Whatever plans Celtic had for the summer of 2020, the pandemic and a 6’ 7” goalkeeper put paid to them. Fraser Forster spent the previous season performing miracles for Celtic on loan from Southampton. Both were keen to extend his stay, so much so that Fraser’s pal and understudy, Craig Gordon, accepted lesser terms from Hearts than were on offer from Celtic to get some football.
A week after Craig left, Southampton gave Celtic the green light on a fresh loan, but on taking the call, Fraser about turned, he had heard of interest from Chelsea and wanted to pursue that option to a conclusion.
Without two keepers, and with a ban on international travel, Celtic had to go to market for a replacement without the ability to watch players. The list came down to the best from the Scottish market, or theimpressive AEK Athens keeper when they eliminated us from the Champions League qualifiers two years earlier. The Є5m plus wages spent on Vasilis Barkas will remain a lesson for years to come.
Fresh from a domestic crisis, Shane Duffy arrived on loan from Brighton. The Celtic supporter suffered a torrid time alone in Glasgow that spilled into his play.
We needed a striker and money was available with two options under consideration: Peterborough’s Ivan Toney, or West Ham’s Albian Ajeti. Toney was banging them in, in the English third tier, whereas Ajeti had just spent a wasted year at West Ham. Ajeti, though, was a full Swiss international, who got the move to West Ham on the back of two great seasons at Basel, where he had also gained Champions League experience.
Albian was the man the manager and scouts all wanted, a rare unanimous nomination, they were delighted to get his signature. How you can score 26 in 32 starts for Basel, then do nothing for four years between spells at West Ham, Celtic and on loan at Sturn Graz, is another red flag. Toney became a sensation in the EPL and a full England international. He is currently serving an 11 month ban from the game for betting transgressions. Red flags, eh?
With Ajeti is set to leave for Turkish football this week, the lessons from him, Duffy and Barkas, not to mention Forster and Toney, paint a picture of the many pitfalls in the sport. It’s only easy on paper, once the whistle goes, normal rules are off. Maybe we should stick to players Benfica are prepared to cut loose after one league start.