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Amido Balde eager to step up, says Celtic coach Danny McGrain

Updated: Wednesday, 09 Oct 2013 16:07 | Comments

22-year-old Amido Balde signed from Vitoria Guimaraes on a four-year contract in the summer
22-year-old Amido Balde signed from Vitoria Guimaraes on a four-year contract in the summer

Celtic first-team coach Danny McGrain revealed Hoops striker Amido Balde's desire to improve is the reason for their one-to-one coaching sessions on match days.

The Guinea-Bissau-born forward, 22, signed from Vitoria Guimaraes on a four-year contract in the summer but has spent most of his time on the bench and during pre-match warm-ups and at the interval he can be seen being put through his paces by McGrain.

Football education was one theme prevalent at Parkhead on Wednesday at the launch of 'The Quality Street Gang', a book on the talented Celtic reserve side of the late 1960s and early 1970s who learned their trade with the help of the Lisbon Lions, the Hoops team who won the European Cup in 1967.

That multi-talented group of youngsters included McGrain, Kenny Dalglish, Lou Macari, David Hay and Paul Wilson, all of whom went on to play for Celtic and others, as well as representing Scotland.

The former right-back, one of the most successful of them all, is happy to now pass on his knowledge.

"Big Amido is only a young man and he wants to be better," said McGrain.

"He is a player who is dying to be taught.

"I give him some exercises with the ball. I enjoy doing it, rather than standing about seeing the other boys working with the sports science people.

"Big Amido enjoys doing it, he enjoys kicking the ball and heading the ball.

"He hasn't had many games but he is getting better.

"He came here with a good record of scoring goals. He scored against Liverpool in pre-season and against Kilmarnock, a good goal from a tight angle.

"That is his job to score goals and if he does that we will all be happy."

"That is his job to score goals and if he does that we will all be happy" - Danny McGrain

McGrain revealed how the Lions helped him and other Quality Street Gang members make the grade at Celtic.

He said: "We enjoyed the tutelage of Billy McNeil, Jim Craig, Tommy Gemmell, they would talk to you.

"You would be playing against the first team for the reserves, that's where Jimmy Johnstone taught me to become a defender.

"Bobby Murdoch could land a ball on a sixpence and Kenny learned a bit from him.

"So we all learned different things from different players and it made us better players."

Meanwhile, Hay believes Celtic's Europa League campaign of two seasons ago, where they came third in a group including Atletico Madrid, Udinese and Rennes, has helped them adjust to life in the Champions League.

The Hoops reached the last-16 of Europe's premier club tournament last season beating Barcelona on the way and have performed well in their opening two group games this season, albeit going down 2-0 to AC Milan in the San Siro and 1-0 to Barca at Celtic Park.

Neil Lennon's team now face a double-header against Ajax, with the first game at Parkhead and Hay remains confident of progression through to the group stages again.

The former Celtic and Scotland player said: "I think Celtic have done exceptionally well.

"If they had taken their chances in Milan they could have got a point.

"You know you will get outclassed by Barcelona but I thought they played as well as they did against them last season.

"It has hinged on what they did in the Europa League two seasons ago.

"They have developed from there. They have learned from that.

"I think they know that they have to win the Ajax game to give themselves a chance.

"But they still have a chance and with the crowd behind them they will be looking to pick up their first point, if not three points."

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