Deep Market Knowledge, Wolves and Celtic in Japan


I watched Wolves boss Manchester United at Old Trafford last night when the parallels with what they are doing and what Celtic are attempting struck me.  Six of the Wolves starting line-up and seven of the 11 who finished the game were Portuguese.  As is their manager, while a seventh starter is a Portuguese-speaking Brazilian.

Wolves Chinese owners decided there was no value in the UK market and invested in building connections with Portuguese agents and clubs.  As a consequence, they know this market better than any other, perhaps better than some of the top clubs in Portugal, who field fewer Portuguese nationals.

Paul Lambert was their last non-Portuguese manager.  He was replaced in May 2017 by Nuno Espirito Santo, who won promotion at the first attempt and was enticed to Tottenham last summer.  His stay at Spurs was short and unsuccessful – Spurs did not have deep knowledge of a value market he could exploit.

Wolves went straight back to Portugal and appointed Bruno Lage, sacked a year earlier by Benfica after one of the worst runs of results in modern history.  A failure at Benfica, Lage took to the EPL with apparent ease.

Back in 2014 we discussed our prospects after recruiting Ronny Deila from the value-looking market in Norway.  Ronny took a raft of Norwegian backroom staff with him, but I remember us worrying that the status of Norway in the Uefa coefficient table was well below that of Scotland.  We subsequently recruited Kristoffer Ajer but Norway was not sufficiently fertile to seed in Scotland.

What has happened in this transfer window is different.  Already we have signed three peak-age Japanese players to augment Kyogo Furuhashi and Ange Postecoglou, recruited from Japan.

Portugal and Japan are quite different.  For a start, Portugal is scouted significantly more, it is a market known to every club in Europe with a transfer spend.  Exports command a premium.  It should be more difficult to carve a successful niche in Portugal than in Japan.

Japan is a significantly cheaper market, our four recruits this season cost less than £10m.  More than half of that money was spent on Kyogo, so I would caution against jumping to conclusions about how effective Daizen Maeda, Reo Hatate and Yosuke Ideguchi will be before they settle into life here.  Cheap does not guarantee value.

Deep knowledge of a market is needed to find any sustainable value.  If we want to over-perform, it seems unlikely that we will be able to do so to any significant degree but speaking to the same agents as everyone else.  Wolves picked a market and went all in, as a consequence, they are performing at a 50 year high.

Half a season after recruiting Ange Postecoglou, we have gone all in on the Japanese market.  There will be a tangible Japanese culture at Lennoxtown, a host of Japanese clubs and agents have done business with us and more will hopefully follow.  Celtic have gained a degree of deep knowledge of the Japanese market.  As I said, these are early days, but there is much to be hopeful about.

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  1. We should partner with a japanese club and develop some of our prospects over there. Henderson Johnston and moffat spring to mind.

  2. Pingback: Deep Market Knowledge, Wolves and Celtic in Japan | Celtic FC News Now

  3. Saint Stivs


    I believe if Celtic want to continue to grow as a World Class brand, we should look at developing a Celtic type club brand – similar to Red Bull


    Dermot already has significant investment in Shamrock Rovers, utilise this


    How about a Club in Australia ( Mick would like Melbourne) and how about an American team such as a Boston Celtic football club ?



    Utilise investment opportunities, to develop players and coaching staff as per Red Bull do

  4. No point in loaning guys out,until we get more in,or we could be down to the bare bones again soon,i can’t see AP letting Griffiths anywhere near the first team squad if he’s coming back.

  5. Wolves are an interesting example of how football can work. All their Portugese players are signed to the agency owned by Jorge Mendez, super agent and all-round bampot. He advised the Chinese owners on the purchase of Wolves by the Chinese owners, who own 15% of his agency.



    It seems like everyone is happy with the way they work except for their competitors. When they were playing in the Championship there were a lot of complaints form other clubs about the arrangement but he was able to “prove” that he wasn’t involved in the running of the club.

  6. So, we are hoping to turn a club with a limited infrastructure in place (all roads lead to Ange) into one that will build clubs in all corners of the world ? Under ‘one trick pony, OF advocate’ DD you’re having a laugh.



    The Red Bull story or the Man City UAE one are borne out of the needs of the commercial enterprise to market their wider business strategy with football as a marketing catalyst or producing multimillion pound talent as a new revenue line.



    We are as we always are. Led by DD’s one trick and opportunistically allowing the incumbent manager to push us on (Ronny and Ange were never first choices) only to start again when they move on and the infrastructure moves with it.




  7. Paul



    I’m more concerned about our scouting projects when Ang’e Japan contacts dry up.



    Our pre Ange signings were dreadful. Barkas, Ajeti, Duffy, Laxalt, Kenny to name but a few. Indeed with the notable exception of Turnbull, you have to go back a long way to find a success story (Christopher Jullien) . We also had the like of Bauer, Lewis Morgan and Shved nd we still have Bologline and Soro taking a wage



    Unless Ange has cleared out the scouting team on the quiet, its the same people who who provided the above options.

  8. GlassTwoThirdsFull on

    “A failure at Benfica”




    A bit harsh I would say. Then again apparently Brendan Rodgers was a failure at Celtic!

  9. Notthebus,



    Spot on fella. Ange’s black book is papering over some major corporate cracks at Celtic. The fear is it will allow the suits to pull back from creating a standalone football department able to live on, after Ange.




  10. The Japanese additions are exciting.


    However, we need to make sure our growth is sustainable and measured.


    Are we looking ahead 3 years or is our horizon 3 months in front?


    Getting the blend right will be key.

  11. Give Ange the check book and let him get his own scouts, done more in 6 months than our whole department has in the past 3 years, if we have one that is.





  12. The difference here is that Wolves have a structure from the top down which has made this model seamless. It would be churlish to say we “stumbled across Ange” but if he were to leave tomorrow, could we replace him and continue the model as smoothly as Wolves have done or would it be a case of ripping it all up and starting again?

  13. Back to Basics - Glass Half Full on

    Interesting stuff Pablo.



    Thought provoking too


    (But check the bases)



    “Market knowledge” features heavily in your article.



    Respectfully, how deep is our market knowledge currently?



    Ange knows it intimately.



    Our previous CEO knew Japanese sport indirectly.



    Who else? Who, currently employed by us, is a teacher – not a learner – of this market?



    BTW – am 100% behind the strategy.



    At the risk of stereotyping … top Japanese athletes are often humble, intelligent and disciplined – qualities I love in sport.



    But this market exploitation feels short to medium term to me? (~ 5-6 years).



    I can imagine a maximum of 6-8 players (not already gobbled up by clubs in Germany, England or Belgium) being signed.



    Beyond that, not convinced the depth of talent is there.



    Perhaps the “strategy” needs to be


    – exploit a market early


    – get the cream


    – get out just as wealthy leagues take notice and inevitably saturate that market



    Easiest thing in the world to type.



    Incredibly difficult to achieve & sustain.

  14. Also should be looking at players in Korea and Iran. National teams similar or better in last few years to Japan

  15. P67 — 10 years too late with this analysis.


    The topic has been discussed intermittently on here for about 15 years.



    SN in 2005 pointed the way towards what is possible using the linkage of a star name / player regarding engagement with an external football market.



    We just didn’t do enough when he was here to sustain it after SN left.



    Interesting that the current “CEO” is more amenable to this viewpoint.


    However as noted by others one market is not enough — we need a network.



    We need to work the Icelandic market — again we have tried for a couple of years then gave up.


    We need to work the 26 county market — or at least the 8 counties that are not EPL groupies.


    We need to work the Norwegian market — KA was not a fluke or a outlier.


    We need to work the Swedish market to honour KL — and the rest of the Nordic market.



    We have proximity plus we are bigger or should be bigger than their domestic clubs so we should be in with a shout when the talent is coming through their youth systems — plus we speak English and that is their un-official second language.



    Then comes the networking — set up clubs in the US and Aus.


    Huge amount of cheap talent looking for a sport that doesn’t involve armour plating.



    Finally the prospecting — find a big market and offer a pathway to Europe.



    Currently ad hoc regarding Israel.


    Putting on the finishing touches with Japan.


    My thoughts would be to link up with SA and Iran — political links to the fore.



    Think of the season tickets we could sell to MI6 / CIA / Mossad / KGB / China if it happened.



    Plus we need to build a B team / Ladies Team stadium and offer live football 4 days a week.

  16. B2B @ 1.17



    Your choice of language is wrong.


    We should not exploit a market — we should build a market.



    It is not all about us — it is about growing together with benefits on both sides.



    Teams from Japan / Iran are not going to win the EC / CL.


    However their players could help us qualify and progress in the competition.


    Success by proxy — we might even be able to sell s few strips while we are at it.

  17. Non football comment.



    Best thing I’ve ever heard on BBC news. Their Korean correspondent on being invited to fly a jet was asked how she feels. “I don’t know how I feel. I want my mammy,” is her reply. Can the lassie out of Scotland but you can’t take Scotland out of the lassie.

  18. DB @ 1.21



    Don’t think of the players — think of the flag.


    Anything with green / green and white in it should be in our cross-hairs.


    The sub continent would be tricky but they need something to watch when the cricket shuts down.

  19. KL = HL aka “KofK” when you take the time to read before posting.


    Schoolboy howler.



    On second thoughts Malaysia might be another market to look at.

  20. MADMITCH on 4TH JANUARY 2022 1:25 PM



    Not sure what you meant by “SA” (the abbreviations aren’t always practical) but if you meant Saudi, their players don’t travel. They’re discouraged almost to the point of being banned.

  21. GB @ 1.43



    Saudi angle — a stihl saw vs Jabba = too much mess.



    Still sore about the cheating in 1989 — U16 my erse.


    Plus it is a no from the democracy / renewables jury.



    The SMSM can now breathe easier.

  22. I enjoy reading the comments of MADMITCH but, my goodness, even those employed at Bletchley Park during WW2 would be left scratching their nappers at times.



    Is there a tutorial available on YouTube ?

  23. St Stivs



    any info on Celtic fans going to Ajax ?



    One of my best mates uncle and Aunt used to travel away a lot. Thought it


    might be them but would have been 20 years before i met them.

  24. JD @ 2.07



    Less TLAs / initials than usual.


    SN aka Shuggie McNamura = Too easy.


    Apologies for the typo and the confusion.



    Just to confirm SA =/= Saudi Arabia ..



    SA = South Africa where we have a ready made link up with the mighty BC in the OFS.


    That should confuse our friends in Govan no end if we were to work together.



    Finally — we need a pet / feeder club in England.


    Some team in the 7th/8th tier who we can build up loan players to.


    Div1 / Div2 would be the 5 year target.



    Anything more and it would be CFC Cat please meet the Championship pigeons.

  25. Talent is spread throughout the footballing world. Lots of clubs have great networks because they provide great rewards to the agents, players etc. The clubs with most money tend to get the best contacts and sign up as much talent as they can. Club like celtic try to sign up the best they can. This is not unusual for clubs our size, the outliers are few and far between. Occasionally top agents and talent will come to a celtic or ajax etc but not so much these days.The biggest leagues are full of younger players around 24 years old millionaires who have not got close to their parent clubs 1st team.



    It would be crazy for a club our size not to take full advantage of our managers knowledge of other markets. It does not resolve the power imbalance in world football which sees the best young talent opt for money over career progression just about everytime. Lesser lights than celtic could put up the same argument as they are further down the food chain.




  26. SB67 @ 2.40



    The power imbalance exists because rich clubs act and we dither.


    CP is full of people who are second rate but don’t rock the boat.


    That is the way that PL and his groupies like it.



    AP is a one man army this year because we have nothing else available to help him.


    He is covering the cracks with his new fangled ideas.


    He goes — what happens next?

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