I must admit to nerves against St Johnstone the other night. Whether we like it or not every point is a prisoner. Every point is required to be worked for, cherished and won. No time for hubris or arrogance just hard work with hopefully a bit of style.
The score line and the weather was bitter at half time. It was at this point that my thoughts turned to a game against St Johnstone on Boxing Day 2010.
It’s one of my favourite games against St Johnstone. It was complete forgettable for 90 minutes but we scored two goals in injury time. The scorers were Cha Du Ri and Ki Sung Yueng, which saw me celebrate like we had won the Champions League instead of three points in what proved to be a fruitless pursuit of the league title.
The pleasure of football is being able to celebrate simple things. It’s something that is innocent and not for mocking.
We saw a cameo from Olivier Kapo. He came on, hit the bar and set up Ki for the second goal. A player who is a puzzling footnote, like so many others, that our signing and scouting policy has served up since Martin O’Neill’s time ended.
There has been so many that have signed then disappeared contributing nothing for what we paid in fees and wages. It could get quite depressing if you thought about it and you do nothing but think about it during transfer windows.
You always think the worst in the frenzy for new shiny players. You suddenly become accountants privy to the minuscule details of financial affairs. You think that all transfer deals are simple: offer money and the player signs. Social media becomes full of in-the-knows who actually know nothing.
It’s a sad that we spend hours bothering and worrying when we really should be hoping for the collapse of the transfer ecosystem, where we find ourselves heavily handicapped.
It’s only after the window closes that you can take note of the business completed and only after a few windows, under the manager, can you make an assessment on how our recruitment process is faring.
For me our recruitment process is not failing but it’s in conflict with itself.
We have a situation where it seems to favour short term fixes in a bid to keep everyone happy. The manager knows our model. Let’s get value, develop, sell and look to improve the core of home grown players that don’t come to training with a flight case packed.
The manager, quite rightly, wants to develop players with a better base talent level and build a team so that his ambitions are realised. The eco-system makes this difficult to do without resorting to the highly expensive loan markets where the foundation of building a team will never be found.
The players with that base talent level are already out of our reach financially. We have no choice but to become a cog in the player harvesting for profit to circumvent financial fair play rules or develop fringe players for clubs with bigger finances than us.
The player harvesting market has shrunk with both Manchester City and Chelsea demanding eight figure sums for academy players. The chances of getting a player the level of Olivier Ntcham or Dedryck Boyata from Manchester City are now slim. PSG easily charged us a record fee for a player that would never trouble their first team.
This season we have took players from Leicester City and West Bromwich Albion with very little chance of them signing permanently unless the parent clubs are willing to lose millions. They may decide to do that but how can we plan when we are left waiting on others making decisions?
Olly Burke, Timothy Weah and Filip Benkovic are the level of player that Rodgers wants to develop. There is no perceived monetary value in this for the club unless transfer fees are struck before the loan deal begins. It’s an expensive makeweight to keep the manager happy.
The core philosophy has suffered as we look at this market. A look at our squad and the wasted millions on players that haven’t contributed reflects poorly on all those making the decisions in recruitment.
For every Moussa Dembele and Olivier Ntcham there has been a Christian Gamboa or Marvin Compper. The decent ideas of Jack Hendry and Jonny Hayes have failed to ignite and we have various young projects like Kundai Benyu, Eboue Kouassi and Lewis Morgan where we don’t know what the future holds. Then we have Youssouf Mulumbu, which just never made sense.
Our wage bill of £59m and large first team squad shows a lack of succession planning and value. Most of the players in our first team squad decrease in value while playing for Celtic.
We make money on those we expect to make money on but others only increase their earning potential elsewhere as they have Celtic on their CV. We never recoup our outlay on them never mind gain money that can be reinvested.
For a club that is praised as having the only model to follow in Scotland, our planning and handling of certain contract situations has been questionable. When we look to other middle clubs in Europe, who are far more consistent and successful than us, then I can’t help think our recent recruitment policy is drifting us into gambling territory.
We failed to qualify for the Champions League being defeated by a poor AEK Athens side. We were badly prepared for those ties. Our peers never seem as badly prepared with less resources than us.
What can we say about this transfer window and what does it tell us?
We are split between the model and short term goals. There is clearly two ideals at work. The three short term loan deals for Olly Burke, Timo Weah and Jeremy Toljan will make a difference to the first team. Vakoun Issouf Bayo, Maryan Shved, Andrew Guttman and Manny Perez all tick the model box but three have been sent on loan with only Bayo deemed needed for the run in.
Rodgers has given us unprecedented domestic success but that doesn’t and shouldn’t stop us from questioning what seems a case of never the twain shall meet and the consequences for the club.
The summer becomes massive and there is an air of uncertainty. A high wage bill, players out of contract and loan deals ending. Our recruitment needs balance, permanence and to hit the ground running. We need it to be concise and clear in targets. It’s a rebuilding job that will need focus.
But that’s for then. Let’s just enjoy the level of player, even if it’s only for the short term we have at the moment. We have a league to win and this window has tried to ensure that is done.
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