The recruitment drive for central midfield players continues unabated with the pursuit of Australian international, Riley McGree (23). The player made 8 starts for Birmingham City last season, where he was used largely in a supporting role for the Championship side. This season, he became first choice after making his first start of the season on 20 October. Since then, he made a total of 10 starts before his loan deal ended on 31 December.
In short, Birmingham have done the heavy lifting to develop Riley into a Championship first team player. He is a year older than David Turnbull, a full and regular Australia international player and, if he joined Celtic, would rank alongside the three recent Japanese signings as first team considerations.
What does this move tell us about Celtic’s objectives? Often enough in the past, when we were nip and tuck in a title race, we would spend January trying to recruit loan signings from the EPL. The likes of Roy Keane, Craig Bellamy and Robbie Keane raised our game but were inexplicably short-term and often, as with of these star performers, failed to achieve their objectives.
This time we are recruiting players who have never competed for a league title in Europe, untested in Uefa competitions, who are by any measure, a risk. Sitting 6 points off the pace, this is a sign of confidence from Celtic. Why?
Ange clearly has confidence that his core group of players are good enough to claw back the deficit. He is not looking for a Roy Keane-type to shore up any area of the team. When injury and illness reduced his options, performance levels dropped. Celtic went 10 though a 10 game series in November and December where they only managed to win by more than one goal once. With Jota, Kyogo, Forrest and Jullien (!) back, you would fancy us to get the better of any domestic opponent.
Despite the enormous weight of consequences resting on this season’s title, Celtic are busy this month planning for the medium to long term. At the moment, it feels like the right strategy, we will find out for sure soon enough.