You remember the days we used to bang on about Asset Management? The Martin O’Neill was glorious but that team left with barely a dowry. Great players were kept on ever-increasing wages, some until they could scarcely run the length of themselves. Tales of John Hartson’s bleep test live in the memory!
This was unquestionable folly. Celtic lost money each season under Martin (and Gordon Strachan), debt rose ever-higher, while the background noise was an incessant call to spend more money. The early days of CQN saw demands to show the kind of ambition Sir David Murray did at Rangers, or for Dermot Desmond to donate cash, by some who had confused Celtic’s charitable ethos with being a charity case.
A successful trading strategy is crucial for any club to achieve its potential. Keep them on wages you can afford and sell them to a wealthier market when you cannot get them to extend their contract.
All of those great goals from Stuart Armstrong, the Cup Final equaliser, all those trophies he won, cost the club zero. Absolutely nothing. His transfer fee to Dundee United and entire wage bill was more than covered by the fee from Southampton. In fact, we made a profit, which is available for us to kick on with.
There were two alternatives:
Let him leave without compensation next year. Celtic would be busy looking for a replacement as Stuart’s agent would be shopping him around. And there would be no money to reinvest.
Or, break the wage structure to match what he can get in England. And even then, he might still fancy a the chance in England. There are some players worth breaking the wage structure for, but with all due respect to Stuart, you can only do it for an unequivocal first choice.
More important than the money, Celtic cannot stagnate. There are lots of reasons to feel good about our general domestic brilliance, but your football club regards itself as a Champions League operation. On that front, we have plenty of room for improvement.
Just as there are limits to our wage bill, there are practical limits to the squad size. We need to churn those on the fringes and try to replace them with players who will become un-droppable.
Best of luck at our benefactor-by-the-sea, Stuart. I hope you are a huge success.