There have been many defining moments in Celtic’s history, and many hypothetical scenarios we’re left wondering about. In this feature, we ask our panel of writers for their take on a few of these. I’m Stephen Russell (@SJRussell23) and on the team this week we have Eoin Coyne (@toomanybigwords), Liam Divers (@LDivers91), Sean McGinlay (@seanjmcginlay) and Stephen Wallace (@stephenwallac16).
What if Celtic’s Invincibles played the side from Seville over 2 legs?
COYNE: It’s always hard to tell with teams from different eras but you’d have to imagine that the Seville side would come out on top. What they may have lacked in a tactical sense was more than made up for with the abundance of pace, power and skill in that side. Plus a truly world class centre forward seals the deal. Some of the individual battles would be immense though. Didier v KT, Broony v Lambert, Sutton v Ajer…
DIVERS: Governments would collapse. Nations would tumble. Markets would crumble. The Earth would begin to fold into itself, such is the weight of expectation and force of footballing prowess on display.
Apart from that, Jozo would lose Larsson numerous times, the Invincibles would concede at least 4 goals from set pieces and Agathe against Tierney could be shown on its own separate PPV feed. Tactically it would be fascinating, as Rodgers would more than likely have the better of O’Neill on that front, but the overall quality of the Seville team is greater than the Invincibles team and for that reason, I’m going comfortable win for the Seville team.
MCGINLAY: The rat would stand on the side-line, helpless, as Henrik Larsson dragged Erik Sviatchenko round the pitch like a dog on heat. Chris Sutton would tear Jozo Simunovic’s hardy eastern European heritage from his soul so much he’d be speaking like a private school boy from Cheltenham and Paul Lambert would dominate Stuart Armstrong so much he would be wishing he had just become a lawyer like his family always wanted. So aye, the Seville team would win.
WALLACE: For a start it would be some game. Celtic’s two best teams of the 21st Century. The Invincibles team were great, but on paper the Seville team edge it for me. From back to front, they were a well-structured team and Martin O’Neil had them playing magnificent football. The Rat had the Invincibles playing well, but they didn’t get the same results in Europe and at times they were torn apart (flashbacks to that 7-0 Barca game). For me, the Invincibles edge a 1-1 draw at home but the Seville side grab a 2-0 win in their home fixture.
What if Celtic played this season in the English Premier League?
COYNE: Even going in with the squad as it is and not playing fantasy football with the massive money that would bring, I think we’d be comfortable. Realistically, there are a top six who you probably won’t break into without massive investment but there’s nothing to be terrified of with the rest of them. The money just distorts our collective perception of the quality. Comfortably mid table.
DIVERS: We would really struggle, without doubt. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not miles off being a really decent team/squad this season, but if we were to drop our current squad into the EPL I don’t see us breaching the top 8. That’s not being defeatist or downplaying the size of us as a club, it’s just a bit of an indictment on where we are as a team right now and unfortunately that’s just not strong enough. We also have a relatively young and inexperienced squad and I would worry about us being swallowed up against some of the more experienced EPL sides.
On the flip side, we would absolutely dispel any myth that we come from some “Farmer’s League” or whatever shite the Twitter trolls and Talksport come out with. We would more than hold our own against the perennial EPL plodders that are Bournemouth, Everton or fucking Crystal Palace. In fact, drop us in this season, why not. Hopefully Brown would smash Mark Noble and we would have IronzLad148 calling for us to be deported on Hawksbee and Jacobs.
MCGINLAY: I think it is important to recognise that the finances in England have skewered the actual value for money of signings, particularly in the bottom half of the league – you only have to look at Oli McBurnie heading to Sheffield for £20m to realise that. Celtic outside of that market can bring in players of the same or better quality of most of the bottom half sides of the Premier League, for a fraction of the price, so it is all relative.
With that, I would see us finishing in the top of the bottom half. I think there’s a jump to your Leicester and Wolves types, but the quality in the Celtic side, particularly in terms of vision, aggression and chance creation would compete with the majority of the bottom half of the division. English sides tend not to fair well against European sides who are combative and aggressive but also know how and when to use this, your West Ham’s and Burnley’s have struggled year on year in European competition when this has occurred.
WALLACE: I can see it now. Season tickets go up by £1,000. Celtic Park is flooded by Asian tourists and Celtic have signed John McGinn for £50m of their £300m television revenue. Football wise, Celtic would be able to get a few good results in their first season. Looking at those two draws against Man City a couple of years ago, Celtic can hold their own. They do have a pumping in them though, but I do believe that a team managed by Neil Lennon would do better against the bigger teams than a team managed by The Rat. I would predict a top 10 finish, followed by another top 10 then pushing for European football after spending some of the ridiculous money that a team like Celtic would gain.
What if you took over as Celtic manager and were given a £30m budget?
COYNE: First up, I’d sign two good full backs. I’d try to plan ahead in terms of who may be leaving – if Tierney doesn’t go now he will be gone soon. The right back issue has been a disaster, dragging on into the qualifiers. If our latest Dudu special is a nominal right back then I’d happily spend 8-10 on a first choice one. The leftover money I’d put towards a forward as we are a little light there and Eddy could be subject of a large bid at any stage.
DIVERS: Christ, this has Netflix special in 3 years written all over it. It would make Fyre Festival look like a military exercise organised between South Korea and America.
After I’d got the number for Lawwell’s heated driveway guy, I would spend the remaining £25 mill on a few key areas. I’d look to spend 7-8 million on a really top-quality goalkeeper. This is nothing against Gordon or Bain, who would make fantastic reserves, I just would like us to lay solid foundations throughout the squad and I see the goalkeeping area as one that we have maybe under invested in for a few years now. This is largely down to getting lucky with Gordon being a freebie and Stevie Woods being a world class goalkeeping coach, but I would like us to spend some money on a well-established goalkeeper that could work with Woods and turn into the next Alisson Becker and be sold for an absolute fortune.
Next, it’s a fairly obvious choice, but I would look to spend 15 or so million on a right back. A talented goalkeeper behind a settled defence that includes Jullien, Ajer and Tierney (Aye, that’s right Arsenal, fuck off), behind our already talented, midfield makes me think we could genuinely win the Champions League. Or at least, not get hammered 7-0 off Barcelona again.
The remaining money I would pump into the youth set up/analysis departments. We need to be looking at the future and if we want to remain important in Europe, we need to really lean into the selling club model. We can only do that if we’re bringing through our own talent.
MCGINLAY: Firstly, I would be bringing in Robert Gumny at right back as he would give us longevity in the position and allow us to finally have a balance with the left and right flank rather than the consistent dependence on one side over the other which has plagued us for a few seasons. So, there’s the first £4m let’s say. Then I think the next priority is a centre half. Now with this I would splash like fuck on Filip Benkovic – let’s even say we have to match what Leicester paid for him at £13m. He is a safe investment. He has proven his class for us already and at his age, tied to a long term deal he is bound to go for double that anyway.
With the remaining £13m I would be looking at 3 positions in left winger, No.10 and a striker. My first buy would be Kamil Grosicki at left midfield from Hull. Grosicki had a brilliant season in a struggling Hull side last year, he comes with international pedigree and with a year left on his contract you could bring him in for £3m. I believe he would do a job exactly how Scott Sinclair did in his first 18 months at Celtic and with 10 in a row on the horizon, that is invaluable. Next, I would be looking for a number 10 that is a real match winner who can enable Ryan Christie some flexibility in his game time going forward, that man would be Bersant Celina. He has been a revelation for Swansea and had successful loan spells at both FC Twente and Ipswich, turning 22 he has years of potential left to develop and I feel he would thrive in the SPFL for around £5m.
That leaves £5m for a striker, but who needs a transfer fee when Mario Balotelli is crying out for a contract. And thanks to good old Mario, he’s kind enough to leave space for Martin Campana to come in as our new Number 1 from Independiente for £5m.
WALLACE: Celtic are in a position where we don’t sign 15 £2m players, unlike our Glasgow rivals. If we signed one £30m player or 2 £15m players then they would be likely to demand high wages, meaning that our other top players would demand the same wages. The best way to do it is sign 5 £6m players in key positions. This would give us more firepower for European games as well as set us even further apart from the rest of Scotland.
What if we had to limit our squad to 3 foreign players – who makes the cut?
COYNE: French Eddy is a must – he’s our best goal threat. Kris Ajer is probably our best defender so he has to be included as well. Actually, I’ve just realised if I don’t pick another centre half I am condemning us to Hendry as a starter. We know what Jozo can do so let’s plumb for the unknown and go for big Jullien. I have now condemned us to Ralston as first choice right back. This Brexit fuelled scenario is a dystopian nightmare.
DIVERS: Eddie, Ajer and Shved. Fight me if you disagree.
MCGINLAY: Kristoffer Ajer is my first choice, he has quickly become an indispensable asset to our side. He is a leader, good decision maker and, most importantly, talented both in and out of position. Secondly, I have to choose Odsonne Edouard. For a man of his age to have the composure and grace on the ball that he does on such high-profile occasions speaks volumes of the quality he possesses and how much further he will go in the game.
Now comes the more difficult decision, I am hoping that if this question is asked six months down the line, we will all be shouting Jullien at the top of our lungs, but I simply can’t assess his value to us at this stage. I can, however, be somewhat controversial and pick Olivier Ntcham. Ntcham, when at his best, is better than any footballer in Scotland. His vision, technique and structure to the game are second to none, it is easy to forget but we played our best football last season with the Ntcham we know in the side, he has nothing to lose now other than to put himself in the shop window going forward so that may be to the benefit of both parties.
WALLACE: The obvious one would be French Eddy. At times he was our most important player last season with vital goals, including the Treble Treble winning goal. He can only get better and score more and more goals. Next, I would keep Kristoffer Ajer. Right now, he is our best defender and he would be one of the first players on the team sheet. Again, he can only get better, and he is hopefully going to be our future captain if we manage to keep him. Finally, I would keep Tom Rogic. He is another player that can win you massive games, including Glasgow Derbies and Cup Finals. When fully fit, he is an outstanding player and who wouldn’t want to keep his magical left peg.