Chris Sutton believes Celtic will be making an “enormous mistake” if they allow Kris Commons to leave the club at the end of the season – or sooner.
The player is not even certain to start tonight’s potentially decisive Europa League tie against Red Bull Salzburg. However, Sutton insists his worth is such to Ronny Deila’s side that they cannot entertain thoughts of him being allowed to depart.
Scrutiny has returned to the question of Commons’ future following last week’s confirmation that Scott Brown had signed a new four-year contract. Commons’ own current deal expires at the end of the season and while both parties have spoken hopefully of something being sorted soon, the issue has dragged on with the player now speculated to be a target for English Premier League clubs Crystal Palace and Leicester City.
“From the way it looks Celtic could have offered Kris Commons a contract at any time over the last 12 months,” said Sutton yesterday. “Time is running out now before January and that is something I just don’t understand, purely for the reason who are they going to replace Kris Commons with?
“If they have somebody in mind who can come in and do the same job with the same level of quality of performance and who can affect big games like Kris then fine, but I don’t think it will happen. I think Celtic are making an enormous mistake if they don’t get him signed.
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“The supporters want to see progression – there is the John Guidetti issue as well – and they want to see Celtic getting stronger to give them hope, and I don’t think it sends out a good message if Celtic let Commons virtually walk away, which is what he would be doing.”
Sutton himself left Celtic in perhaps unsatisfactory circumstances in January 2006 after he could not agree an extension to his contract and was allowed to sign for Birmingham City instead. “It did happen in my time too,” he said. “It happened to me, and there is a point where the player wants something back. I am not party to what has happened in the talks but it looks to me like Celtic are going to lose Kris Commons.
“I hope they don’t but the longer it goes the more it looks like he will be heading down south and that would be a massive disappointment and in my view they won’t be able to replace him.”
Sutton referenced Commons’ match-winning display in Celtic’s victory against Dinamo Zagreb as an illustration of what he can do. That result helped Deila’s team manoeuvre themselves into a position where they can reach the last-32 stage with a win over Salzburg tonight.
“Celtic don’t have enough of those players,” he said “Whatever you say about [Stefan] Johansen, he is not as good a footballer. He might have better legs but Commons can still change a game at the top level. Why would you want to let him go? Unless his wage demands are off the planet, which I doubt they are.”
Sutton, who was talking on behalf of BT Sport, will be part of the presenting team this evening. He describes the clash with in-form Salzburg as Celtic’s toughest assignment of the season. Tougher, even, than when they faced Legia Warsaw in a Champions League qualifier.
He rates the Austrians as better now than when Celtic travelled to play them in September, drawing 2-2. Although a vocal critic of Celtic’s performances under Deila at the start of the season, he accepts there has been recent improvement.
“I don’t know about being one of his [Deila’s] biggest critics,” he said, when reminded of his strong words in a newspaper column. “I have been pretty fair in my assessment of the way the season has gone. I have just been truthful. In terms of the biggest competition Celtic are in and, for me, where they should be judged it is the Europa League. It would be an enormous achievement for them to qualify.
“Certainly domestically Celtic are finding a way to win games,” he added. “I still don’t think we’ve seen really fluent football or Celtic dominating games as we would all like to see.
“The quality of play is often down to the players at your disposal and now James Forrest is back in the team he gives Celtic an extra dimension in an attacking sense. So has there been progress in terms of results? Yes. The beauty of this game is that we will see how far Celtic have come, certainly in Europe. I think this is their biggest test of the season, bar none.”
• BT Sport has live coverage of Uefa Europa League games throughout the group stages and beyond, as well as live coverage of four SPFL games before the end of December including Dundee Utd v Celtic (5 December). Visit BT Sport.com for more information.
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