IT ISN’T the target of winning the league but having a different type of league performer to target that lies behind the trial period that Carlton Cole is currently undertaking with Celtic, according to the club’s manager Ronny Deila.
The pursuit of the England international, who turns 32 next month, hardly fits with the club’s policy of signing young prospects to be polished up and sold on for princely profits. That has led some to view the interest in Cole, a free agent since he was released by West Ham in June following nine years with the London club, as a panicky response to the imperious form of Aberdeen.
He’s hungry to have fun with football, score goals and be important for a teamRonny Deila on Carlton Cole
The striker is ineligible to take part in Celtic’s Europa League group campaign should the Scottish champions and the player, as Deila put it, decide they are “a good match” after a period at the club’s Lennoxtown training ground. Yet, as he prepared his side for their third round League Cup tie at home to Raith Rovers this evening, the Celtic manager dismissed the notion that the five-point advantage the Pittodrie side hold in the Premiership was a factor in the attempt to capture Cole.
“No it has nothing to do with that,” the Norwegian said. “We want to get better. We always look for things to improve the squad and the team and we’ve been looking for a target man for a long time. We haven’t found the right one yet and maybe Carlton can be that man.
“He is watching us, and we are watching him. We are very happy to have him here. He’s a lovely guy and you can see he’s a good football player as well. He will at least be here this week and we will see what is going on after that. We haven’t set a deadline but we won’t let it go a long, long time. We don’t know if it will be one year, two years or three years of a contract offer for him but it should be for beyond the summer if he goes for it.
“He loves playing football. He had a tough time at West Ham in the end having been so much involved. He is hungry to have fun with football again, score goals and be important for a team. He loves the way things have been here so far.”
Cole seems to have sent out the right message with his willingness to consider signing on at Celtic for a wage that would be a fraction of the English Premier League average where he could still probably find a posting.
“It says a lot about him. He’s earned his money and it’s not as if he’d earn nothing here – the money is quite OK!” said Deila. “It shows that he wants to enjoy the last years of his career and enjoy the last few years of his football. He’s a lovely guy and at his age you start to think that the bank account doesn’t always make you happy. When you don’t have money you think it’s the only thing in the world. Then when you have it you realise that it doesn’t make you happy. Money gives you freedom – and he now has the freedom to come here and play for less money but to have more fun. That’s a big thing for a player.”
The League Cup that Deila will reacquaint himself with this evening was a big thing for the Norwegian last year. It provided him with his first silverware in Glasgow, following a first derby win over a lower league Rangers and a campaign wherein his team did not concede a goal.
Celtic right-back Saidy Janko, meanwhile, endured very different fortunes in the English version of the competition. The 19-year-old from Manchester United made only one senior outing for the Old Trafford side. It came in their 4-0 defeat by MK Dons 13 months ago on a night where Louis van Gaal substituted him after 45 minutes.
“That result shows you can’t underestimate any team,” Janko said. “You have to challenge yourself, you have to play at the highest level whether it’s league, cup or international level. You should approach each game giving your all. I remember it was a good experience to play for the Manchester United first team that night. It was just a disappointing result and that I had to come off at half-time. Other than that it was a good experience overall.
“Maybe it wasn’t that nice. But it wasn’t just me. There were around five or six other young players making their debuts too. It wasn’t one of the greatest results in the world for us but these things happen. Van Gaal didn’t really say anything to us after the game. He doesn’t speak much. [Ryan] Giggs and Nicky Butt came up to me and said I did well and that I was a bit unfortunate. They told me to keep my head up and keep on playing.”