The Cynic Column | Celtic Must Invest From A Position of Strength

Football, like life, operates in cycles. Without doubt, some things change indefinitely; largely, though, football knits the same patterns with changing materials. These paradigms are part of the beauty of the sport, which is a medium of revolution and transformation. I have always been of the belief that football is won and lost in these transitions; be that from season to season, coach to coach, or attack to defence. It carries on ad infinitum – as acknowledged in a hilarious Mitchell & Webb sketch, “it will never be finally decided who has won the football.” It cannot be emphasised how important it is that Celtic take advantage of their current position of strength, because at some stage the tides of change will take this away.

For four seasons, there was no Rangers in the Scottish Premiership. Within the same period, Hibernian and Hearts took it upon themselves to go on hiatus from the top flight. While the clubs in the league were, of course, participating on merit, the exclusion of three massive Scottish clubs gave Celtic the time and space to push ahead of their rivals. As far as I am concerned, Celtic had two tasks in the Neil Lennon and Ronny Deila periods: assert domestic dominance and build for the future. While the former was achieved, the latter was not.

In 2012 and 2013, the club qualified for the Champions League two years in a row, while succeeding in buying players cheap and selling them on for an enormous profit. However, the club stagnated with regards to developing young talent for the future. Frequently selling talent for profit is a great model for a club like Celtic, but a symptom of this was that the club also failed to develop a robust core of players – something that could have been achieved with better use of the Academy. As the transition was made from Lennon to Deila, it became clear that the club were no longer intent on building for the future by reinvesting Champions League money and transfer profits. In the Norwegian’s first summer, five out of his seven signings were loan deals. Deila did, however, aid the development of core players such as Callum McGregor, Tom Rogic and Leigh Griffiths.

The arrival of Brendan Rodgers, with Scott Sinclair and Moussa Dembele in tandem, signalled a last-minute turnaround in club policy. With a malaise descending around the club and a buoyant Rangers entering the top-flight, it was necessary that Celtic invested to stay ahead of the game. However, as other sides in the league have improved, Celtic face a similar impasse and must learn lessons from the pre-Rodgers years.

An improved Rangers, Steve Clarke’s overperforming Kilmarnock, recruitment-savvy Hearts, Neil Lennon’s dangerous (albeit underperforming) Hibernian, a well-drilled Motherwell and an in-form St. Johnstone have made the league far more competitive than it was when Rodgers arrived in Scotland. This season, Celtic fans have lamented the failure of the summer transfer window, as the club sold Stuart Armstrong and Moussa Dembele while publicly losing out on the signing of John McGinn.

While Odsonne Edouard was essentially lined up as Dembele’s replacement from the start – and Ryan Christie has emerged as a proxy McGinn – it is not enough to simply replace these players.

Celtic must invest in the long-term if they want to remain the dominant force in Scottish football, while also progressing in Europe. The signing of 22-year-old Vakoun Issouf Bayo looks to be a start, while Timothy Weah and Oliver Burke add temporary attacking options until the end of the campaign. However, Celtic require more than gap-plugging: as rivals improve and the league tightens, the club must be proactive in progressing both on and off the park.

Take Italian champions Juventus as an example. While their budget clearly dwarfs that of Celtic, they have constantly established and re-established their dominance, bringing in a more tactically flexible coach, mixing exciting young prospects with experienced heads, and replacing departing players such as Paul Pogba, Gigi Buffon and Arturo Vidal along the way. One result of an improving Serie A is an improved Bianconeri, pushing the club to greater European heights at the same time.

If Celtic want to take advantage of both their position of strength and having a genuinely top-level coach, they need to invest in a long-term strategy to maintain their dominance. This is not merely on the playing squad front – it can also involve investment in sport science, analysis, recruitment and potentially a Director of Football model – as suggested in a previous article by my esteemed fellow Cynic, Graeme McKay.

In his novel, Chaka, Thomas Mofolo marks the death of the titular Zulu King with a poignant lamentation: “even great pools dry away”. Celtic will not rule Scottish football forever, but their task is to prolong their dominance for as long as possible.


Dan is a 22-year-old from Glasgow. He is a student who also works in media. His dearest passions are films, books, music and Mohamed Bangura's YouTube skills compilation. Find him on Twitter: @TheDJMcGowan


'The Cynic Column | Celtic Must Invest From A Position of Strength' have 3 comments

  1. January 10, 2019 @ 8:19 pm Rabbhoy

    Exellent.

    Reply

  2. January 10, 2019 @ 9:48 pm William Douglas Boyle

    Most of the present Celtic squad have a lot of potential. The young academy players have shown their talent and deserve more playing time. Scott Brown is past his peak, also Lustig and Simunovic. I believe Scott Allan has not been given a fair chance , has a lot of talent and potential, and are we going to lose him to another team like Hibernian which recognises his worth. Maybe Rangers would develop and profit from his talent. It is a shame Brendan doesn’t seem to see this young star. He would fit in well with Callum Mc Gregor , Rogic and Ntcham. He could be as good as any of them. But with the new players coming in he might be overlooked once again. What a shame because I think he has a lot to offer as a creative midfielder.

    Reply

  3. January 10, 2019 @ 11:51 pm Duncan

    When Rangers imploded and became extinct the focus and direction at Celtic totally changed as a result.
    The priority moved from building a side capable of competing for Domestic Silverware and ultimately beating Rangers to Reducing Debt (accumulated over many years competing with Rangers) and focusing on buying players with a view to making money in the player Market.
    Meanwhile producing our own.
    We effectively had a free run at Europe for a Sustained period and Domestic dominance was more or less a given provided we kept the quality coming and going.
    This worked ok for Neil Lennnon in his first few Seasons as a young Manager with zero experience but the fact remains once Lawwell embarked on the selling of his major assets Lenny could no longer see out the aspirations he had for Europe.
    Disillusioned he walked as a result.
    Deila was brought in to simply keep the wheels turning till a viable challenge emerged from Ibrox again.
    He achieved this with mixed results.
    He too had to contend with the revolving door at Celtic Park and like Lenny try get the best out of mediocre signings.
    Both the Sinclair and Dembele deals were being negotiated before Brendans arrival I am led to believe though there is no doubt his appointment sealed those deals.
    Brendan has received backing from the Club like no other Manager previously (O’Neill aside as his spending was unprecedented but in a League with a viable challenge from Ibrox) our wage bill has increased by over 46% since his arrival and the signing this month will push that up even further unless there is a mass clearout of the dead wood accumulated in the past 24 months or so?
    Brendan’s signings have not exactly set the heather alight and in Europe we have been a bit hit and miss to say the least.
    The one signing who did was as both Lenny and Deila experienced sold for a princely sum.
    Much to Brendan’s ire.
    He knew this was the case on arrival so I have no sympathy for him in this regard as this is how it is for Clubs in our position.
    On Investing from a position of strength?
    True investment I think must come in the shape of genuine PROVEN quality.
    Martin O’Neill brought in proven quality at a cost a cost which took Celtic well over a decade to pay back.
    Strachan felt the pinch in that regard.
    July this year sees the final payment in Celtics Long Term Loans set up with the Co-Operative Bank a princely sum of around £5.5m has to be found.
    It’s there sat in the Bank.
    We are in a position of real strength this much is true and as our nearest rivals scramble desperately to find a last ditch way to wrestle dominance away from a Treble Treble chasing Celtic and a route into Champions League riches by signing 35 year old has beens we sit on the cusp of a Debt Free existence with multiple millions sat in the Bank amd a young squad bristling with raw talent waiting for the right signings to come up.
    So far it’s been yet more young ,promising talent with again one eye on the sell on but I feel in this window we do need to put markers down on genuine quality especially in the defensive areas to truly kick on and build a squad fit for Europe never mind Domestic success.
    We need experience pd quality the type that can drop in and improve on what we already have.
    To do his we need a serious clear out of the excess ballast.
    For as Jock Stein once intimated -If you build a squad good enough for Europe then the rest will take care of itself.

    Reply


Would you like to share your thoughts?

Your email address will not be published.

© 2018 90 Minute Cynic. All rights reserved.