Zheng Zhi: Finally a replacement for Stan Petrov?

Last updated : 08 October 2009 By Mikbhoy

If his display at Ibrox on Sunday is anything to go by then Zheng Zhi looks like he could impose himself in this Celtic team. The midfielder was a surprise starter against the Huns but he was totally unfazed in the fervour of the Glasgow derby and throughout the 70 minutes of his debut he looked the most accomplished player on the park. He won the penalty from which Aiden McGeady scored to pull Celtic back into the game and his all-round play suggested that he could be the driving midfielder the team have been crying out for. Wolves striker Chris Iwelumo wasn't surprised by his ex team-mate's display.

"I played with him for 18 months when we were at Charlton together and I would definitely say that he has the quality to make a real name for himself at Celtic," said the Scotland striker. "He is very disciplined and because of that he has the knowledge to play in a number of different positions. But the great thing about him is that he is always wanting to get the ball forward. He is not shy at getting into the box and the season that we were in the Champion-ship with Charlton his goals were in double figures. He scored 12 or 13 goals and that season he was playing in the middle of the park."

Tony Mowbray has been a long term admirer of Zheng Zhi and immediately dismissed the charge that the midfielder was signed with one eye on the Asian merchandising market. Iwelumo insists that if the player is good enough then there's nothing wrong with adding a marketing strategy to the mix. "So what if Celtic want to exploit another market?" he said. "Why shouldn't they? Clubs need all the help they can get at the minute and if Celtic feel that having the Chinese captain in their side can help to raise the profile of their side then that is good for them. It would only be a problem to supporters if it was a guy who couldn't do anything."

"But I know for a fact that when Zheng was at Charlton he was very close to signing for Tony Mowbray, who was then at West Brom." added Iwelumo. "So there is no doubt that his manager has been an admirer of his for a while. And Celtic will see that too, I am sure. I watched the game at Ibrox on TV and I think it says something that Tony was willing to throw Zheng in for a game of that magnitude. He has not played any football for months yet he was willing to start an Old Firm game and the fact that he acquitted himself well wasn't a surprise to me. He is a quiet guy, he understands English well, but he works very hard on the training ground and technically he was one of the best that I have played with."

"People will question whether or not he will hack it in the SPL but come back in 12 months' time and ask the same question," he continued. "He could more than look after himself in the Championship which is a tough and physical league. He is no pushover. He is smart and capable and I think he will become quite a favourite of the Celtic support because he gives his all in games. He is a good guy to have in your team because he can help the side out all over the pitch. I haven't spoken to him since he made the move to Celtic but I'll give him a call soon because I'd like to wish him all the best. I've not doubt he'll do a job in the SPL."