James McCarthy's Celtic squad absence explained by Ange Postecoglou

The apparent mystery over James McCarthy’s non-appearance in Celtic’s squad for the weekend win at Motherwell has been cleared up by Ange Postecoglou, who reveals the midfielder missed out with “small muscular problem”.

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - DECEMBER 29: Celtic’s Scott Brown during the Ladbrokes Premiership match between Celtic and Rangers at Celtic Park on December 29, 2019 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Bill Murray / SNS Group)

The 30-year-old has struggled for game time since the move to his boyhood club 10 weeks ago. His cause hasn’t been helped by his free agent status between departing Crystal Palace in May and arriving at Celtic in August depriving him of a full summer training programme, as is the fact he is understood to have had Covid-19 last month.

“It is difficult for him because he didn’t have a proper pre-season,” said Postecoglou, who will not consider McCarthy for the hosting of the Hungarians but will have Adam Montgomery available after he also missed out at Fir Park with a knock. “The ones who came in late have found it hard because everyone else had already started and they didn’t have that fitness base. That means they have to catch up and push themselves at training and we train pretty hard here anyway: plus the games are intense.

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“So it’s only reasonable, and he’s not the only one – a couple of others have struggled while trying to get up to speed. James had a good ten-day block during the international break so this is just a minor setback for him, nothing significant. We’re just erring on the side of caution. He trained [on Monday], but on his own. We didn’t want to rush him back so we’ll see how it goes by the end of the week. It’s just a small muscular problem, so we’re hoping he’ll be available.”

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