Beattie blasts Magic's critics

Stephen Sullivan

Mis-firing Maciej Zurawski today received support from the unlikeliest of sources when Craig Beattie – widely regarded as his principal rival – hit out at the ‘unfair’ treatment to which the Pole has been subjected.

Zurawski has come under fire of late having failed to score in - or impose himself on - any of his first four matches for his new club.

Nevertheless, Gordon Strachan has re-affirmed his belief that the £2.2 million summer signing will emerge as “not just a good player for this club, but a great player,” an assertion echoed by Beattie, who - appearing at Celtic's pre-Old Firm press conference - turned a question about Zurawski being under pressure back on the interviewer.

“Yeah, and who’s putting him under pressure?” he said, making it abundantly clear that he blamed the media-men assembled in front of him for the criticism of his colleague.

“Magic has only played four or five games now and he’s still getting used to a new club, a new manager and a new country. He’s got to be given a bit of time to settle in, surely.
“I think he’s getting an unfair time of it to be perfectly honest, but we (the players) all know that he’s a quality player and obviously the manager knows that too because he’s spent a lot of money on him. I think he’s played 47 times for Poland now, so he’s a good player, believe me.”

Supportive he may be, but Beattie’s backing for Zurawski certainly won’t extend to a willingness to stand aside and allow the Pole to retain his place in Celtic’s starting line-up at his expense.

However, though Strachan was seen to hint at an Old Firm starting role for the youngster when he suggested earlier this week that Beattie and Shaun Maloney would be rewarded “reasonably soon,” for their outstanding recent form, the former of this in-form pair is evidently taking nothing for granted.

“Obviously I want to play,” he said. “It’s a massive game and everybody at the club wants to play. But I’m sure we’ll all have some part to play tomorrow and hopefully it will be a successful part.

“The manager will decide [whether I start]. That’s why he’s in charge and it’s up to him to make that decision.

“All I'll say is that I’m fit now and available to make some sort of contribution. Hopefully that’s from the start but, if not, I’ll be prepared and ready to be called upon.

“I’m definitely enjoying it at the moment. I was already injured by this point last season so it’s definitely been better in that respect.

“I’d a bit of a nightmare last season to be fair, but I’m fit and enjoying it now, so long may that continue. So far, without being injured, this is the best run I’ve had.”

Beattie goes into tomorrow's game further boosted by a midweek double for Scotland’s under-21s, and he suggested - with a discernable glint in his eye - that it was only Walter Smith’s concerns about potentially causing a pre-Old Firm storm that denied him a first senior cap the following evening.

He said: “It would have been nice to get a couple of minutes [for the senior side], but I can imagine the gaffer was thinking that he’d be slaughtered if he sent me on and I got injured.

“I think he was protecting me to a certain extent, which was probably the right thing to do, even though I would have loved to get on.”

Beattie has since returned to resume the four-way battle for a solitary striking role - the other having been all but nailed down by a player, in John Hartson, who’s currently in the form of his life – and the youngster admitted that the Welshman has set the standard for all those aiming to partner him.

He said: “I think John and I suit each other well, but Jeremie and Shaun are the same because, like me, they’re pacey players who like to get in and about people. I have to say, John’s different class in that respect because he makes it very easy for you to play with him.

“He’s helped me a lot, but then so have Chris and Henrik. It was the same with Bellers coming in last year. These guys are different class and you can only learn from them when you’re playing at the top of your game.”