Stefan Scepovic: ‘Celtic was my first choice’

STEFAN Scepovic has attempted to play down the confusing and chaotic nature of his transfer deadline day move to Celtic, insisting the Scottish champions were always his preferred option.

Stefan Scepovic shows off his number twelve shirt as he is unveiled as a Celtic player. Picture: SNS
Stefan Scepovic shows off his number twelve shirt as he is unveiled as a Celtic player. Picture: SNS

The 24-year-old Serbian striker was formally unveiled at Celtic Park last night following the completion of his £2.2 million transfer from Sporting Gijon 24 hours earlier.

The deal was dramatically revived after Celtic had been led to believe on Sunday that Scepovic, despite passing a medical, obtaining a work permit and agreeing personal terms, had changed his mind in light of an alternative offer from Getafe.

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But Scepovic, whose father Sladan scored the winning goal for Partizan Belgrade in their epic European Cup Winners’ Cup tie against Celtic 25 years ago, is adamant he was always committed to joining a club he believes he can help make significant progress in the Europa League this season.

All smiles from new Celtic striker Stefan Scepovic as he meets fans outside Celtic Park. Picture: SNS

“I never said I didn’t want to come to Celtic,” said Scepovic. “I don’t know why people say things like that. When I spoke with my family and friends, I always said my choice was to come here. There were some problems but the most important thing is that I am here now.

“Okay, I know (some fans might be wary). But they will never find any quotes from me where I said I didn’t want to come to Celtic. Never – because I didn’t say it.

“In football, you never know, there can always be some problems. But I don’t want to look at the past. I just want to look at the future with Celtic, that’s it. Monday was a tough day, but that’s football.

“I was in my house, watching TV on Monday, waiting to hear. I was a little bit nervous because of the situation, but calm at the same time. I was happy when I knew I would be a Celtic player.

“Celtic going out of the Champions League last week did not change my thinking about coming here. We can still do a lot in the Europa League, it’s a good competition. Next year, we will maybe be in the Champions League.

“I know Celtic is a big club with a lot of history and great fans. I want to prove I can play at a big club like Celtic. That’s the reason I am here.”

Scepovic smiles at mention of his father’s famous contribution to one of the most remarkable ties in European club competition history. Celtic, despite Polish striker Jackie Dziekanowski scoring four times in the breathless second leg in Glasgow, were eliminated on away goals thanks to Scepovic senior – now a youth team coach at Partizan – netting in the closing minutes.

“I wasn’t even born then but I have watched the video!” he said. “Partizan won 2-1 at home, then were losing 5-3 at Celtic Park when my father scored in the last minute. It is a famous goal in Belgrade and he has told me about it a lot. He told me it was a great atmosphere in the stadium here. I always speak with my father and I talked to him about coming to Celtic.”

Scepovic has had an itinerant career since leaving Belgrade as a youngster, with spells in Italy, Belgium and Israel. He scored 23 goals in 41 appearances for Sporting Gijon in the second tier of Spanish football last season and now hopes for sustained success at Celtic where he has penned a four-year contract.

He was coy when asked what attributes he could deliver for Celtic and is determined that his actions will speak louder than words.

“In Spain, when I arrived at Sporting Gijon, the journalists also asked me if I could bring something to the team,” he said. “But I don’t like to speak about that. It is the people in the stadium who will judge me. I will do my talking on the pitch.

“I do a lot of movement up front, I go into spaces. But maybe if I speak about what I can do, the other teams will read the newspapers and they will know! I have spoken to the Celtic manager a little bit and he is happy that I am here.

“I’ve had a lot of clubs already in my career and it was difficult for me after leaving my country when I was young. I went to Italy, which was a big experience for me and I learned a lot. But I wanted to play more and I went to more clubs on loan. It has been a long way, but I am here now.

“Why shouldn’t I stay at Celtic for a while? It is a big club, the biggest in Scotland and we always play in Europe. For me, it is an opportunity to prove myself.”

Celtic, meanwhile, remained in dialogue yesterday over the proposed loan signing of Swedish international striker John Guidetti, inset, from Manchester City. The deal was agreed on Monday night but paperwork was not completed before the 11pm deadline.

Although Celtic began uploading the relevant documentation before the Scottish FA’s own midnight deadline for new registrations, part of it was not received until after the deadline was passed, prompting world governing body Fifa not to allow it to be ratified.

But The Scottish Professional Football League and Scottish FA have both written in support of Celtic’s appeal to allow Guidetti to be formally registered as a player for Ronny Deila’s squad with a decision expected within 24 hours of it being lodged.