Are Celtic going backwards? Has the biscuit tin mentality of old reared it’s ugly head? Bryan McManus looks at where Celtic are and what the future holds.
We are in the midst of another transfer window and yet again there is a groundswell of fans hurling abuse at the club hierarchy and Peter Lawell in particular, due to the lack of activity in the market. This anger magnified 10 fold after the defeats to Legia Warsaw in the Champions League which was, according to social media, entirely Lawell’s fault as opposed to the players on the field!
Despite the club quite clearly stating a few years ago that they were implementing policies to ensure they never accrue excessive levels of debt and would look to buy talent that they could nurture, develop and ultimately sell on at a profit, there is still an outcry from fans demanding the club to splash cash. It seems just getting a player in for “big money” would appease certain sections of Celtic fans, however as we should all know, splashing cash doesn’t guarantee success.
Last season is a case in point, Celtic under Neil Lennon signed 9 players costing approximately £11 million pounds, and if you ask pretty much any Celtic fan what they thought of those players, there’s a good chance they would want at least 7 of them punted!
Celtic fans have rightly applauded the club for implementing a policy which mirrors the highly successful models of the likes of Porto and Ajax but there also has to be an understanding that this does not mean we will have success overnight, and it also means that our best players will be sold. If we take a look back over the last few seasons we can compare the 3 clubs in the transfer market.
Season 10/11 was the start of Neil Lennon’s reign and the first real recognition of Celtic’s “new policy” following the board backing Mowbray to the tune of £10 million plus in the transfer market. This saw us sign the likes of Fortune, N’Guemo, Hooiveld, Rasmussen and Danny Fox, as well as securing loan signings on big wages such as Robbie Keane, Diomansy Kamara and Edson Braafheid which led to one of, if not the, worst season in recent times.
Since 10/11 Porto have made approx. £270 million from player sales, which includes the sale of Falcao, Hulk, Guarin, Moutinho and James Rodriguez. During the same period their player purchases totalled approximatley £146 million which is around 54% of fee’s received.
Ajax sold players to the tune of approximately £90 million, which saw the likes of Suarez, Stekelenburg, Vertonghen, Eriksen and de Jong leave the club. They made signings totalling approximately, £30 million or around a third of what the club received in transfer fee’s.
During this time Celtic have made around £51 million from player sales which saw the loss of McGeady, Ki, Wanyama, Hooper and Ledley among others (at the time of writing Fraser Forster is still a Celtic Player) However, the club backed Neil Lennon in the transfer market to the tune of around £28 million which is around 55% of transfer income.
Success In a Time of Doom
While the likes of Porto and Ajax are heralded as shining examples of how to work the transfer market, Celtic are being lambasted from certain quarters for attempting to follow the same successful policy. I’ve never quite understood why Peter Lawwell is such a target for so many fans, there can be absolutely no question that he is one of the best in the business at what he does and, if Celtic had a football manager who was similarly successful in his position, we’d probably have won the Champions League by now! At a time when we see arguably the second and third biggest teams in the country competing in the Championship, largely due to financial mismanagement to put it mildly, and complete and utter lunacy to be more accurate, Celtic fans should appreciate the hugely healthy position we find ourselves in.
We have a very, very healthy balance sheet and our boardroom is filled with men who are outstanding at what they do. We have an incredible stadium which had worldwide recognition due to the Commonwealth Games. We are sending coaches throughout the world and building relationships in all continents which will serve us well for the future. We are nurturing a scouting network which has already been massively successful and will only get better and we have just appointed a young coach who had developed a reputation which saw him compared with Jurgen Klopp!
While I would say everything in the background is exactly where we would want it to be we are faced with the problem of currently having a squad of players who aren’t at a standard that will see us develop in the big boys playground. Its all well and good winning domestically but to be honest did any Celtic fan really have any interest in an unbeaten run? Obviously we had to ignore Morton, Aberdeen, Karagandy and an entire Champions League campaign for that one to count.
During his time at Celtic Neil Lennon stated that he had to deal with the here and now as opposed to looking at the long term. Unfortunately for us, Neil Lennon was the only Celtic manager in history that, due to the demise of the clubs biggest rivals, had the chance to look at the long term but he chose not to. Instead of promoting and persevering with some of our youth players cemented with more experienced players, he decided to play the likes of Mulgrew, Stokes and Ambrose week in week out while clutching to the hope of an unbeaten (League) run, 100 points or 100 goals, achievements that in the long term mean absolutely hee haw!
Ronny Deila and John Collins both have a work ethic and training methods that we as a club have been crying out for for years. For too long the Scottish mentality of putting in a shift for a couple of hours a day, playing at the weekend and then going out clubbing and drinking has seen us fall further and further behind our European counterparts. As Deila has stated, minutes on the field have to be earned which thankfully has seen the likes of Stokes and Griffiths dropped to the bench and I’m sure will ultimately see a few players shipped out and replaced with new ones that have the talent and desire to perform to the standards expected by our management team and desired by the fans.
While it will always be the case that a few bad results will see fans react angrily, we are at a stage where we need to take stock and appreciate that we are in a period of transition on the field and we will not see immediate success. Deila needs time and support and I am certain he will get it from the board, exactly as they have done with previous managers, its now just the fans that need to follow suit!