For the majority of his five years at the club, Kris Commons has been a mainstay in the Celtic first team. He finished the country’s top scorer for the 2013/14 campaign but a combination of factors means he has since been made to work harder for his starting place.
The 32-year old, who scored on his debut in a 4-1 League Cup semi-final win over Aberdeen, said: “I’ve picked up injuries along the way which is probably why I haven’t stayed in the team.
“I’ve also picked up little illnesses over the Christmas period. It’s not been ideal but I’ll just bide my time, wait until I am fit enough and try and do what I can in the games. But it has been a little bit stop-start this season, which has not been ideal to maintain high form.”
Despite these forced absences, the attacking midfielder has nine goals to his name for the current season. He has also been selected for the victories over Raith Rovers and Heart of Midlothian in the earlier rounds of the competition, results which have brought Celtic to the semi-final.
It was at this stage last year when Commons thundered a strike past Steve Simonsen in the Rangers goal, helping send his side into the final, a match in which he also scored. Notwithstanding his vital role in last year’s triumph, he admits his fortunes at the national stadium have been varied since he joined from Derby in 2011.
“I’ve had good and bad games at Hampden,” he reflects. “Scored good goals, been in very tough matches and been involved in tough defeats. So it’s mixed emotions when I go there. There’s a lot of people that don’t like the venue because of the vast space in between yourself and the crowd, but when you do go and win it’s a great experience.
“The Dundee United game, beating them in the final and beating Rangers in the semi-final,” he lists as examples.
“On the flipside of that, getting beat off Hearts there, getting beat off Rangers there, getting beat by Kilmarnock there. Again, it’s good and bad experiences, but usually when you are at Hampden it’s the latter stages of the cup competition and they do stick in your memory because you’re either one step away from lifting the trophy or one step away from not making the final.”
These memories, positive and negative, will all be eclipsed in the forefront of his mind if he can aid his side to the treble this season. While some around the club – as if fearful of some sort of jinx – attempt not to be drawn in by such talk, Commons confesses that it’s something that does crop up in conversation.
“We’ve been trying to do it since I walked through the door,” he admits. “There’s always a lot of talk, especially early on in the season then it kind of peters out a bit. You try and keep it quiet but obviously the more momentum that picks up, the talk of it and it gathers. So we’ll try and tick all the boxes and get the League Cup in the bag.
“But there’s a lot of good teams still in the competition that still want to win it as well. So for me, if I can do that in my Celtic career then that would be some achievement as there are only two teams that have ever achieved it in the long history that we have.”
The last time Celtic met Ross County at Hampden, the Staggies pulled off one of the greatest cup shocks ever seen at Hampden and Commons knows that Celtic will have to guard against that sort of performance if they are to progress to the final.
That was just before he arrived at the club – though he was made aware of it after he signed – and he acknowledges that they will also be a threat this time around. One reason for this, he believes, is because the likes of Jackson Irvine, Michael Gardyne and Marcus Fraser will have extra motivation against their former employers.
“They came and gave us a real good game at Celtic Park,” said Commons. “Going into the away match against them they were going pretty well. There’s a couple of lads that used to play with us that are playing there and whenever ex-players are playing against their former team they tend to raise their game a little bit.
“So they’re a team we’re very wary of, we’re not going to take them lightly. Again, going back to defeats that I’ve remembered, they are always against opposition that you think we should beat. But on any given day, if we’re not quite at the races and they do raise their game, then you make yourself a target. So we’ve got to be properly on-song for the match.”
“It is unfamiliar territory when you do play in those sorts of arenas, you take that kind of comfort zone out, it’s less ordinary, something that you’re not used to. So if you’re not prepared right then you can get beat.”
“I’ll be looking to try and get in the team for the St Johnstone match and then going on from that we’ve got seven or eight days until the next game, so we’ll have enough time for either rest or preparation for that game but I think our main focus is getting a positive result at Hampden and getting into the final.”
This article appeared in the League Cup semi-final match programme on 31/01/2015.