Celtic boss Martin O’Neill has challenged new boy Mickey Gray to impress him enough to want to sign the defender permanently.
Gray, 29, narrowly missed out on a move to Marseille and instead today started a four month loan deal at Parkhead with a view to signing permanently, and O’Neill says the ball is in Gray’s court – so to speak!
“It is really up to him to go and see if he can get into the side and he faces a bit of competition to do that”, O’Neill told Celtic’s official website.
“He knows what is in front of him – good luck to him. He needs to get his own career up and running again. It’s not that long ago since Michael was capped for England. He can play in a number of positions down the left hand side and at this minute he gives us that bit of extra cover defensively.
“We have him until Christmas with a view to a permanent deal. It gives us a chance to have a look at him and him the chance to have a look at us and the set up and see if he can get some games. It’s a chance for him to get going again.”
It seems to have been a busy time lately for our former skipper; his wife had a baby at the end of August, and negotiations with both Celtic and Marseilles have been ongoing for several weeks. The possibility of a move to Marseilles fell through this weekend, and the deal that took him to Parkhead today was only finalised on Sunday afternoon. “I’d had a few phonecalls over the last couple of weeks, although nothing was really cemented down. But yesterday I got a call to come down to the Sunderland Academy and I stayed there for about five or six hours just negotiating how long I was going to be here. I also got the chance to speak to Martin O’Neill to tell him my intentions and, as soon as I’d done that, I just wanted to sign as quickly as I possibly could.”
Mickey has been given squad no 2 at Celtic, but with international fixtures looming he was one of only a handful of players being put through their paces at Celtic’s Barrowfield training ground this morning. “Training went really well,” he said. “I know there are a lot of players away on international duty, but I enjoyed it because I know Alan Thompson pretty well and Stan Varga came in to see me.
Does he feel he can secure a permanent deal? “That’s obviously in the back of my mind. If I can enjoy my training and the matches go as well as I’m sure they will do, you never know.”