Celtic What If… | Boyata or Sinclair, Bielsa and e-sports

Cynic writers are asked what they would do if they were in charge of some – often far fetched – hypothetical Celtic scenarios, set both in the present and the past. This time it is Ronan Kearney, Graeme McKay, Daniel McGowan and Matt Evans imagining the happenings in a parallel Celtic world.

What if…you could offer a new contract to either Dedryck Boyata or Scott Sinclair?

(Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images)

KEARNEY: Sinclair. He has scored 40 goals for the club in less than 100 games. His performances may have waned a little this season but he will still end the season in double figures for goals for the third consecutive campaign. A strength of Celtic in recent years has been having multiple goalscorers and it would be foolish to let a guaranteed goal-getter leave. He also has a much better song than Boyata.

McKAY: Boyata. Centre-back is a problem position for Celtic. Sinclair is probably beginning to age-out as a winger and despite his goals he has not exactly been turning in 5-star performances of late. Boyata has his shaky moments, but being able to maintain a Boyata – Ajer partnership going into the CLQ would be a big plus.

McGOWAN: Sinclair. Despite improving in recent years, Boyata still has a mighty mistake in him. As well as this, the defence should be built around players who are better at carrying the ball and playing out from the back. Meanwhile, Sinclair continues to contribute wayyy more than he is given credit for.

EVANS: Boyata. It’s an easy choice for me. The Belgian is a full international who has steadily gotten better in his time at Celtic; Scott Sinclair is a journeyman who came in with a manager who knew him and who is no longer here. Boyata’s a year and a half younger and has less mileage on his meter. Finally, Boyata plays at a position where Celtic are always short of talent – we have many players who can step in for Sinclair.

What if…you had to choose between Marco Bielsa and Steve Clarke as the next permanent Celtic manager?

KEARNEY: Bielsa. Rodgers brought a stability to the club that, whilst pleasing knowing that we will win most game, left me yearning for a bit of mayhem every so often. You only need to look at the tributes paid to Bielsa by those who have worked with him to see the impact he has on players and clubs. The history of Celtic and the passion and fire that Bielsa brings to his job could potentially be a match made in heaven.

McKAY: Bielsa. Because fuck it. Clarke is probably the sensible option and the dreaded ‘safe pair of hands to get us to the 10’ but fuck it, Bielsa is a cool, tactical socialist. I’m in.

McGOWAN: Bielsa. I’m not entirely convinced by the ‘safe option’ rhetoric that surrounds the likes of Neil Lennon and Steve Clarke. Clarke has never managed a team bigger than West Brom; while Bielsa has experience managing Argentina, Chile, Marseille and Athletic Bilbao. No-brainer, especially given Bielsa’s more exciting brand of football.

EVANS: Bielsa. Besides being a far more experienced manager at much bigger clubs and leagues, Bielsa’s style is far more suited to Celtic. Three at the back, three central mids, three attacking mids and Odsonne Edouard up front? “Hook it to my veins,” as the kids are saying these days. I don’t have the confidence in Clarke that he can take the step up, although he has done a very good job with Kilmarnock.

What if…Brendan Rodgers had taken an unbreakable vow to never to quit as Celtic manager by his own accord – how long would he have remained as manager and what would he have achieved with the club?

KEARNEY: 2023. KT, McGregor and Ajer would have left the club after Rodgers lied to them about taking them to China or Brighton and a team consisting of a 37-year-old Scott Brown and 40-year-old Craig Gordon are finally pipped to the title by Kilmarnock. Rodgers leaves having won the Septuple Treble and never made it past the group stage of the Champions League. 

McKAY. Until retirement. A lot of what is being lost with the way this season has panned out, from fighting with the board to his rat-like leaving, is that Brendan Rodgers is a really good football manager (in fact, Leicester now have a better manager in place than Arsenal and Man Utd, in my opinion). I just couldn’t see BR’s Celtic not winning trophies. Perhaps the odd treble would be interrupted by a cheeky double, but it would be sustained domestic dominance…forever.

McGOWAN. A Long Time. The job was Rodgers’ for life if he really wanted it. The constant winning mentality he instilled in the Celtic squad was clear and I think that success would have continued for years to come. In fact, Neil Lennon is still benefitting from that never-say-die, record-targeting attitude. The only way he would have been sacked is if his transfer policy/squad cycle let him down: there is always a natural burnout like this after 5 years or so. If he overcame that, he could have created a dynasty.

EVANS: Monday, 23 May, 2023. After having sealed The Ten in the 2020/21 season, Rodgers publicly announced that Celtic would now be turning their attention mainly towards competing in Europe. Although Celtic continued their success in Scotland, Rodgers was asked for his resignation at the end of the 2022/23 season, having delivered seven titles in a row but still treading water in Europe. Without Champions League money coming in each year, Celtic’s balance sheet struggled and that, more than on-field results, dictated the change.

What if…due to a major sponsorship deal, Celtic had to field one member of their e-sports team in a league match next season. Which team would you play them against and in what position?

KEARNEY: Away at Hearts. I’d drop them in centre of the park with Scott Brown just to see the look on Levein’s face. Regrets? It’s a good laugh isn’t it?

McKAY. Away at Rangers. Play him alongside Eddy. Imagine if he scored at Ibrox. Bedlam.

McGOWAN. Away at Hamilton. Play them wherever Burke is playing. Because their first touch can’t be any worse.

EVANS: Away at Livingston. I play them at centre-back as someone’s got to go in for Jozo on the worst artificial pitch in the top flight.

What if….the SFA decided that the next Glasgow derby is too volatile to be played and should instead be decided through a best of three rap battle at the Shelter club in Detroit. Steven Gerrard selects Andy Halliday, Ryan Kent and Alan McGregor. Which three Celtic players do you choose?

KEARNEY: Scott Brown, Ryan Christie and French Eddy. Brown v Halliday would be an easy win for the Celtic skipper. He already has the jump on Halliday and would beat him in the same fashion B-Rabbit defeated Papa Doc in 8-Mile. EASY. Battle of the Ryans up next with Kent giving Christie something to think about with his quick moves and shite hair cut but with no one watching, Christie quietly unplugs the mic and causes Kent to stumble and forget his words. 2-0 Celtic. French Eddy to put the icing on the cake with a mauling of Allan McGregor – the entire club raise their middle finger to the Rangers goalie who tries to kick the patrons on his way out. The Rap Compliance Officer sees no issue with this incident and Celtic are fined by the Rap Council of America for over-celebrating.

McKAY: Timmy Weah, French Eddy and KT. Is this racist? The first two because…they seem good at rap…? KT because he wins at everything.

McGOWAN: Mikael Lustig, Daniel Arzani and Mikey Johnston. Lustig has the self-confidence to pull it off, even if he’s bad, Arzani because he’s literally doing nothing else right now and MJ as he just strikes me as an unassuming hip-hop geek. We all know one.

EVANS: Odsonne Edouard, Ryan Christie and Kristoffer Ajer. Eddy will spit rhymes in French, which will enrage Halliday so much he will immediately run to venue security and argue, therefore using up all his allotted time. In a Ryan v Ryan matchup, with Christie’s freestyle about Kent’s terrible bowl haircut cutting so deep. Finally, Allan McGregor, expecting to battle Scott Brown, will instead go up against the terrifying Big Kris, who kicks out with his Norwegian death metal-inflected lyrics, not his feet.

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