Celtic – Back To The Biscuit Tin?

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!

Amido Balde a recent flop

Amido Balde has been a recent flop

Policy Makers

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.

James Rodriguez - Money Maker

James Rodriguez – Money Maker

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.

New Celtic Management team have an uphill task

New Celtic Management team have an uphill task

The Future

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!

What do you think of Celtic’s current position? Comment below or tweet us @90minutecynic

Follow Bryan on Twitter @bryanmcmanus

Living proof that Thomas Jefferson was wrong when he said “all men are created equal” although considering Thomas Jefferson also said an African nation would win the World Cup before the year 2000 why should anyone listen to him? Bryan has a passion for Celtic, a love of football and a tendency to make completely absurd statements in such a way that you might actually agree with them. Follow on twitter @bryanmcmanus

'Celtic – Back To The Biscuit Tin?' have 16 comments

  1. August 9, 2014 @ 3:36 pm Andybhoy

    Good article. It appears that Ronny Deila takes no nonsense and my fear is that some of the players have not taken too kindly to the new approach………………..this could manifest itself in a Davy Moyes situation, I desperately hope this isn’t the case but when you look at the shambles in Warsaw, they looked like a pub team. Are they that bad or were they not giving a monkeys, Or is the transitional period and adjustment going to prove more awkward? Or they are the ‘wrong’ players to play the way he wants? Or is it a bit of everything? Personally, I think we gave lacked pace, movement, a cutting edge and creativity for years and if it means players moving on to bring in this type of player then I have no problem with it. He was quoted this week as wanting to bring in players with pace and ambition…………….I think he knows the current squad contains some Billy Big Times and changes will need to be made.


  2. August 9, 2014 @ 3:40 pm Brendan Conroy

    First time I’ve looked at this website or read your thoughts. Thoroughly enjoyed a balanced view after all the madness that has been posted online in what has been one the weirdest weeks I can recall as a Celtic supporter. Cheers mate. B


  3. August 9, 2014 @ 4:41 pm Joebhoy

    A well written article and I do believe we need to have some patience here with Ronny. I personally would love to see big signings but I also recognise the need to keep ourselves in the black.


  4. August 9, 2014 @ 6:27 pm Andrew

    I liked the article and I hope the rumours are not true that the players are not up for it or don’t like the new manager. Frankly I like many other Celtic fans have to put up with indifferent managers in our workplace and basically we have to get on with it. Therefore although it pains me to say it, if those very privileged and well paid players are not up for it or up for change and not happy, then go. I want players who are ambitious, hungry and want to play for a club which currently is having a difficult time. Fraser wants to go ,then bye. Mr Hooper went and look where he is now. The season Swansea debuted in the Premiership and won the league cup to get into Europe they earned over £64 million pounds in TV money alone. Unfortunately we can only dream of that type of money but the day will come one day when the Premiership bubble will burst as fans have only a certain amount of disposable income. If we have to follow a model like Ajax or Porto (Southampton need huge credit to be fair as they to have made millions over the years with a wonderful scouting and academy system) then so be it. Get in good hungry and ambitious young players alongside a couple of old heads. Ultimately though who want to play for the best club with the best fans – Celtic FC


  5. August 9, 2014 @ 6:38 pm yarray

    Need to bring in a Defensive coach. The Defense this years has been terrible with the same players. This should tell you something. Last year we had Mjallby and McGrain as well as Lennon. Only defensive guy this year is Kennedy. Not knocking him but he has very little experience as a coach and almost no experience playing thanks to Ganea. Again, same players terrible defense vs last year. Nough said.


  6. August 9, 2014 @ 7:19 pm Gordon

    Over the years there is always a desperation to sign more and more players. The supporters believe the papers that signing players is the only way forward. I would like to think that we could unearth a tall/ strong/ fast centre forward from somewhere in Scotland but it never happens, so we must as required by the media to keep signing others. When was the last decent centre forward we produced, that performed for a number of seasons ? George McCluskey or Charlie Nicholas ? To me (probably paranoid) the media keep banging on about failure to spend/more signings required just create a furore and there are always a number of fans that take the bait but as you say Neil a bit like Martin would flog tried and tested players rather than give youth a chance to really come through.
    I heard a guy on Talksport after Legia game say ” we used to be able to sign top players from England”, true but a good EPL player is probably on around £50,000 a week (or more)which is around 5% of Celtics total annual income. It just is not feasible for Celtic to sign top players anymore due to what is possible to earn in England. Even some Championship are probably on more than what Celtic could afford to pay.
    To me we have one more year at least until the Huns are back and have to go the right direction which has got to be trying homegrown players. We must surely over the large number of recent reserve titles had a decent central defender to promote ?
    A bit of a ramble, hopefully it makes sense.


  7. August 9, 2014 @ 7:49 pm Jamie

    It’s a very clever article that you have written, Mr Lawell. I, too, have been an admirer of your financial acumen, but just how clever is it really to risk £20m+ for two years running by clinging to the shoestring budget you afford your managers. I am not one in favour of ridiculous and expensive signings simply for the sake of it (Graveson comes to mind), but neither am I willing to put up with much more of the grinding embarrassment which you have forced Celtic fans to endure in recent times. You snatch an inexperienced manager out of the ‘Norwegian’ league and attempt to sell him to us as some form of new ‘Special One’. Do you honestly believe we buy into such nonsense? The last two years have been nothing short of a patronising insult to our intelligence. I’m very glad that we are solvent….it’s just a shame that, after decades of supporting my team, I now have to keep it quiet that I am a Celtic fan.


  8. August 9, 2014 @ 7:57 pm Gary

    Bryan, while I agree with a lot of what you say, especially regards Deila and Collins I disagree with a good deal of what you put above it. You rightly mention we bought players worth £11.6m last season, what you didn’t mention was we sold players worth £20.5m sure it is round about the 55% mark you mentioned previously but looking at it more closely I’m presuming three of the seven you refer to that some of us would want punted would include the three forwards bought for a total of £5.2m, namely Balde, Pukki and Griffiths. The point being that none were clearly Neil Lennon’s first choice, I’m not suggesting a manager should have a free reign but given it was speculated his main target, Alfred Finnbogason, could be bought for £5m it seems all the more frustrating, more so when you consider that their three wages combined would probably again be in the ball park of what Finnbogason wanted. Now I’ll take one good one over three average players any day, with ten other places in the team filled say, you can only field one of them at a time anyway and with the likes of Samaras and Stokes already there I would think most of us would have preferred going down that road.

    You then say “we have a very, very healthy balance sheet” again I think I speak for most of us when I say I’ll take a very healthy or even just a healthy, balance sheet if we have a team on the park that doesn’t get totally outplayed by Legia Warsaw home and away. To what end is “very, very healthy” if an average team can so easily thrash us? You are correct on the balance sheet, in February it was announced we made £21.2m profit before tax. That in no small way helped by two things, the net transfer profit of £8.9m and the money gained from the Champions League (if memory serves and don’t quote me on it) it was £11.2m, now that means that approximately £20m of the £21m made last year was generated through the team and the team’s success (qualification for the Champions League). Every other financial aspect of Celtic, season tickets, domestic success, sponsorship, catering, merchandise, TV money, all combined with expenditures taken off, more or less means we broke even, agreed? Now that in itself is laudable in a league like the SPL and does suggest Peter Lawwell etc are doing a good job.

    However, there is one screamingly obvious difference between ourselves Porto and Ajax. If you are in the first two in Portugal you are automatically in the Champions League, if you are third you have one two-legged affair to negotiate (as it happens that is Porto’s fate this season). If you win the Dutch title you are in (this season Ajax) and if you are second you have two rounds to get through. We are in the unenvious position or having to negotiate our way through three rounds and from May onwards this season was looking tougher than the last two to negotiate. Based on European ratings the final round of qualifying has still saw us face a team higher ranked than Warsaw despite shocks in three other ties in the last round. Every season, unlike Porto and Ajax in the most part, we NEED to hit the ground running, given the current make-up of the SPL if we have six key games all season then, given the rewards, they are arguably these six qualifying games. Our investment, per season, like performances arguably, HAS to be front-loaded. I don’t see it as “speculate to accumulate” as such, I see it as maintaining the status quo. If we have any pretentions of being “a big team” then Champions League participation is a must (more so given the existing Champions route and our perennial high seeding in it) and after Karagandy and the subsequent dismantling of the team in the Champions League last season then investment, early, was imperative. Instead of which we sign what is effectively our third (soon to be second string goalkeeper) and a lastminute.com loan spell from Cardiff. On top of which we have sold Watt and let our leading, if mercurial, European scorer (Samaras) go on a free. Fraser Forster was always going to be sold this season, that doesn’t mean it becomes the comfort blanket for non-Champions League football, it meant to me that his sale cushion’s the blow of investment in the team not being rewarded with the Champions League. A spend of say £6m-£8m being more than compensated by a sale of Forster for £10m. But it had to be up front, the warning signs were there from last season and arguably beyond, have we ever bought a left back to genuinely compete with Izzy or will a right back suffice every time? There is no genuine cover for a suspension or injury to Van Dijk or Ambrose (and most of us aren’t thrilled with one half of that duo already) Charlie Mulgrew didn’t work, Lustig didn’t work. Regardless of the midfield or forward line there were two areas anyone could see were creaking under the strain and lack of competition.

    Personally I think this has been a very fortuitous reprieve regards Legia Warsaw and if we fail to act and invest prior to the Maribor games then more the fool us, failing to act once is acceptable, twice is downright unforgivable. The club can function on break even regardless of sales and the Champions League, that is evident in simplistic terms from last year’s figures. With the prize available only 180 minutes away, £10m pocketed from Forster and £21.2m in profit announced only in February a quick investment of say £6m-£8m wont exactly break the bank.


  9. August 9, 2014 @ 8:52 pm Tommo

    Celtic have strategically downsized. Basically they have gambled with chance, hoping we would get into Europe with a squad lacking the skills required to participate through the qualifying rounds. They were prepared to drop out of the competition rather than invest in quality. Lawwell has been found out, he has lacked the vision and desire necessary to compete. The name of Celtic is perilously close to being third rate. Neil Lennon was a great young manager who realised for the sake of his dignity and respect it was time to leave the club before lawwell’s. Policy began to take effect.

    Instead of being light years ahead of Sevco Lawwell has managed to please the fat cats on the board while downsizing the team .
    Celtic fans are fully aware of the mediocre players he has brought to the club, one wonders if he has already a plan set in place for failure.
    Surely he did not think the present squad would qualify. His priority is obvious as the wall Forster is heading out the door before we play Maribor.

    Celtic mr Lawwell is stagnant and need some quality players to stimulate the team, the fans, and scottish football. The Celtic shirt will not shrink we need players capable of filling the jersey.


  10. August 9, 2014 @ 9:32 pm joe.thomson@sw.glasgow.gov.uk

    As a Celtic fan of 38 years last Thursday was up there with one of the worst ever.Some of the players looked as if they are either not up for the fight or they don’t understand Ronnie’s tactics whatever one it is there is no time at a Club like Celtic. Get it right player or manger or move on quick.At this point i don’t want to be to critical of the manger as hes being thrown to the lions by Lawwell and company.The boards constant downsizing of our club is now put us in the laughing stock of Europe bracket something the Celtic fans don’t deserve THEY ARE THE GUILTY ONES THE BOARD.Celtic fans have being down this road before so Lawell stop messing with our club or you will go like the Whytes and kelly family did previously.Lenny was right to get out as he saw this coming and we the fans will stay away until they stop treating us the fans like mugs.Give us players who we deserve not mediocre second raters on the cheap. Lawell and co time to deliver now or pack your bags before the demos start at Parkhead .Hail Hail Joe the celt


  11. August 9, 2014 @ 10:13 pm BrummieBhoy


    Good well balance piece but I do disagree with a couple of points you have made.

    The comparison to Ajax and Porto is obvious given the great histories and support that the clubs enjoy. However, both clubs are still on a different level to us in terms of the players that they can attract, the money that they can spend and the quality of youth player that they can bring through.

    Our strategy has held us in good stead since the demise of our former rivals and we have done well to produce gems like Hooper, Forster, Wanyama and VVD but the ratio of good signings has dipped alarmingly and it is now a number of years since we bought a player who could make an immediate impact in the first team and this simply cannot continue. We were the beneficiaries of a real slice of fortune in getting reinstated into the Champions League this week and the response from the board has been to yet again sell one of our best players during the qualifiers, as they have done previously with Hooper, Wanyama and Wilson.

    The reference to Rangers (RIP) and Hearts is a little misguided as they have ran themselves into the ground in complete contrast to how we do our business. Nobody wants to see Celtic overspend but why are we lauding a ‘very healthy balance sheet’? We don’t need money in the bank or a debt free club when we have such obvious deficiencies in our playing squad. We should be looking to address that asap whilst still keeping ourselves within a manageable financial framework.

    Also, you refer to our boardroom being full of people who are brilliant at what they do. Peter Lawwell can be judged on his own merits as his role is fairly obvious although do we still need such a highly paid exec given the area and level of the transfer market that we operate in added to the low profile domestic environment we play in? with regards to the others, I struggle to see what any of them have brought to the table that has resulted in a positive impact for the support but I would be happy to hear of them.

    If we don’t see at least 2 or 3 players arrive this week who are able to improve the first team and we fall again against Maribor then I reckon the reaction last week will feel like a storm in a teacup compared to what will come out.

    We don’t need to rip it up and start again but tangible immediate improvements are desperately needed.


    Brummie Bhoy


  12. August 9, 2014 @ 11:59 pm MadridCelt

    I have been extremely disappointed by the whole Legia debacle and had found myself feeling a little resentment against the bean-counters/hierarchy at our club. But after a few days of quiet reflection and an internet ban (self-imposed) I found myself angry for two other reasons.
    Firstly, the performance of our players was shocking. These are supposed to be athletes whose bank balances most of us will never get close to (add pictures of designer trainers that could feed 20 children for a year, disgusting). They let us down, plain and simple. I have it on very good authority that a small number of the more senior players, excluding our excellent captain, are none too pleased about the new manager. I say get rid of them and quick! I heard someone say recently about this particular set of players “the Celtic jersey does not shrink to fit inferior players, the current team look badly dressed”
    Secondly, was Lenny’s decision to leave us at that particular time. More time should have been given to the club. A quite frankly stupid pre-season was organised. Did no-one at the club even stop to consider the galvanising effect the world cup would have on our US cousins? English clubs did and have now stolen thousands upon thousands of US fans from us by simply being there at the right time. Like they need to be earning even more money!
    Have to say that this article rings true with a lot of what I am feeling at the moment. Lawell et al should be praised for what they are doing and any supporters who chastise them for not splashing the cash are nudging our beloved club in a very dangerous direction. For the love of God and all that is good and holy look at troglodytes from across Glasgow. Ask them if living beyond your means is a smart course of action. Things will change in the footballing landscape, that is a certainty, the days of, and I am cringing writing this, Southampton (ffs) riding into town and waltzing off with the family jewels for a bargain will come to an end. We must make sure that we still have our beloved club around when it happens.


  13. August 10, 2014 @ 12:01 am Chris Sutton

    Nonsense to put any sort of blame onto Neil Lennon for not planning for the future. Nonsense that so many seem to believe.

    It’s normally spouted by those who don’t watch the youths every week because it’s clear as day it would be pointless giving many of them game. The vast majority who will struggle to find any sort of career in the SPFL. Interesting to see you back Ronnys “players need to earn game time” yet somehow Lennon is at fault having the exact same process.

    I’d love to know which players he’d want played instead of Ambrose, Mulgrew and Stokes. The pick of our youngsters went on loan last season and failed miserably struggling to get off the bench in the Championship and even as low as the Scottish Championship.

    Don’t see how anyone can see Neil Lennon didn’t plan for the future when his squads had the youngest average age of any Celtic team in my lifetime not to mention his development of younger players led to him being the only Celtic manager to operate on a profit in transfer dealings.


  14. August 10, 2014 @ 2:30 am tom campbell

    Very shaky on the pitch against Legia, but the manager has only just started. Was concerned about the collapse in the last few minutes in Warsaw: two goals given up, a penalty kick conceded, three players booked … The blame should be shared with those on the pitch. Good move to act decisively in the transfer of Watt whose attitude appears questionable. Took courage not to send stronger sides to Hamburg and Helsinki, and to criticise pre-season fixtures. Don’t give up on Ronnie


  15. August 10, 2014 @ 1:18 pm tomas67

    Enjoyed reading your article and you raised some interesting points its all good and well having good business men at club but at the end of the day what really matters is what happens on the pitch! Let’s be honest the football performance against warsaw was embarrassing to watch 2-1 down with 5mins to go in first leg and we couldn’t see it out and then in second leg we need an early goal to give ourselves a chance and we never turned up! It’s not good enough and that current squad of players are not good enough to play in the champions league against the best in Europe.


  16. August 10, 2014 @ 3:05 pm pop

    With Broonie out, a massive blow imo sorely missed, am I the only Bhoy who think big Sammi could/might have made all the difference in both Warsaw legs?
    I know he can be one of the most frustrating players o watch, but he has a massive experience and when he ‘plays’ he’s, to use Lennys words, is ‘unplayable’, and has had a few sparkling Euro performancies.
    Get him back into the fold before Koeman decides he’s worth a punt.
    Plus I know of a very special wee Bhoys who would be over the moon.

    Agree totally about big Peter, as the saying goes ‘you don’t miss the water till the well runs dry’, defo one of the best in the game, but unfortunately like big Sammi he can be more than a bit frustrating himself.



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