“The way for a young man to rise is to improve himself in every way he can, never suspecting that anybody wishes to hinder him.” Abraham Lincoln
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Former Celtic youngster Islam Feruz clearly has high ambitions to improve himself.
Born in a Somalia blighted by civil war and famine, his family sought a better life in Britain. The spectrum of his sporting progress is just as dramatic, from being spotted during a kickabout at a sports centre to being tipped as one of the brightest prospect in Chelsea’s youth ranks.
It was surprising then to read his less than humble comments about his former club, as he blasted on Twitter: “CELTIC did f**k all with me staying in this country, get your f*****g facts right and stop going with the story u read in the Daily Record!!”
“Heres a fact for you tweeps … 6-7 yrs at Celtic n never reached a cup final, one year at Chelsea … What happens??”
Extremely disappointing words from someone formerly on Celtic’s books, but his hastily-deleted comments need to be put into context. Feruz is only 16; can any of us claim not to have been so impetuous when we were teenagers who thought we knew it all? While Feruz’s comments have grabbed the headlines, a fact overlooked is he was reacting to the unreported jibes of some Celtic fans who constantly abuse him for his move to Chelsea. These are grown men targeting a teenager from the safety of their computers, convincing themselves they have the moral high ground and their ire stems from Feruz disrespecting the memory of Tommy Burns, when really their gripe is with the youngster’s decision to leave Celtic — and to a club most Hoops fans are not particularly enamoured with. Let’s not forget Celtic themselves, along with Rangers, have long enticed youth prospects away from smaller clubs in Scotland with the lure of trophies, European football and higher wages.
The merits of Feruz’s move to Chelsea to aid his football development have been questioned. He almost certainly will not break into the first team as quickly as he would have at Celtic, and going to a club capable of buying the world’s greatest talents and slotting them straight into the first team is a gamble. But as an ambitious footballer wanting to improve himself, can Feruz really be blamed for succumbing to the lure of a club in the Premier League, which most seasons is challenging for the title and competing in the latter stages of European competition? A club where, even if he doesn’t break into the first team, he will be able to train alongside those aforementioned talents, including World Cup and European Championship winners?
What is saddening though is that Feruz chose to attack the club as a whole. Rather than just address his individual detractors, he has attacked Celtic FC, in doing so disrespecting the staff that worked with him, the players who played alongside him (who must be particularly disappointed after his tweet erroneously implied they were unable to land silverware during his time at Celtic — Feruz was benched as the under-19s claimed the Youth Cup and he failed to mention he helped them land the Youth League title in 2011) and also those Celtic fans who wished him well in his future career. Feruz probably holds those staff, players and fans in high regard but his ill-judged broadside at the club as a whole probably seemed at the time like the easiest way to attack his individual critics. Hopefully his swift removal of the comments shows he regrets the rash outburst.
Feruz claims Celtic did nothing to aid his family’s bid to stay in Britain, a claim Tommy Burns’ friend Gerry Collins recently dismissed, saying the late Celtic coach “fought tooth and nail” to prevent the family facing deportation to a war zone. Irrespective of what Celtic and Burns did or did not do as regards the family’s potential deportation, irrespective of the club relocating them from a Castlemilk housing estate to Glasgow’s West End, Celtic gave Feruz his footballing break, and for that he should be grateful. Hopefully he is.
I’m as disappointed as anyone at the loss of a talent like Feruz. But speaking about the player’s departure, Neil Lennon said Feruz’s “attitude changed dramatically and his attitude towards the club changed dramatically” in the months before he left for Chelsea. Why then would we want someone like that at Celtic Park? Why have someone at the club who is unhappy, who doesn’t share the fans’ passion for the club and whose performances would suffer as a result of staying?
We should focus instead on the other exceptional young talents at the club who want to wear the hoops, and last Sunday saw one such player thrust into the spotlight. Tony Watt made himself an instant hero with his two-goal debut at Motherwell. The former Airdrie player — who moved to Celtic with the blessing of Diamonds chairman Jim Ballantyne — has bided his time since his arrival in January 2011. Watt ignored overtures from Liverpool and Fulham to join Celtic, saying at the time: “It’s the team I support and this is where I want to be.” Celtic now look set to reap the rewards of Watt’s passion and desire to do well in the hoops for years to come.
Feruz has not been a Celtic player for almost nine months now. Some people are still bitter about that but it’s a fact that must be accepted. Let Feruz go on his way, unhindered by bitter fans, to whatever glory awaits this talented footballer, and Celtic will go theirs. His comments are disappointing but they are from a player who never graced our first team and merely reflect the impetuous of youth, a land we have all trod. Perhaps at Chelsea he’ll temper his talent with maturity as he gets older. Although at a club with air gun-totting Ashley Cole on the books, that could be a long shot…