Scott Bain finished his season sitting on the bench in the King Baudouin Stadium a stadium renovated and renamed 10 years after the Heysel Stadium disaster. He would have had plenty of time to reflect on the best season of his career.
Craig Gordon had turned in a man-of-the-match performance at Ibrox before the winter break. His ball retention was a problem but it was only one of a number of problems. Though Bain had played all the League Cup games, there was no indication that he was going to be our number one.
Bain was signed on Stevie Woods’ say-so. Brendan Rodgers asked the respected goalkeeping coach which goalkeepers he wanted to work with. Trevor Carson and Bain were the two he picked. Motherwell got all Motherwell on a mooted move; then Neil McCann got all Neil McCann, which allowed us to get Bain.
The work that Woods has done with Arthur Boruc, Fraser Forster and Craig Gordon means that his opinion is respected. He turned Forster from a fragile giraffe, who struggled to command his area, into a keeper who for a period was one of the best in Europe. An extraordinarily agile shot-stopper for a giant of a man who the Spanish press nicknamed ‘The Great Wall’. His work with already known but injury-ravaged Craig Gordon is just as impressive. Gordon would have been lost to the game were it not for Woods.
Gordon never fitted Rodgers’ idea of a modern goalkeeper. He was a keeper who would win us games and save us points but struggled with playing the ball from the back. David De Gea, once rated as the best goalkeeper in the world, is now seen as a throwback and not at an elite level. Ederson of Manchester City is all legs, arms, tattoos and is as comfortable with the ball at his feet as he is dealing with cross balls. Alisson of Liverpool and Marc-André ter Stegen of Barcelona follow the same sweeper-keeper template.
Hindsight would suggest that Rodgers was always looking for the right time to bring in Bain. He attempted to replace Gordon with Dorus de Vries, but the Dutchman never inspired confidence. Some would call Bains’ break a lucky one. The first game back after the winter break was a Scottish Cup tie against Airdrie. A game he would have played anyway. Gordon then got injured and any questions of a return were then mute.
Hindsight can be backed with knowledge, though. The two keepers had different training regimes at Lennoxtown. Bain would spend more time working with the defenders on keeping the ball against a high press while Gordon was rarely involved in these drills. This instilled confidence and comfort for the players involved and it was clear that this comfort wasn’t being afforded to Gordon.
The last two games of the season saw Bain turn in, for him, two poor performances. He was caught with the ball, and his distribution in the cup final was wayward. There seemed to be a confusion in what he was meant to be doing. The short passing out from the back was replaced with a diagonal ball to the full backs, which rarely found its target.
There is going to be a number of changes this summer. Changing personnel is the main focus and the goalkeeping question seems to be quite straightforward. Neil Lennon wanted and did sign Bain for Hibs and there is no suggestion that he won’t go into the season as Celtic’s number one. The biggest question is about the style he will be asked to commit to.