Norwich City’s former Rangers defender Steven Whittaker to get hot reception at Celtic
PUBLISHED: 08:47 24 July 2012
New signing Steven Whittaker will be back on familiar territory as one of Norwich City’s Scottish contingent facing Celtic in tonight’s second pre-season friendly.
The 28-year-old former Glasgow Rangers defender, given provisional clearance by FIFA to play for the Canaries while they wait for his move to be given final authorisation, will step out at Parkhead (7.45pm), where he appeared in eight Old Firm derbies.
Whittaker won eight trophies playing for Celtic’s bitter rivals, but is looking forward to returning north of the border and revealed on his arrival at Carrow Road that Hoops skipper Scott Brown was one of his best friends. With midfielder Simon Lappin scoring the winner for Motherwell on his last appearance at Celtic – during a loan spell from Norwich in 2008 – at least two of manager’s Chris Hughton’s squad have special memories of this evening’s venue.
“I’ll probably get a bit of abuse but I’m used to that anyway,” said Whittaker. “It’ll be good to get back up to Scotland and play there again. I’m going to be down in England now for a few years so it’s nice to go back so quickly.
“Everyone has made me feel welcome here. They are a great bunch of boys. I’m looking forward to getting in the team, first and foremost, and helping the team continue the form they have shown over the past few seasons.”
Hughton wants his players to be inspired by the trip to on one of British football’s biggest stages.
He insists fitness remains the priority at this stage of City’s warm-up programme, but a big crowd for the Bhoys’ first home pre-season game is sure to make it an occasion.
Neil Lennon’s SPL champions have earmarked games against Norwich and Inter Milan this week as perfect preparation for a pending Champions League qualifier.
Celtic were beaten 4-0 by Ajax on Saturday in Amsterdam after a mixed set of results on tour in Germany, but Hughton is warning his players to brace themselves.
“They’ll turn up in big numbers, I am sure, and it is a special club and a special place – irrespective of when you go there or whatever the circumstances,” he said. “It is a nice one for the players because I am sure you will get some who certainly would not have played there and might not have even been to the stadium.
“It is a magnificent place and they are the sort of arenas you want to go to as a professional.
“We’ve got a nice programme of games to get us ready for the Premier League and that of course is the priority, but whenever you go to a ground like Celtic you know you are in for a tough game, whether it is a friendly or not.”
City midfielder David Fox (leg) and striker Steve Morison (ankle) missed Saturday’s 3-2 defeat by Hertha Berlin in Austria as a precaution, but Morison could return tonight after looking sharp during the week-long training camp at Bad Radkersburg.
“You never enjoy losing games, even the first one of a pre-season, but that was just the end of a good pre-season week for us,” said Hughton. “We went into the game with a week’s training behind us.
“We missed Steve Morison, which was a bit of a blow, because he had trained all week and just felt his ankle on Friday. When you remember the amount of players we had with us on the trip it is normal and natural that one or two pick up little bits.” Striker James Vaughan will be looking to add to his two goals against Hertha and Celtic’s ex-Canary ’keeper Fraser Forster admits they will be under pressure to perform.
Lennon’s men have failed to score in three of their four friendlies, with the defeat by Ajax a concern ahead of next week’s first Champions League qualifier, almost certainly against HJK Helsinki.
Celtic lost 2-0 at Carrow Road in May in Adam Drury’s testimonial.