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‘CIFTCI WILL COME GOOD,’ VAN HOOIJDONK

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PIERRE VAN HOOIJDONK believes Nadir Ciftci will make up for lost time after firing blanks on his competitive debut in the 2-0 Champions League qualifying win over Stjarnan in midweek.

The £1.3million buy from Dundee United last week could have opened his account in only eight minutes, but was denied by the outstretched leg of former Motherwell keeper Gunnar Nielsen.

Van Hooijdonk, the former Celt who is the Turk’s agent, joked: “I said to my son when Nadir missed that chance: ‘At least, I can give him some stick. I scored for Celtic after nine minutes.’ (In fact, history books will show it was 12 minutes).

“I wasn’t exactly happy he missed. It would have been okay for him to score that early.”

Van Hooijdonk, just bought from NAC Breda for £1.3million, scored a spectacular debut strike in a 1-1 draw with Hearts 20 years ago and expects Ciftci to follow his lead soon enough.

The Dutchman continued: “You could see he was not that worried against Stjarnan. He wants the ball to his feet in difficult areas.

“The good thing is that you feel the appreciation of the people. They have seen a player is there. They can tell. They see something different.”

After one miss, he kicked the upright in exasperation. Yet, van Hooijdonk insisted: “I don’t think that will affect him.

“If you are asking me the same question in October, it might be different. That’ s normal.

“It’s his first full game in his first full week. The most important thing is that you find yourself in the positions.

“He had a great chance in the early minutes to let people see something and he was always looking for a goal.”

Ciftci is keen to make a quick impact for obvious reasons. An SFA hearing into charges of biting Dundee’s Jim McAlister in the final Tayside derby of the season goes ahead on Monday.

If guilty, the Turkish striker faces a potentially lengthy spell on the sidelines.

That would hand the jersey back to Griffiths at an awkward time. Despite Deila’ s adherence to a 4-2-3-1 formation with one out-and-out striker, van Hooijdonk sees no reason why the two cannot complement each other.

He added: “I like Griffiths. From what I have seen, he is the type of guy who is greedy for goals. He is a poacher. You can tell.

“Nadir is not like that. He can play on the left, he can play on the right. He can be either striker. Of course, it’s up the manager, but I think they could fit well together. What one is missing, the other has. They complement each other.”

Despite the need for three goals — without conceding —Stjarnan coach Runar Pall Sigmundsson remains bullish with regards to the second leg, predicting a 1,000 capacity, artificial-surface stadium five miles outside Reykjavik will be an uncomfortable venue for Celtic to play in.

The issue, could have been rendered redundant had Griffiths converted a penalty won by Stefan Johansen 12 minutes from time.

Johansen — scorer of the second goal — incurred his manager’s displeasure by publicly vying with the assigned penalty taker for the spot-kick.

Van Hooijdonk suspects the episode may have unsettled Griffiths. He said: “When I see these things, I don’t like it. I don’t know what the rules of the dressing room are here.

“But you put more pressure on the penalty-taker when that happens. There are 50,000 spectators and they are witnessing that moment.

“So, for the guy who insists on taking it, the goal becomes a little bit smaller because you know what they are thinking.”

 
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