Celtic were right to stand up to Steve Clarke whose frustration is misdirected


CELTIC were the latest club in the firing line ahead of the World Cup Finals with fingers being pointed at Ange Postecoglou for not releasing players for international duty.

In particular, it was Scotland’s head coach Steve Clarke who was less than impressed by Celtic’s decision not to allow their players to take part in a friendly against Turkey on Wednesday.

Speaking about the decision, Clarke first bemoaned the fact that FIFA had not deemed the fixture significant enough to fall into an official international window, which, crucially, means it is a club’s prerogative to decide if they want their players to be involved or not.

As we know, Celtic have decided to keep hold of their playing personnel which prompted Clarke to add: “I have to say I’m disappointed with that decision, but I have to take it on the chin and it’s a chance for someone else.”

It was a typically aggrieved tone from Clarke who ultimately missed a golden opportunity to address the elephant in the room and instead indulged his feelings of indignation following Celtic’s perceived snub. The reality is that Clarke and other international managers who have adopted a similar tone are taking their frustration out on the wrong people, here’s why.

FIFA’s decision to hold a World Cup halfway through the season

To start with, clubs from around the world are already bending over backward to accommodate this World Cup that requires a six-week pause in domestic proceedings so that it can be played at a time in Qatar when the conditions aren’t as fierce. In many respects, it’s no longer in any way controversial to suggest that it is absurd that this idea ever got off the ground in the first place.

The truth has set Sepp free

Remarkably, the former president of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, who first announced that Qatar would hold the World Cup back in 2010, recently said as much himself when he admitted it was a mistake to award the Middle Eastern country the hosting rights owing to the untold congestion it would put on the football calendar, as well as the backbreaking strain it would put on players. With this startling public admission in mind, you can better appreciate what the globe’s footballing authorities really think of the event.

Put another way, there is a widespread acknowledgment behind closed doors that this tournament is not in the best interests of player welfare. When you take this point into consideration, the only conclusion that you come to as far as Celtic goes, is that the club was well within their rights to try and lessen the workload on their players by not allowing them to join up with Clarke’s Scotland for a game that, as touched on, isn’t even recognized by FIFA as being played in an official international break. Simply put, there can be no backlash aimed at Celtic or any other club and instead, if international managers are feeling a sense of being let down, they need to look at the root cause of the problem and not at those who are doing everything they can to look after their players, whether they’re going to the World Cup or not.

A similar story down south

In short, their exasperation at clubs seemingly not playing ball with them is entirely misdirected. Of course, this isn’t an issue that is exclusive to just Celtic and Scotland given that we saw a similar row develop south of the border when the FA asked the Premier League not to schedule fixtures for the ‘Big Six’ the weekend before the World Cup. Again, it’s an extraordinary request when you consider that like Celtic, there are teams vying to win the league and have to capitalize on every point on offer whilst they’re in form. That’s not to say that you can’t understand why organizations like the FA are putting pressure on clubs and indeed the Premier League, given that England are, as of the 9th of November, one of the favourites in the latest football betting odds at 8/1 to win the World Cup. In other words, it’s only natural for the FA to want their best players to be available for the showpiece in the Middle East.

Regrettably, however, that ship sailed twelve years ago when the decision was made to sandwich a World Cup in the middle of a season. It’s wholly unfair to now put the blame on clubs for not being more flexible.

This is, in a roundabout way, the message that Celtic have sent to Scotland after they announced the squad to face Turkey in a one-off friendly. Perhaps if more teams took a stand like Celtic have rightfully done, there will be more energy allocated in the future to ensure this doesn’t happen ever again.


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