BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
MARK FOTHERINGHAM has recalled how Marvin Compper commanded the respect of burgeoning superstars Roberto Firmino and Sebastian Rudy as he backed the German defender to be a smash hit at Celtic.
The ex-Hoops kid played alongside the experienced 32-year-old during an eight-week trial at Hoffenheim in 2012 and the duo became firm friends as the Scotsman narrowly missed out on a permanent contract.
Despite a plethora of talent on the books of the Bundesliga outfit, Fotheringham is adamant no-one was more admired in the dressing room than Compper, who combined his influence on the pitch with dishing out advice and guidance to the Die Kraichgauer youngsters.
And the former Dundee and Ross County midfielder has no doubt his old pal will be a similar inspiration to those around him in the Celtic side after completing a switch from RB Leipzig.
“I was at Hoffenheim for two-and-a-half months,” recalled Fotheringham. “So I was lucky enough to get to know Marvin and, first and foremost, he was an absolute gentleman. A great guy. As we were similar ages, we became quite good friends during that time.
“We used to eat together and chat away about football, Scotland, Germany or whatever else – I probably mentioned Celtic to him a few times, as it’s no secret that I’m a Celtic man.
“He really is the consummate professional, absolutely meticulous in everything from the warm-up drills to the way he carries himself on and off the park. He is down to earth and intelligent – and he’ll embrace the challenge of establishing himself at a new club and a new country.
“I still remember that dressing room at Hoffenheim, you had guys like Roberto Firmino, Sebastian Rudy who is at Bayern now, and Kevin Volland. But Marvin holds his own in any company and commanded respect from everyone due to the way he worked.
“He has played alongside top players, has been at RB Leipzig, who are doing things at a different level from most clubs around Europe these days, and a great coach like Markus Babbel loved him at Hoffenheim so that speaks volumes.
“Marvin will also do a lot for those around him. He’ll bring on the other defenders at the club, talk them through games and coach them. Brendan [Rodgers] and John [Kennedy] will find themselves having to do less work with the defence – Marvin will do a lot of the coaching himself!”
Fotheringham believes the signing will also prove an inspired step towards Rodgers finally building a central defence which is capable of playing out from the back at the highest level.
“He reads the game brilliantly, gives you balance as he is left-footed and can step out with the ball and break the lines,” continued Fotheringham. “That’s clearly what Brendan wants from the team and it’s within Marvin’s comfort zone.
“He has played like that in Germany and also liked to play out from the back at another massive club in Italy, Fiorentina, so he will bring that ability – which being experienced enough to know when to shell the ball into the stand and take a breather for five minutes.”
Indeed, the only aspect of the SPFL which could prove a shock to the system, contends Fotheringham, is the physicality.
“It might be a cliche, but going to places like Hamilton – no disrespect to them, at all – or some other SPFL sides on a cold Tuesday night will be a new challenge,” he added. “In the Bundesliga and even at Celtic Park, you are given time to build. You won’t get that in some of the more helter-skelter away games in Scotland.
“But he is athletic and aggressive when he needs to be and won’t be daunted. Knowing Marvin, he will be buzzing at the idea of joining a club like Celtic and having a crack at another country.”