Kris Commons – The natural choice for Scotland’s player of the year

Pic: Brian Doyle | Scotzine.com

Pic: Brian Doyle | Scotzine.com

The time for the annunciation of Scottish Football’s Player of The Year is fast approaching. At the present moment there is one stand-out candidate. Celtic’s midfield ace Kris Commons has bagged an incredible 21 goals for the Glasgow giants so far this season. In this article, I take a look back over Kris Commons time in Scottish Football, his Celtic career so far and speculate on what the future may hold for Celtic’s mercurial midfielder.

When Kris Commons arrived at Celtic as part of a £300,000 move from Derby County, there was very little fanfare and there was something understated about his arrival. There was no great excitement from any large, detectable portion of the Paradise faithful. The only real discussion taking place around the signing of Commons was centered around the fact that the Glasgow mainstream sports media had been reporting in the week prior to (Commons signing for Celtic) that Rangers had been sniffing around Commons with the intention of making an offer. Some outlets reported that transfer fees and contract terms had been discussed between Commons representatives and a negotiation team from Rangers. So with Commons seemingly choosing Celtic over Rangers, it generated a slightly spicier atmosphere around Commons signing.

But like so much when Scottish Football, the media and Rangers are involved, the reality may actually have been very different. Speaking at a press conference in January 2011, Kris was pressed by a member of the gathered sports media to reveal why he had knocked back Rangers and signed for Celtic instead. Commons seemed bemused and almost confused by the question and quickly replied: “I think it was mainly talk from yourselves. There was no talk from our side. The things that went in the press – the wages, the money – was all nonsense.”

A cynic might say this was less about Kris Commons knocking back Rangers and more about some members of the press kindly linking Rangers with a move for Commons to simulate transfer activity from the Ibrox club. I know, the thought of a member of the mainstream media being a bit friendly with Walter Smith & doing some light PR to make Rangers appear “busy” in the transfer market might sound like deranged paranoia to some, but had Rangers been as serious on the transfer as the press insinuated at the time, then Commons could have been a Rangers player before Celtic even expressed an interest. This was not to pass and not only did Kris Commons suggest there was no actual or tangible discussions between him and Rangers but he quickly signed for Celtic with very little fuss.

Commons made his debut for Celtic in a CIS cup semi final against Aberdeen. He quickly scored with a fantastic chip – chipping the ball over the heads of goalkeepers would become something of a signature technique for Commons – and he revealed the level of technical proficiency and vision that would come to separate him from his peers over the coming seasons. Kris followed up his sublime goal in the cup by scoring in his Old Firm debut against Rangers at Ibrox in a 2-2 draw. Goals and assists against Rangers were always a priority for a Celtic attacker when Rangers were playing in the top flight of Scottish football. His great goalscoring form continued as Commons netted another goal and importantly, added another Old Firm goal to his already bulging account by scoring in a 3-0 win against Rangers. The midfielder finished the season with an impressive 14 goals & 6 assists in only 21 appearances. Seldom does a January signing participate in the second half of the season with the same devastating effect that Commons had displayed.

It seemed that the short and portly midfielder could come in very handy in the 10/11 title race with his creative play and desirable habit of producing an “end product” which would be invaluable in the quest for a title that had eluded Celtic the previous two seasons. Ultimately, it was not to be for Kris and Celtic that season. Celtic capitulated at Inverness and despite Commons scoring in that game, they went on to lose the match and then later, the title. Walter Smith’s men had clung to the SPL title and completed three titles in a row. Many Rangers fans selected Commons as a target for their gloating. “Bet ye wish ye donned yer brogues and joined Rangers noo!?”. It would prove, as it so often does, that those who laugh last would in fact laugh the longest.

Commons got off to an unfortunate start the following season when injury, and therefore fitness, impeded his season from the off. He ended the season with only one goal. But how typical of football that the one goal came against Celtic’s Glasgow city rivals Rangers. Celtic had been struggling until midway through that season. Languishing dangerously far behind Ally McCoist’s steadfast Rangers side as far into the campaign as November. There was many who questioned Neil Lennon and his Celtic side’s ability to come back from a large points deficit – I believe it was 15 points at its largest – and wrestle the title from a Rangers side dining out on their three in a row credentials. Celtic then mounted a spectacular comeback and sat ahead of Rangers coming out of December. Commons and Celtic went on to win the title as their unfortunate and once-proud rivals plunged into administration.

The 2012/2013 season saw Celtic go on to have one of their best seasons and go on a historic European run that culminated in a last 16 appearance in the top club competition in Europe – The UEFA Champions League. Not only did Commons play an important part in Celtic’s win over Barcelona but also the run to the elite 16, by weighing in with two goals and three assists over the European campaign.

One of these goals being a penalty against Spartak Moscow that secured Celtic’s qualification from the Champions League group stages. It requires a special kind of nerve and a different breed of professional athlete to maintain such solid composure in such a high pressure situation. Commons not only maintained his composure but also exhibited fantastic technique to convert the penalty without fuss. The left footed midfielder also played his part domestically and finished the season with a record of 46 games played, 19 goals scored and 17 assists. Common’s vision, intellect and ruthless execution from midfield was starting to mature into being of consistent value to Celtic.

The 2013/2014 season has seen Commons evolve into an entirely different level of player. His consistency across a season uninterrupted by injury and without a blemish on his disciplinary record is now the perfect platform to showcase his maturity as a pivotal player for his club. It may seem obvious that a player going from Derby County to competing against the likes of Barcelona, Ajax, Spartak Moscow, AC Milan and Juventus is going to improve as a result of the experience, but what Commons is showing now, is another type of evolution entirely.

Commons is currently sitting on 21 goals in 32 games. Such impressive goalscoring form from a midfield position is a comodity that is rare in football at the moment.

Celtic have struggled to find a consistent striking partnership or effectively replace Gary Hooper so far in the 2013/2014 season. With this, a goal drought among the present strikers could have caused Celtic much discomfort even domestically. Commons has stepped up to the mark and filled in the gap that an out-and-out striker should be filling. The increase in Commons’ goals has also seen a decrease in his assist rate. However, this is misleading and is, in fact, simply a by-product of the fact he has taken the goal scoring initiative up himself. He can hardly assist himself and is simply using his footballing intellect to help spark moves which allow the team to create opportunities for him. It is subtle, but very smart. There has been rumours and hearsay emanating from Celtic Park over the last two seasons which suggest Kris Commons could be ear-marked for a coaching role if he stays to finish his career at Celtic. When you watch the intelligence with which Commons plays the game it is hardly any type of surprise.

Commons has been the stand alone candidate for the Player of the Year Awards with the only conceivable challenge coming from the media darling, and reborn Kilmarnock striker, Kris Boyd. The simple fact is that Boyd is in a position that allows him to do what he should be doing, which is scoring goals. Commons has to set the move in motion and then calculate how to best manoeuvre himself to advance into a position to finalise the move and convert the opportunity. This is very hard to do and Commons has made this seem routine over the season thus far.

Kris Commons is getting to live every footballer’s dream at the moment. He is in the form of his life. Scoring breathtaking goals on a weekly basis and also having the comfort of knowing he will be competing against Europe’s elite clubs each season. He has the adulation and support of a huge global fanbase who have watched him grow and develop as a player and a professional. The most spectacular thing about Kris Commons time at Celtic, is his integration with the wider support network that Celtic generate, known to some as “The Celtic Family”. Kris and his family are very active around fundraising and raising awareness of various charities and this draws much appreciation on social media like Twitter and various other internet forums.

Kris has not only brought much success to Celtic, but Kris and his partner, Lisa Hague, have brought the most precious success into their own lives. They have had children and watched them grow and all under the watchful gaze of the wider Celtic support. Lisa, is not only a successful businesswoman in her own right and a proud & doting mother, but she also engages with the club’s supporters and seems at ease with the charitable spirit that Celtic strive to maintain as a cultural identifier. With the Commons family’s support of little Oscar Knox and Lisa’s role as a special ambassador for Scottish stillbirth charity SIMBA, it must be commended that Kris and his family have offered so much back to society and our city is a better place for having such a kind and loving family as part of it.

It seems Kris Commons and his family have the perfect life. If a coaching role was to creep up for Kris over the next two or three years then surely it would be something he would consider. His contribution to Celtic, Scottish football & Scottish society is something that should be praised. Such professionalism, openness and charitable spirit is always welcome in the vortex of insanity that this city generates.

Kris Commons is only 30 years old. His career tally at Celtic is currently 132 games played, 55 goals scored and 42 assists. Quite a remarkable return for a short and stout £300,000 midfielder.

Commons has scored goals in almost all of his competition debuts. His early career had him routinely banging in goals against Rangers. He has scored in Europe & offered even more assists. He has scored high pressure goals which have sent his team into the elite 16 clubs in Europe. He has done this all over a sustained and continuing period and shown incredible growth as a player. 2013/2014 has seen him evolve to a whole new level and with a return of 21 goals from midfield so far, if he continues this form, he will be the obvious candidate for a player of the year award.

But then, this is Scottish football so you just never truly know.


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