BIG John Hughes, known as the original Yogi to Celtic fans in the sixties, has fired a message to the players heading for the Parkhead exit: Don’t be in too much of a rush!
The legendary marksman, seventh in the all-time strikers’ list with 189 goals, has asked the departing stars to remember the debt they owe the club.
Hughes, speaking to author Alex Gordon, whose fifteenth Celtic book, ’50 Flags Plus one’, is now on sale, said: “Too easily players have used Celtic as a stepping stone in recent times.
“Unfortunately, the financial muscle that can be exerted by even clubs in the second tier in England can be too much for my old club. There’s not much we can do about that in the short term.
“However, I have hated watching players drop off in Glasgow before heading across the border as soon as there is a rustle of money.
“Okay, we have to accept the situation and the transfer money that comes in is always welcome in balancing the books. But I have always insisted the fans are more interested in team sheets than balance sheets and want the best players to remain at Parkhead.
“So do I. I am a Celtic supporter and, for example, I wanted Victor Wanyama to play his entire career at the club. I really admired that big guy.
“He came in for something like £800,000 from Belgium and eventually moved to Southampton for something in the region of £12.5million a couple of years later. You can’t argue that it is good business for the club.”
Hughes, now 78, added: “Kristoffer Ajer has already stated he will be leaving in the summer, as I discussed in CQN yesterday. Odsonne Edouard and Ryan Christie will follow him out of the door.
“They will go with our best wishes and, hopefully, most of the incoming cash will be used to strengthen the team for a crucial season that is fast approaching.
“I have a plea to Kristoffer, Odsonne and Ryan: Hang around for the Champions League qualifiers. Give Celtic a rousing farewell.
“I reckon all three players will have a fair idea of where they will be playing their football next term, but it would be an excellent gesture if they remained in place to give the team that last push in what will be crucial games.
“Europe was a disaster area for the club last season. Mind you, it wasn’t much better on the domestic scene, was it?
“But it is not easy to see your old club being turned over with the rest of Europe looking on. The two 4-1 reverses against Slavia Prague were particularly hard to stomach.
“So, guys, how about a last hurrah in the green and white hoops? Surely, that’s not too much to ask for old time’s sake.”
* TOMORROW: Don’t miss another Big Yogi EXCLUSIVE – only in your champion CQN.