Ange Postecoglou has explained the absence of James McCarthy from the Celtic squad that beat Motherwell on Saturday with the midfielder sitting out today’s game at home to Ferencvaros as well.
The midfielder joined Celtic on the same day as Joe Hart but while the keeper has established himself as first choice for Postecoglou the former Crystal Palace man has drifted in and out of the team.
McCarthy took part in six matches between September 11 and 30 but after coming on for 25 minutes against Bayer Leverkusen he sat out the win at Aberdeen on October 3 with Nir Bitton replacing Tom Rogic in midfield.
The October international break appeared to be the perfect opportunity for McCarthy to top up his fitness but when the side at Motherwell was announced his absence was noted.
Speaking yesterday about the 30-year-old, Postecoglou told The Scotsman:
It is difficult for him because he didn’t have a proper pre-season. 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.
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.
Celtic are at home to St Johnstone on Saturday which would seem to be a reasonable target for McCarthy to aim for.
There has been doubts raised about the wisdom of giving the midfielder a new contract, last season McCarthy started 10 EPL matches for Crystal Palace and made six substitute appearances before his contract expired.