The No. 1 rule of the transfer window is: get your first choices, and there is no doubt that Ronny Deila wanted Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven. We’ve tracked them for months, Ronny will have watched both players many times, John Collins will have watched them more often, and the entire scouting team will have watched them dozens of times, so on that basis alone, I’m happy.
I spoke to someone at the club early last month and there was some concern that some of our key players would ‘Do a Kelvin’, and present as not in the right frame of mind to play, unless we agreed to a transfer. While we are still competing in four competitions this was a major worry, but those players who were wanted elsewhere were happy to get their heads down and work to the spirit as well as the letter of their contracts. Happy at this too.
Stuart Armstrong is every inch a Ronny Deila player. He can run all day, gets into the box to support – or go beyond – strikers, and closes space in front of the defence. He will allow us to play to plan a lot oftener.
Last summer’s window was characterised by the signing of wingers. Wakaso, Inge Berget and Tonev all arrived on loan, while Callum McGregor emerged as a first team contender on his return from loan, and during the early season outshone all of them. None of these players are now considered as first choice, nor is Derk Boerrigter, who was recruited from Ajax 18 months ago and has proven every adage that ever existed for oft-injured players.
So we’re not short of wingers, but we need good ones, and Gary Mackay-Steven is another known quantity. He is fast, skilful, and will lend a creative hand to Kris Commons, who had shouldered those duties alone for years.
I’ve no proper information on Michael Duffy, who joined the development squad from Derry City.
To paraphrase Neil Lennon, this is only the beginning. Of the 10 outfield players who started at Hampden on Sunday, only one was a Ronny Deila signing, the rest were recruited by one of his predecessors. The summer transfer window was overwhelmingly misconceived, as the regime change cast a shadow over processes. As well as the wasteful wingers, two strikers were signed, neither of whom could dislodge last January’s late stocking filler, Leigh Griffiths.
Mackay-Steven and Armstrong will both make an impact at Celtic, but it will take more than a couple of players to craft the squad into the image of Ronny. More work will be needed in the summer.
Hibs, Hearts, Queen of the South, Ross County, St Mirren, Motherwell, and the SFA will all be alarmed at the flagrant influence Mike Ashley exercised at newco Rangers yesterday, despite his written agreement not to get involved. While the SFA must react accordingly, I’m not sure five players whose appearances are measured in minutes, not games, are ready for a promotion fight. It can take good player months to settle into a new team, and the potential for disruption, especially if the ‘manager’ didn’t play an active role in the process, is considerable.
The upside for newco is that these players settle quickly, take a Premiership place off Hibs, Queens, Motherwell or St Mirren, and leave a lot of clubs wondering what the point of having rules in the first place is. The only appropriate sanction the SFA can levy is a player registration ban, which would be the club’s second in their short history. Clearly a one year ban is not long enough to teach them a lesson.
Whatever you think of Ashley, you have to admire him:
On the last day of the window, he has 5 unwanted Newcastle players he is unable to loan to anyone else.
Realising he had no takers, he sends them to Ibrox, easing the Newcastle payroll.
Newco pay the players with Ashley’s loan, which they still have to pay back. If his men are kicked out at an EGM, these loans mean the new regime have even more money to find. It’s almost as though he wants to burn through the entire £10m loan before the EGM, leaving a new regime with an empty bank account and crippling debt.
It is a thing of Machiavellian beauty. Hibs and the rest are right to be upset, and Stewart Regan will feel humiliated, but I find the whole episode hilarious.
Welcome to Celtic, Gary, Stuart and Michael.
Well done Celtic on a productive transfer window. As always, it’s too early to tell how well we’ve done, but the perennial adage of leaving the window stronger than we went into it seems assured. Well done Mike too, keep up the good work.
Start your League Cup final weekend at the CQN11 St Patrick’s Dinner, at the Kerrydale Suite, Celtic Park, on Friday 11 March. Email me for details, firstname.lastname@example.org