As Ange Postecoglou’s Premier Sports Cup winners prepare to face Dundee United at Tannadice in the Scottish Cup quarter-final on Monday night, there is a growing realisation the pairing of the £4.6m Swedish signing and Tottenham Hotspur loanee, initially questioned, has provided the platform for Celtic’s startling transformation.
However, the club’s left back Greg Taylor humourously divulges that you would never find Carter-Vickers shouting from the rooftops about the contribution he has made to his team’s cause in this campaign…even when the brawny centre-back has featured in all but one of 29 straight domestic games Celtic have remained unbeaten across. Clean sheets have been registered in 16 of these encounters. Form that has led to reports a host of English Premier League sides, headed up by Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester City, are willing to rival Celtic in their bid to recruit the 24-year-old permanently with a £6m investment come the summer.
“He’s even quieter than the gaffer,” said Taylor, in comparing the defender’s reserve to that of Postecoglou. “He’s been outstanding on the pitch, while away from it he’s really quiet. I try to steer clear of him in training, mind you. He’s some size and he’s quick as well. He’s got all the tools and he’s used them this year. He goes about his business, he trains and works hard. He’s not a shouter and bawler, he just goes about his business quietly. I do know he’s absolutely desperate to do well here. He’s desperate to win. You can tell. He takes a huge pride in not conceding a goal. If he does, he's so determined it doesn’t happen again. Him and Carl have been a huge part of the reason we’ve been successful so far this season.”
That extends far beyond their commitment to goal prevention, Taylor recognises. Postecoglou’s demand for ball retention from his team requires them to play out, and across, from deep. Indeed, Starfelt, so often maligned at points this season, has become one of Celtic’s most progressive passers courtesy of well-timed sprints out of defence setting him up for precise passes that put opponents on their heels.
“The two of them have been unsung heroes; really good,” said the Scotland full-back. “Not only in our defending, but in the build up phase, they have helped us a lot. It’s not an easy way to play the way the manager wants, but they have taken to it no problem. They have collected a lot of clean sheets and hopefully that can continue for the rest of the season. We didn’t have a shot against us in the recent games with Hibs and St Mirren – and that says it all. You look at Cameron and Carl, with Joe [Hart] as well, but I know they’d say it starts with the strikers and wingers. All season the defenders have been grateful to these guys as they give themselves to the team in every game. They do a power of grafting and the manager has said if the front players can do that, they will reap the rewards with goals and assists. It takes a lot of work.”