Pat Bonner perplexed by Celtic strikers’ low tallies

Celtic striker Moussa Dembele. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS
Celtic striker Moussa Dembele. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS
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The “remarkable achievement” of unprecedented back-to-back trebles is firmly within Celtic’s sights, Pat Bonner feels. But the club legend is disquieted by one potential aspect of this season’s quest for another treble.

The Irishman expects his old team to have enough to see off Rangers in Sunday’s Scottish Cup semi-final. The greater firepower that Brendan Rodgers’ men possess could be a telling factor, believes the 57-year-old, who wouldn’t be surprised to see Moussa Dembele, pictured, coming good on the big occasion again, or Leigh Griffiths adding to the 98 goals he’s struck for the club.

However, the fact that Celtic do not have a player who has reached double-figures for league goals this season perplexes Bonner. Only once, when Tom McAdam was top scorer with eight goals in 1978-79, have Celtic won a title with their leading league goalscorer stuck on single figures. That is not a scenario that the former Republic of Ireland wants to see repeated.

“When I look at the goalscoring charts and the top Celtic scorer has nine goals in the league, I question that,” he said. “How is that happening? How come that’s happening? Especially when they are going to win the title by a handsome margin. Injury has affected that with Griffiths and Dembele having had spells out, but even at that it still shouldn’t be happening. They have got five league games now to build on what they’ve achieved this year. Those are all important games.

“They’ve spread it around, will be the argument, which is always good for teams. But I just think for this club you want the big guys, up in those forward positions, to score at least 15 to 20 league goals.

“When I played in the early 1980s, Charlie Nicholas and Frank McGarvey used to have a competition to see which of them would be the first to hit 30.

“The goalkeepers and defenders at Celtic, the guys who break up the play and stop the other team scoring, they are never the ones the fans will talk about in the future.

“It’s the creative players who get the plaudits, but you need to perform week-in and week-out to be elevated to that status – you need to score against the wee teams and the medium teams as well as in the big games.

“Do that for three or four years and then you’ll be recognised as a brilliant striker and that’s what some of the current players have got to think about.

“How are they going to be remembered in years to come? You think back to goalscorers like Stevie Chalmers, Kenny Dalglish, Charlie, Frank McAvennie and Henrik Larsson and the men who created the chances: Jimmy Johnstone, Tommy Burns and Paul McStay.

“Danny McGrain was a creative right-back, just as Kieran Tierney is on the opposite flank nowadays. They’re the ones supporters remember, not the holding midfielders or the centre-halves or goalkeepers.

“To play as a striker for 
Celtic Football Club, you have to be good all the time, and that’s what Moussa Dembele and Leigh Griffiths should be thinking about; how am I going to be remembered as a proper striker for this fantastic club?

“I’m not criticising them; what I’m saying is that they need to be consistently effective. Some players stayed with Celtic for just a short time and then went and delivered elsewhere but they’re still remembered. Moussa Dembele is a young man with brilliant attributes. For me, though, he has to do it more often. I’ve no doubt that he’ll go out on Sunday and he’ll show his quality again but I want to see him doing that on a regular basis.”