I remember writing with anticipation 10 years ago as many of Martin O’Neill’s benchwarmers came to the end of their contracts. Martin was not a squad rotator, so those not entrusted with his confidence found themselves on the bench or in the stand on match day, there was little scope to play your way back into the squad, and the wages spent unproductively inhibited our chances of bringing in fresh talent.
Ronny Deila spoke to the media on Friday about the same issue, moving on those who are already well out of the picture, as well as some who played their part last season but who are unlikely to see much in the way of game time in the season ahead.
There’s going to be a bit of churn in the squad, we’re still likely to add three or four players, but it’s been 20 years since a Celtic manager’s talked about creating space in the squad for youth players to fill. This isn’t a criticism of the managers we’ve had since then, more a reflection of the pressure they worked under.
Tommy Burns had to drive us from mid-table mediocrity to genuine contenders. Wim, Dr Jo and John Barnes weren’t here long enough to concern themselves about development, which Martin made it clear from day one that his interest extended only as far as the first team squad.
I doubt any Celtic manager worked under the intensity Gordon Strachan experienced during his four years. Every point dropped delivered a greater trauma than at any time I can remember. Neil Lennon managed through the transition, from competing head-to-head with three-in-a-row winners Rangers, to getting used to life as the last surviving superpower.
This is Ronny’s luxury. It doesn’t matter if we win the league by a record tally, or match the defensive records created in each of the last two seasons. Better to lose more games while giving a chance to young talent, than ask hoary pros to grind through the same gears one more time.