Steven Fletcher has his own place in Celtic folklore. We bid for him in January 2009, the player made a public plea to Hibs to allow the deal to happen, but Rod Petrie rejected the approach. Fletcher would go to Burnley at the end of that season for a deal worth around £4m, which seemed eye-watering at the time for a striker who scored 11 goals the previous 12 months.
As Celtic ran out of steam in the spring of 2009 attention turned to what might have been had Fletcher signed. He was the one that got away. The whats, whys and maybes of that time are irrelevant now, but in short, Celtic didn’t value Fletcher at £4m and Petrie reckoned he could get that kind of money in England if he waited.
Before selling to Burnley he didn’t even put the customary call out to Celtic to entice a higher bid. Petrie wanted Hibs to be known as a team who could produce players for the English Premier League – a Hamilton Accies-Lite, if you like. It’s a legitimate strategy.
The player is 28-years-old and now free of the ankle injury which plagued him for over a year. He’s on an astronomical basic wage at Sunderland, who paid north of £10m for his services. Few Scottish footballers will have higher career earnings than him, but that contract ends in June. This season has brought 4 goals from 11 starts for a Sunderland team who sit in a relegation position.
The injury profile makes him a possibility for Celtic. Without it, as a free agent, he would remain in the English Premier League next season (whether Sunderland do or not). His agent will no doubt be shopping him around right now, as will Sunderland, who at the moment will be asking for a consideration to be paid to release him this month.
We must have signed 20 strikers since January 2009, very few as good as Steven Fletcher. I’d take him in a heartbeat.
I’m pleased Anthony Stokes (16 months younger than Fletcher) has a choice of clubs wanting to loan him this month. All three: Dundee United, Inverness and Hibs, would be good places for him. United are a better team than their abysmal points tally indicates, but they are desperately short of strikers. Stokes could transform them. Hibs and Inverness are both clubs looking purposefully towards the second half of the season.
Charity Q&A Night, Carfin
I’m on the (otherwise excellent) Q&A panel at the Xavier Centre, Carfin, on Saturday 30 January alongside two Libson Lions – John Clark and Bertie Auld, Celtic author and sports academic – Dr Joe Bradley, and Fifa referee – Willie Collum.
The purpose of the night is to raise funds for Lanarkshire Cancer Care Trust and the Young Adult Ministry. Tickets will be scarce, so if you’d like to attend, call Mick on 07827 975271 soon.
You know when you look at a line-up and just know it’s going to be a great night…..