New Celtic Bhoy Ljungberg set for baptism of fire
Celtic new boy Freddie Ljungberg insists he is fit and ready to return to the form which made him a star at Arsenal.
The 33-year-old Swedish midfielder has signed for the Hoops until the end of the season at least with a view to a longer-term deal at Parkhead.
However, Celtic fans will recall Ljungberg's injury problems at West Ham after leaving the Gunners and before he moved to the USA.
For the last 18 months Ljungberg has played in the Major Soccer League with Seattle Sounders and latterly Chicago Fire, and could make his debut against Rangers in tomorrow's Old Firm derby at Ibrox.
However, speaking to the media at Celtic's Lennoxtown training complex, Ljungberg promised sceptics that his only problem is match fitness.
“I must say that people ask about what happened,” he said.
“I had a problem with my hip and nobody knew what it was.
“It affected my hamstring a little bit and I was running around with that for two years.
“Luckily I found a doctor when I was in America and he found my hip had been broken for a while so he fixed it.
“Since then I haven't had any problems. I feel really fit and now I feel I can run past people and move again like the old days.
“I am delighted to be here, first of all, and we will see how I feel in training.
“I am lucky that my body is quite tiny so I am easily trained and I don't get that unfit and of course I can train harder now and get fitter.
“But I am in quite good shape and will see how I feel and if I can help the team.
“I played with Johan Mjallby and Henrik Larsson with the national team for a long time and they spoke about it (the Old Firm game) and I have seen it on television.
“Friends have also been to the game and I am really looking forward to it.”
Ljungberg has been handed the iconic number seven shirt at Celtic worn in the past by his former Sweden team mate Larsson, among other Hoops legends.
The former Hammer admits to being honoured but not intimidated.
“When I was at Arsenal I had Ian Wright's number and he was a legend there,” he said.
“I'll try to do the same here with the number seven shirt — to wear it with pride and do my best.”
Celtic boss Neil Lennon has called for the minute's silence before the Old Firm clash to be given the “dignity it deserves”.
The tribute is in honour of the 66 people who died in a crush on stairway 13 at the stadium on January 2, 1971, following a drawn game between Rangers and Celtic.
The Light Blues' skipper that day, John Greig, and Hoops captain of that era, Billy McNeill, will lead out the teams, who will both wear black armbands.
And while there is a nervousness about how some of the visiting fans might react during the silence, the Celtic boss is “praying” it all goes without a hitch before the battle between the two sides begins.
“That will put everything into perspective,” the former Northern Ireland international said.
“It was a huge tragedy and I hope and pray that the ceremony is conducted with the dignity it deserves.
“It's not a footballing issue, it's a human issue, a human tragedy and it's important that those people are remembered.”