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Victor Wanyama: Celtic’s Kenyan Star

Ryan from ‘3 On 1 Counter’ talks about one of the hottest prospects in European football, Celtic’s Victor Wanyama.

When Neil Lennon assumed the role of Celtic manager in the summer of 2010 following an impressive stint as caretaker boss, he promised to “bring back the thunder” and snatch the title away from a Rangers side who were celebrating their second consecutive SPL title.

When the 2010/11 season began in August, there had been somewhat of a revolution in the Celtic Park dressing room. Lennon introduced a host of new players to the East End of Glasgow, most of them virtually unknown in the West of Scotland. Gary Hooper, Beram Kayal and Honduran left-back Emilio Izzaguirre would go on to become fan favourites almost instantaneously.

Although the new-look Hoops squad finished the campaign with an outstanding 92 points, they lost out on the league title to their Old Firm rivals, Rangers, whom they faced no less than 7 times over the course of the season.

Neil Lennon decided that the team needed an added edge if they were to prevent Rangers from achieving 4 titles on the trot. He drafted in Cardiff City’s young right-sided defender Adam Matthews, Nottingham Forest centre-half Kelvin Wilson and a 20-year-old midfielder from Kenya called Victor Wanyama.

Wanyama made the switch from Belgian club Beerschot AC, costing Celtic just £900,000. Upon arrival, he requested the number 67 shirt – in honour of the 1967 Celtic team who lifted the European Cup in Lisbon. The Parkhead faithful took a shine to the African before many had even seen him play because of this heart-warming touch.

When the time finally came for Wanyama to make his eagerly anticipated début for Celtic, he more than impressed the supporters. The Green Brigade even had a pre-arranged chant for Wanyama, who is the brother of Palermo loanee McDonald Mariga.

Wanyama’s league début came in a 1-0 home defeat to Perthshire outfit St. Johnstone. Despite the fact that the Bhoys dropped all 3 points at Celtic Park after a dreadful attacking display, the Kenyan once again wowed the fans with his performance. This was despite Lennon’s decision to play Wanyama as a centre-back, a position that was previously unfamiliar to the Kenyan.

Victor Wanyama’s performances in midfield and defence had a huge impact on the squad. Arguably his biggest and best game of the 2011/2012 season came in a December encounter at home to Hearts. The game was in the middle of a Herculean effort to catch Rangers, who were 15 points clear at the top from the beginning of November.

It was a hard-fought game with both sides looking like they were unable to break the deadlock. Cometh the hour, cometh the man, Wanyama fired into the top-right corner with a blistering 30-yard shot, to score his first goal for The Hoops. Fraser Forster saved a dramatic, late penalty as Wanyama deservedly claimed the man of the match award. Celtic took top spot in the SPL later that month after beating Rangers 1-0, courtesy of a Joe Ledley header.

Celtic finished the season 20 points clear of the pack, albeit runners-up Rangers were deducted ten points in February for entering administration. Wanyama was nominated for the young player of the year award, although he narrowly lost out to winger James Forrest, an exciting and talented graduate from Celtic’s youth academy.

This season, Wanyama has not featured too often at centre-back, after admitting to Neil Lennon that he is more comfortable in midfield. His highlight is undoubtedly when he soared above Carles Puyol to head past goalkeeper Victor Valdes for the opener in the 2-1 home win over Barcelona in the Champions League, on the eve of Celtic’s 125thanniversary.

He was once again pivotal to the squad in this season’s league title campaign as well as in the famous European run and on Sunday night, Wanyama picked up the young player of the year award which he lost out on in 2012.

Wanyama’s playing style is that of an old-fashioned central midfielder; he will work tirelessly up and down the park for 90 minutes, he will never bow out of a challenge and is rarely beaten in the air.

The Kenyan does well in the final third of the pitch, particularly from set-pieces because of his leap and heading ability, however his passing can sometimes be rather sloppy and nine times out of ten, his shots will find row z.

It comes as no surprise that his 2 seasons so far in the famous Glasgow green-and-white have led to Wanyama being linked to clubs such as Manchester United and Arsenal. The £25m price tag that Lennon has placed on the youngster is perhaps a little extreme, but there is no doubting he is a valuable player that is still just 21-years-old.

Sport Is Everything. Ryan.

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