Devil’s Advocate – Captaincy |Transfers |Celtic Park |Ticket allocations

After a successful debut for this new Cynic feature, we have a new set of discussion points! Instead of asking our panel of writers their own opinions, we take some questionable opinions and ask the panel to defend them in 100 words or less. I’m Stephen Russell (@SJRussell23) and joining me is Eoin Coyne (@toomanybigwords), Matt Evans (@SkylandsCSC), Ronan Kearney (@Kearney1085) and Sean McGinlay (@seanjmcginlay)!

Scott Brown should pass on the captaincy this season

Coyne: In all likelihood the number of starting games for Broony should be decreasing over his final two years as he perpares to ride off into the sunset with 10 in a row and all of Scottish football (but especially rangers) tucked firmly into his back pocket, so now would be a good time to have a nominal ‘team captain’ with Brown retaining the ‘club captain’ role, and lifting all the trophies. If Kieran Tierney would have stayed, he would have been perfect.

Evans: With a view towards his eventual retirement, ideally Brown would feature in 20-30 matches this year, making way for a more mobile replacement. He will serve Celtic for years to come from the coaching ranks, but for now the transition needs to begin this season. Without Mikael Lustig, who deputised as vice-captain on a number of occasions over the years, Celtic now need a new man to wear the armband, and it’ll be for the majority of the matches. And that man is Callum McGregor.

Kearney: Brown’s contribution is likely to decrease this season as his age catches up with him. We need someone likely to play in 85%+ games who can have the same influence and inspire those around him by doing great things and winding up the other team in equal measure. Step forward Kris Ajer.

McGinlay: Now this one is a tough one. However, this season realistically Broony should be getting less game time than he has been, simply to give him an extra year or two going forward at his highest ability. With that in mind, you want your captain to be someone who will play basically every minute. My choice would be Kris Ajer, he has become a leader and a top operator for us. Your captain is someone who leads by example, there’s no better candidate than him in that sense.

While Brown might not be ready to hand over the armband just yet, it’s an inevitability at some point and McGregor and Ajer are both top candidates.

Celtic should try and sign more players from England

Coyne: We are entitled, nay, obliged, to take advantage of the madness of England where they know the price of everything and the value of nothing. In between the top clubs amassing armies of players they cannot possibly accommodate to former giants going bust, unable to pay players or having chaotic fire sales – there is opportunity for the shrewd buyer. Be it an opportune loan or a good talent at a knock down price England is a land fertile with moneyed morons. As a great man once said, “I’ll take any fool’s money if he givin’ it away”.

Evans: Well, I certainly think that some signings from the English Premier League would do Celtic a lot of good! Aside from their experience playing at other big clubs… wait, what? They cost HOW MUCH? What I meant to say, then, was that signing proven talent from the English Championship is a reasonable strategy for Celtic to consider. Scott Sinclair was a Championship signing (Villa) as was Moussa Dembele (Fulham), and you could argue them two have been right up at the top of the list of best transfers of the decade. Looking further back, Adam Matthews was signed out of the Championship, and Gary Hooper came out of League One.

Kearney: Since the rat took over at Celtic, Moussa Dembele, Kolo Toure, Paddy Roberts, Olivier Ntcham, Scott Sinclair and Filip Benkovic have all arrived from England and had differing levels of success. The most expensive of these was Ntcham at just over 4m pounds. There is value to be had if we look in the right place.

McGinlay: Now whilst I argue fervently for us to look way beyond Britain in terms of our scouting, we have had our fair rate of success when it comes to English football signings. I think we need to make a more rounded effort to poach young talents coming to the end of their contracts as we waive the compensation fees, just like with Moussa. Also, it is quite easy to find gems in League 1 and the lower end of the Championship, Connell is one of them, that will have a longer shelf life at Celtic too.

Undoubtedly a market flooded with divas commanding astronomical fees and wages, there are always players that slip through the cracks. We do have a fairly successful history so, as Sean said, even though we should be looking beyond England, there are still gems to be found.

Celtic Park should not be expanded again

Coyne: It’s a nice show of force, in an old fashioned way, but realistically, outside a few choice domestic games a season and our European runs, there is no need for any structural work with the sole purpose of increasing the capacity. I would definitely look at expanding the standing section which will also increase the capacity for domestic games anyway and should also give the atmosphere an extra little boost. Improving the overall facilities should be an ongoing thing but stadium expansion should be nowhere near the top of our priority list.

Evans: At the moment, in the year 2019, the area in and around Celtic Park is thriving, doing better than it ever has been. The Celtic Way is a tourist attraction in and of itself, and the new Billy McNeill statue, with room for additional monuments to come, was a fantastic addition. With that in mind, chat about Celtic adding a hotel and a museum to the site is maybe a bit of overkill. Celtic have far and away the best facilities in Scotland already. Any additional money ought to go to improving what we already have instead of adding to it, and spending on buildings when we need a right back is in my opinion foolish.

Kearney: It’s fine the way it is. Any bigger and you become like Old Trafford, devoid of atmosphere. Imagine if we had Celtic Park like Wembley, hiring a brass band to play that stupid Please Don’t Take Me Home song because 15,000 in the VIP section haven’t finished their spritzers in time for the second half to start. 

McGinlay: Celtic Park is perfect as it is. It is a modern arena, with an old school feel to the main stand which is exactly what you ask for in a stadium. We sell out European nights and big games, whilst keeping a healthy crowd for Premiership games alongside selling out season tickets. It is all about demand, but does that demand come for 60 games a season or just the higher end fixtures? It is the latter at the moment. 

It’s definitely low down the priority list, with signings and facilities taking priority, but it’s an excellent point that expansion may affect the atmosphere – our deadliest weapon in Europe.

Allocations against Rangers should remain low

Coyne: Ticket allocation cutting has been a growing trend in the past few years. I have no doubt that this will revert back to the usual format at some point in the not too distant future as the massive away contingents are part of the spectacle that the TV companies sell the game as. Until some common sense can be applied regarding allocations, keep them low and twice a year 800 of them will have to listen to 60,000 Celtic fans going mental and singing about the IRA as we beat them again.

Evans: Given the absolute mayhem and destruction that roving hordes from the other side of Glasgow have caused at grounds up and down Scotland, it’s important that as few of them as possible are invited to show up on derby day at Celtic Park. We will never, ever again be allowed to have the full and free run of the Broomloan stand and get it up them in high style. Thus, keeping their numbers down into the hundreds, as well as cramming them into the least hospitable corner of the stadium, is absolutely the way to go in the future.

Kearney: As many Celtic fans as possible should be there to witness the humiliation that will be dished out to them. I am all for the moral high ground but they started it with their reduction in allocation. Focus from Celtic should be on smashing them on the park and ensuring as many of our fans are on hand to watch it. Wet floor signs everywhere so we don’t slip on Gerrard’s bitter, salty tears.

McGinlay: The less vermin in Celtic Park on a Glasgow derby match day the better. All they have left to cling on to is the ‘atmosphere’ the ‘Old Firm’ the tags all associated with us and them together. I don’t want that. I want us to stand on our own, make the day about us and us only. We are levels ahead and the marketing demand should be focused around Celtic being good at being Celtic. Our fans come first and if that means there isn’t a single Rangers fan in Celtic Park then so be it, they’re normally empty by half time anyway.

Beautiful Sunday rings around Celtic Park as Christie slots his fourth of the game in against them and celebrates in front of their fans all crammed into their corner. I’m sold.

If you have any points you’d like to challenge our panel with, don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments below, on the Patreon app or on Twitter @90MinuteCynic or @SJRussell23. Thank you for reading.

Despite growing up, and now studying, in England, Celtic have always been a huge part of my life. I first watched the team with my dad; I fell in love and then there was no turning back. Torn between a statistically enhanced footballing style and a good, old-fashioned get-it-in-the-mixer-and-score style.

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