Four Cynical writers tackle the main talking points surrounding Celtic Football Club and the SPFL. This week your contestants are Eoin Coyne, Keith McGinty, Matt Evans and Ronan Kearney who tackles questions on transfers, referees, Dubai and how shite Hearts are.
Rangers have recruited better than Celtic this season
Coyne: TRUE. But that isn’t saying much, for two reasons: 1. They were improving on utter crap as they’ve gone from slapstick to coherent. 2. Celtic’s own summer window was as shambolic as they come, a summer of discontent that has led us to this jittery junction.
McGinty: FALSE. Gerrard has brought 19 players to Ibrox in his short time there and improved their performance to such an extent that they think there is a closely contested title race on. But the Dad’s Army Gerrard has assembled for the final push will not be fit enough to compete with Celtic for the final 17 games. Undoubtedly Celtic had a poor summer transfer window but they did manage to get French Eddy on a permanent deal and the Croat Colossus that is Filip Benković on loan. No Rangers player signed come anywhere near either of them in terms of quality. Celtic’s recruitment has won them the League Cup and European football after Christmas, Rangers’ has won them a comfortable second place.
Evans: TRUE. For fuck’s sake, the Auchtermuchty Ladies Over-Seventies Bowling and Knitting Association probably recruited better than Celtic this season. The two squads have both been overhauled to some degree; out of necessity it has been the Ibrox side changing more than Celtic. Outside Allan McGregor I wouldn’t say that any of those Rangers’ new faces have had much of an impact. What has changed Rangers this season is the addition of Steven Gerrard. He may be a young and inexperienced manager but he is unquestionably a Big Name and sometimes that’s all that is needed to spur improvement in perennial underperformers like Candeias and Morelos.
Kearney: FALSE. Yes, there have been too many loans. But in Scott Bain there is a solid reserve goalkeeper with vast amounts of league experience. Whilst Edouard has potential, he also has an excellent record in the here and now. Benkovic added some solidity to a shaky central defence and it would’t be fair to pass judgement on Arzani. The signings of Weah and Burke are exciting. The return of Izaguirre and the signing of Mulumbu have been further blotches on what is already a very messy copybook. Rangers’ recruitment, with the exception of 1 or 2 players, has been based purely around winning the league this year. There does not seem to be a solid plan for the future there.
Result: True 2, False 2.
Celtic’s making a statement on the performance of referees – especially in the Glasgow derby – was necessary.
Coyne: FALSE. I don’t like the relatively recent obsession with issuing a statement on the back of a defeat or typical Scottish refereeing performance. It makes us look small time and gives the morons in the press a chance to paint an idiot like Beaton as some sort of victim. I’m all for Celtic putting pressure on the SFA I just wish we’d do it in a much more ghestappo-ish kind of way. Less prissy statments, more cloak and daggers for me.
McGinty: TRUE. Some of the incidents that have gone unpunished this season are a real cause for concern. The difference in standard of refereeing that we see domestically and in Europe is so staggering that it’s a surprise when get decisions from foreign refs. Celtic were right to be critical and hopefully this will lead to an improved standard of officiating, although I very much doubt it.
Evans: FALSE. Refereeing is a major problem in Scottish football, and it would take far more space to discuss it than I am permitted here. Celtic didn’t lose at Ibrox because of the referee, and whether or not Rangers players should have been booked for certain actions, releasing a club statement about the matter looks petulant and silly. If Celtic don’t have enough clout to deal with this behind closed doors, then calling out the SFA in public isn’t going to help one bit.
Kearney: TRUE. Celtic fans online appear to have had enough of the moral high ground being taken by the club in recent times so there was a need to make a statement. Whilst strongly worded, it was positive in asking for talks involving all parties rather than taking the inflammatory tone that other clubs and managers have this season. There have been too many instances of Celtic players being on the end of poor tackles this season for it to be left alone.
Result: True 2, False 2.
6-month loan deals are detrimental to the development of the younger, permanent players in the squad, such as Mikey Johnston.
Coyne: FALSE. It’s harder to argue the value of a 6-month loan deal itself to be honest. Few have worked out over the years. If any of our prospects were performing to a consistent enough level – they’d be in the team. That Johnston was thrown into the fray at Ibrox out of position and fared a lot better than the established pros says a lot about where we are at the moment. Having Oliver Burke around for 6 months to plug a hole in the squad is not going to hinder Johnston’s progress in any meaningful way.
McGinty: FALSE. Six month loan deals only serve to plug a gap in the squad. The players brought in to fill that gap should be competent enough to play in that position straight away. I really like Mikey Johnston and look forward to seeing him develop into a real talent. Playing him in a title run-in because Forrest is injured is more likely to be detrimental to his development than improving him.
Evans: FALSE. Whether a player comes in that is better than the current first choice he’s going to play, whether it’s on a 6-month loan, an 18-month loan, or a 4-year contract. If anything, bringing a short-term replacement in who can slot immediately into the first team ahead of Johnston, Ralston, Ajer, hell, even Edouard – can be good for the younger player as it gives them some competition for their place, and their more experienced replacement can even serve as a mentor in that time.
Kearney: FALSE. The impact that these players have can be the difference in winning a league or not. A team winning trophies attracts better players meaning an excellent environment for players to develop in. Look at the impact that Robbie Keane had in 6 months at Celtic – someone like that would be fantastic for Johnston to learn from. Wayne Rooney once commented that he learned more from Henrik Larsson in the 6 months he spent at Man United than a lot of other team mates he played longer with.
Result: True 0, False 4
Celtic should not be going on training camp to Dubai based on the UAE’s poor human rights record.
Coyne: TRUE. There have got to be a thousand sunny retreats Celtic could have jetted off to. In 2018 there’s loads of places just for the ‘riches’ so you can keep it exclusive and get your training in. It seems a popular destination with footballers in general which should come as no surprise considering the whole place is essentially a monument to amassing obscure wealth whilst giving any sense of decency or humanity the middle finger.
McGinty: FALSE. The poor record on human rights is abhorrent. Celtic not going there for warm weather training is hardly an endorsement of the practices of the Emirates. It would also be hypocritical as most of the squad would have headed there for their week off. I would much rather a statement was made by players using their profiles to highlight injustice. Hopefully some others will follow suit when the Qatari World Cup comes around in 2022.
Evans: TRUE. The UAE is a fucking horror of a country. If you’re reading this and agree, phone, mail or tweet @CelticFC and tell them they really should be going somewhere else.
Kearney: FALSE. Longer term there is probably a case for all clubs, not just Celtic, to become more socially responsible. However, given the nature of a gruelling season so far, a warm weather environment where the team can both train and bond together is necessary. Football faces a huge crossroads soon with human rights and racism just some of the issues that need addressed. The involvement of tycoons and oligarchs in modern day football is extremely concerning but while the games’ governing bodies suckle at the cash rich teat of countries such as UAE and Qatar it makes it increasingly hard for clubs to make an impactful stand.
Result: True 2, False 2.
Hearts will finish outside the top six this season.
Coyne: TRUE. Purely because I hate Hearts and sure, it’s a laugh isnt it? We had to sit through a fair few weeks of smug Craig Levein but now as the Gorgie Rainjurs drop back to their true level (squabbling with Hibs in mid table obscurity in case you were wondering) he’s looking less and less chipper. Good to see.
McGinty: FALSE. Despite terrible injury problems and that joker, Levein, in charge I still feel they will be too good for Livi and St Johnstone.
Evans: FALSE. Celtic, Rangers, Aberdeen, Kilmarnock, Hearts and Hibs will be your top six, just like the SFA want.
Kearney: FALSE. Purely for the fact that there is no one else capable of breaking into the top 6 at their expense.
Result: True 1, False 3.