Saturday, October 25, 2008

Cillian Sheridan being groomed for major role

Cillian Sheridan lacks nothing in terms of the physical attributes that could give him a fighting chance of carving out a fine Celtic career.

Experience is the only thing missing from his locker, although plenty would have been banked from a cameo performance against Manchester United this week in the Champions League.

Clearly, the young Irishman is being groomed for a major role by Gordon Strachan, given the public votes of confidence he has received.

As is the way with most young players with something that bit special, Sheridan is fuelled by a major desire to make it as a top-level striker.

He trusts his manager in the way he is handling his development, which Strachan says is about being careful not to push him too soon as there have been some problems with growing pains as he fills out his tall frame.

But there is always that straining on the leash, a trait many undaunted youngsters on the periphery of first-team life at the Old Firm have, and Sheridan wants to make his mark.

The current striking crisis that has hit Strachan, just as Celtic enter a hectic run of games in three competitions, may well see the door being opened for the 19-year-old, who has impressed everyone at the club with his attitude to work, and his understanding of what he has to put in to ensure his natural talent can be fulfilled.

Reflecting on events, he smiled: "I am really enjoying the step-up, and getting on up at Inverness last weekend and then again at Old Trafford was a fantastic experience for me.

"I'm still a young player and I have a lot to learn, but to be gaining that kind of experience against teams like Manchester United is great.

"Being involved in the first- team picture with so many top players here is really helping my game."

He added: "The training, the experience of being in the squads, the advice from the coaches and manager, it's all crucial and I try to learn as much as I can every day, and also when we are away like during this week down in Manchester.

"Like everyone, you want to play. I want to play for Celtic and score goals for the club, but there are top-class strikers here and I just need to wait for my chance.

"When that comes is down to the manager. It's unfortunate for Georgios Samaras, Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and Chris Killen, who have injuries right now.

"But I just need to keep myself prepared and be ready every time the manager needs me. That's what I'll be doing."

Sheridan, who appears to have that invaluable asset of genuine pace even though he's over six foot, embraces the concept that the modern striker has to have plenty in their armoury to cut it.

At Old Trafford he got a close glimpse of the very best; the touch, presence and grace of Dimitar Berbatov, and the sheer raw power, speed and class of Wayne Rooney.

These men are operating at the very top of the business, but Sheridan admits that working hard to improve himself is something he has to do.

In the build-up to the United match Strachan, quite rightly, spoke of how it would be unfair to throw the youngster in from the start, given he had only played in a handful of first-team matches so far.

He also highlighted how a step up to first team training levels for the first time, and the pressures that come with that physically, are the things Celtic are keeping an eye on.

"You see the top guys like Rooney and Berbatov the other night and they have everything in their game," Sheridan added.

"I watch a lot of strikers to try and learn things and, of course, try to pick up things from training and playing alongside Sami and big Jan here.

"I know that a lot of the game now is based on pace and power, so building myself up is something I will keep working on to improve."

Sheridan certainly carried no inhibitions into the Theatre of Dreams when he was pitched on for the final 15 minutes of Celtic's 3-0 defeat that leaves them heading towards a Uefa Cup battle with Aalborg unless they can glean a major points haul from the three group games they have left.

A couple of darting runs, and a real directness in his play certainly suggest that Strachan is right to have faith in the player.

It was a personal high for Sheridan to enter that kind of company, even if the result left him as disappointed as everyone else in the Celtic camp.

Reflecting on his Old Trafford experience, he smiled: "The manager just said to me try and score a goal'. That's my job as a striker, and I went on and tried to get forward when I could.

"There were a couple of things I felt I could have done better with, and a header I maybe should have got on target, but it was a good experience even if the result was a blow.

"We knew it would be tough against them, but it's the ultimate dream for young guys like me to play in these kind of matches.

"I would like to be involved in the return game, but we'll see what happens. We need to try and win the match when they come to Glasgow. But we have important games in the SPL and in the cup before that, so we'll be focusing on them."

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