he argues that qualifying from Group A, which Celtic are propping up at the halfway stage, could be essential for Deila’s future.
Molde visit Celtic Park tomorrow and Sutton knows it’s a game the home team must win.
“We’re only in November and domestically, as always, Celtic have a great opportunity to win the Treble,” said Sutton.
“That’s a big thing but fans are also looking at the European results and there were a lot of angry supporters after that game in Molde.
“I think too many people have been jumping the gun up until now. If Celtic win the next two ties and get through the group we can have a different conversation. Let’s see how they do on Thursday and make judgments then. The result is, of course, critical but the performance is important, too. Over there Molde were smarter and played better, they had the advantage of the [artificial] playing surface and Celtic were poor. This is about a response from the players.
“Personally, I believe it’s a huge plus having James Forrest back. He’s had stick over the years because of the amount of injuries he’s had but he’s been one of the bright sparks when he has played this season.
“Molde have weaknesses in the full-back positions and James will be looking to exploit them.”
Ole Gunnar Solsjaer’s side lead the section by three points and can guarantee their progress with victory at Parkhead but Sutton claims there is no reason for Celtic to be intimidated.
“I don’t say it is [only] Molde to be in any way disrespectful,” he said. “They are a team who have turned over Fenerbahce, they are well organised and have their strengths. Having said that, they are now sixth in the Norwegian league and you ask yourself: What do Celtic fans expect from this game? Celtic are not playing Barcelona tomorrow night. They eventually have to stand up and make a statement. I don’t think it is unreasonable to think a Celtic team can turn over Molde at Celtic Park.”
That scenario is more likely, Sutton opines, if Nigeria centre-back Efe Ambrose is excluded, arguing that Deila cannot continue to build from the back with defenders who are incapable of making simple passes.
“It is a problem that they’ve been so easy for teams to hit on the break,” he said “Jozo Simunovic came off at the weekend and [Ronny] would have been concerned about that but you can’t bring the ball out from the back with some of the players he has. I play five-a-sides with at Rouken Glen with [broadcasters] Chick Young and Peter Martin and when Chick is in possession, we say: ‘Let them have it’ and when Celtic’s centre-halves have the ball opposing teams also set up in a certain way.
“Molde knew the way Celtic were going to play and exploited it. At Parkhead, Celtic are going to have to address that. The response since [then] has been really good and the team has done what they had to do. They’ve made a statement in that respect but you need to separate the domestic results from the European ties. This is a must-win game.”
Watch Celtic v Molde in the Uefa Europa League live and exclusive on BT Sport 2 from 5.30pm on Thursday. Visit btsport.com for more info.