Most strikers are greedy to the point of solipsism. Some would rather score in a losing performance than fire blanks in a winning one while others would rather shoot from unpromising angles than release the ball to team-mates in more promising positions.
Odsonne Edouard does not come into that category. He is, first and foremost, a team player; Celtic’s record signing cares more about collective success than individual glory, a quality which has endeared him to his team-mates and coaches.
Scotland winger James Forrest has frequently benefited from the France Under-21 forward’s willingness to assist him and he claims that Edouard’s game intelligence and ability to improvise make him a joy to play with and a nightmare to defend against, as tomorrow’s opponents Rangers have discovered to their cost. Edouard has scored five times in ten games against the Ibrox side.
“He’s quality and, if you ask any of the wingers and forwards at the club, they’ll tell you they really enjoy playing with him – he’s always looking for one-twos and he’ll try and slip you in if he can,” Forrest said. “He’s a real threat for us, he’s always at it in every game and I believe he’s got even better this season.
“It helps my game, having him in the team. He creates chances and, as well as being a great finisher, he’s unselfish – you saw how he set up both our goals against St Mirren on Boxing Day. You get some strikers who’ll always looking out for themselves but Odsonne’s got more about him, which is great for Ryan Christie and myself. Last season he was unbelievable but he’s kicked on since then – his performances in Europe have been right up there – and he’s our main threat. If we’re on the back foot, he’ll do something a lot of other players can’t to get us up the park.”
The £9 million signing from Paris Saint-Germain also possesses an unflappable temperament when it comes to high-profile games which may explain why he succeeds in this particular fixture while others flounder.
“He’s so chilled,” said Forrest. “When you go into big games, the European ties and Rangers games, he doesn’t say much – he goes into it so laid back. You see it with his performances as well; it doesn’t seem to matter to him who he plays against, he always comes out and produces and that’s the sign of a big player. You also saw it straight away when he came off the bench in the [Betfred Cup] final.
“He’d missed maybe three or four games beforehand but came back and, for 30 minutes, he looked really sharp. He won the free-kick for our goal and put Mikey Johnston through on goal.”
Edouard was signed by Brendan Rodgers but has improved under Neil Lennon and the manager claims that the fact he wasn’t fit enough to start the Betfred final was a huge factor in his team’s lacklustre performance.
“One thing that was missing was a centre-forward,” Lennon said. “That does make a big difference. Edouard is a very special player and he’s back to his best.
“I am sure he will have a say in the game come Sunday. Centre-forwards make the difference – you live and die off your centre forwards and he’s just in a long list of great centre forwards we have had over the last 20 or 30 years.
“His presence is missed when he’s not there, there’s no question of that.
“His link-up play, his physicality, his goals. All of those things have improved this year and he’s playing with a lot of confidence. Odsonne set up two goals against St Mirren and his run, timing and weight of pass for Forrest’s goal was fantastic. We just need one more big game from him [before the winter break] and that’ll help us a lot.
“Everyone focuses on Celtic-Rangers games as the benchmark to be a great Celtic player. If that’s the case, then his record in these matches is up there with anybody.”