Neil Lennon took his players to the vast open spaces of the Camp Nou last year, took the lead and held onto a point until the fourth minute of added time. It was an enormous and disciplined achievement. I feared we would suffer a backlash when Barcelona visited Glasgow.
What we experienced instead was more of the same. Barca played some of the most mesmerising football we have ever seen, but it took them until the 92nd minute until they managed to beat Fraser Forster, this time, too little, too late.
Barca have the best Plan A in football but they were unable to effectively change when making no progress and unable to cope with Celtic from set pieces, while their own concentration was called into question.
While our visitors will be keen to make up for their disappointing result in Glasgow last season, Celtic have their own disappointing result to avenge. The heroic tales from Milan last month count for nothing. Celtic need to show they have the necessary edge.
We are the team with something to prove. We are the only team who can leave Celtic Park tonight with any material achievement; a win would do nothing for Barca, whose place in history is already acknowledged. The only prize in the game worth having – professional honour – is only available to Celtic.
Tonight we have a rare opportunity. Take it, Celtic.
A good day to bury bad news
Rangers International FC PLC accounts, released this morning, curiously report “First team wages/turnover ratio at 43% while total staff costs are £17.9m, or 94% of turnover. I’m not convinced this is evidence of a vast and unnecessary filtering of cash out of the club. While the board and management will take a slice of the extra wages this total figure is not unusual, or unexpected. It takes several hundred people to run a football club with an average attendance at 39k. There is not a whole lot they will be able to do about this figure.
DM Hall, who produced fabulous property valuations for Ibrox and Murray Park when Sir David Murray was in charge, are back, this time valuing the assets at £65.2m and £14m respectively. This is vastly more than was paid for them last year but still a fraction of what DM Hall valued the properties at in 2005. The combined existing use valuation recognised in the accounts is £42.5m – a tidy sum, if achieved by sale and leaseback.
The club has operating costs of £33.6m while income is £19.1m. They are clearly spending more than necessary. When looking to cut costs there will be some low lying fruit (or Greggs pies) but cutting into the player budget, or back office staff costs will be difficult, while cuts to policing, rates and utility costs are unlikely.
Cash at 30 June 2013 was £11.198m, so, before cost cutting and after exceptional costs are removed, they are looking for circa £18m cash to fund operations until 30 June next year. There are several established ways to achieve this, including ticket securitisation, used by both previous owners of Ibrox.
A significant uplift in season ticket prices is also likely to be necessary. Charles Green set initial ticket prices low. An appeal could surely have been made to fans to step forward and offer support at a higher price, but Green was under pressure from Paul Murray’s various attempts to win control-while securing fan support for his Blue Knights group.
If Murray hadn’t run his ultimately-doomed campaign, Green’s need to over-promise and under-price, in order to sell any tickets, would have been different. As would the operating deficit reported today.
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