State of the Club, December 2022


My friends in Celtic, 2022 was not the transformational year 2021 was, but the heavy lifting on that front had already been done.  We saw the return of the league title, the League Cup and Champions League group stage football.  Of the main annual objectives, only the Scottish Cup escaped.

The summer’s transfer business was limited to securing loan signings who were already at the club and enhancing the squad.  None of the newly recruited players in the last window have made it to regular starter status.  Sead Haksabanovic (23) looks very much at home in a Celtic strip, while Alexandro Bernabei (21) will continue to improve.

Michael Nicholson continues his habit of signing players early in the transfer window, or in the case of Alasdair Johnston, Yuki Kobayashi and Tomoki Iwata, before the window opens on 1 January.  It is a great help to get them in early but know it will not always be possible.

We have gorged on the Japanese market.  The player count now stands at six, with a Greek-Australian manager recruited from Yokohama.  The return on investment from Japan has been significantly higher than what would be possible in the UK, or perhaps anywhere in Europe.  The Law of Diminishing Returns has to kick in eventually.  Can Ange’s sixth signing from Japan be as effective as his first?  When will a flood of others see what we are doing in Japan and close the value gap?

Football is never stable.  What works today will not work the same in future, we need to continue to learn about new value markets.  For now, we need to exploit the commercial opportunities available from having so many Japanese players on the books.  Get to Japan in the summer, Celtic.

Some years ago you and I discussed how little Big Club experience our backroom team had.  For most, Celtic was by some way their biggest club.  This meant our learning was from less-resourced places.  That changed when Brendan Rodgers arrived in 2016.  It was as though the lights were switched on.  Training and preparations were upgraded.  I heard the returning Neil Lennon was so impressed he pretty-much kept the same tune playing.

While Brendan did great things here, he never got recruitment right.  At significant expense, he appointed a head of recruitment who had bombed elsewhere and did no better at Celtic.  Brendan made players better, but his signings success or fail metric was unflattering.  As when at Liverpool, he played the fans and media to his own benefit at Celtic.  As at Liverpool, he was soon found out by both here too.

Our head of recruitment, Mark Lawwell, came from a similar role at City Group, where he worked with Ange at their Japanese stable club, Yokohama.  City Group are the best-resourced football operation on the planet.  Their knowledge led to Ange being appointed at Celtic and the subsequent flow of players from Japan.  We recruited a whole lot of corporate learning when Mark (formally) joined this year, his influence has already been transformational.

2022 did not see significant funds come in from player sales, a revenue stream that has kept the ship sailing in previous years.  This has to change going forward.  If we are to make genuine steps to improve, we have to recruit well and sell at a large profit.  Anything else is like playing Abide with Me on the deck.  Should one or two leave in January, it will be interesting to see what they go for.  This will tell you as much about our forward prospects as the league table at that time.

You can never master everything in sport.  Newco’s run to the Europa League Final (even typing this, I still cannot believe it) demonstrated what can be achieved by a club with smaller resources that we have.  Reading the reviews of their recruitment head, you would think he has failed, which is not true.  His recruits delivered a European final and some left for huge money.  Still, while we have to be respectful of what this opponent can do (including on Monday), I don’t think we should be spooked by them.

They lost tens of millions for years to keep a team together, while some players got old, some lost form and others ran down their contracts.  That model was low on short-term risk, delivering two domestic trophies and several good European runs, but left them with a squad with reduced resale value and under Uefa financial monitoring.

We will never win everything but getting the strategic direction of the club right – as I believe we have – will ensure we win more than most, perhaps more than everyone else put together.  There remains a lot of work to do to win the league and earn the lucrative Champions League qualification prize.  This cannot be taken for granted, not for a couple of days anyway, at least.  A few bad decisions, or poor form, and all could be lost, impinging on our structural dominance.

Celtic are focused on being in the right place when the Champions League restructures in 18 months.  Being there will be crucial on our prospects for the next decade.  The next step on that journey is on Monday.  Enjoy it.

Take care and have a great 2023.

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  1. Very sad news about Frank McGarvey, May he rest in Peace, my condolences to his family and friends.

  2. Bada


    Reduced flights today. London? Dubai?? Reykjavik???


    There’s also a Belfast flight, on the off chance we’re loaning to Cliftonville

  3. Bada,



    Anything over £15m would be a great piece of business.


    Going to a top 6 EPL team is great for the credibility of our trading model.


    His replacement, who looks a great fit, has been training for weeks and has had a great WC.



    I’m ok with AJ to step in tomorrow.




  4. You the local neighborhood watch to try and get in there first with the news eh ??😂😂😂😂

  5. Its very possible that the 700 Celtic supporters inside that Cesspit Tomorrow, will be Chanting ” Theres only one Frank McGarvey”….while the Huns are having their minutes silence…


    We are ENTITLED to remember our Celtic Legends who have fallen, but NO DOUBT that the 700 Celtic Bhoys and Ghirls will be blasted by the Media.



  6. R.I.P. Frank McGarvey, thoughts and prayers with his family. So very sad. A great player in his day.



    “Just to look at the Celtic end and look at the Celtic fans cheering. When I was a wee boy brought up in Easterhouse I dreamed of those things.”


    “Just to say to the Celtic fans, that I love them very much & I want to thank them for everything they’ve done for me.”


    Frank McGarvey (2022)





  7. BRRB and any others who MAY be interested….?



    I managed to give the Bookies a wee New Year BASHING by having THREE out of Four Horses Winning Today on my MAIN LINE.


    The Odds on the Three Winners were 14/1 ( Early Price) and 17/2 and 5/2.


    A very healthy day of Profit to start the New Year.


    I also had 3 other Winners on different lines, with one being at the odds of 11/2 which I had Twice.



    However, THE MOST IMPORTANT BET is Tomorrow its on the Celts to GUB the Huns.


    IF my Correct Scores get Beaten….I really do NOT care….As long as The Celts WIN !



  8. paulsthroughball88 on

    Remember a 3-1 home victory against Rangers in the early ’80s in which Frank was running them ragged, so much so that despite them leading 1-0 their defenders looked done coming off at half time



    Don’t think he scored, but remember a couple of chances going begging for Frank in the second half.



    However, he had done his job, wearing them out, ably assisted by Provan and Nicholas.

  9. paulsthroughball88 on

    BBC1 tonight, 11:45, FIFA World Cup Official Film Mexico 1970.



    Starring Pelé, Jairzinho, Gerson, Tostao, Clodoaldo, Rivelino, Carlos Alberto and a few reluctant defenders.

  10. paulsthroughball88 on

    Sourness talking today about a short conversation he had back in the day with O Rei Pelé, in broken English.



    Wonder how Pelé was managing.



    I’ll be watching that


    R.I.P Frank



    Watched Unai Emeris Aston Villa school Spurs



    6 across the 18 yard line anytime Spurs attacked


    Defence was never breached


    I can see a lot of teams adopting that tactic


    It worked a treat for Villa

  12. I watched the ‘70 World Cup final as a 12 year old.



    It was amazing



    Jairzinho keeping up his goal a game and of corse Peles sublime pass to Carlos Alberto for the 4th.



    Final whistle and I was straight out the door with my World Cup ball/balloon tucked under my arm

  13. paulsthroughball88 on




    I’ve seen it before, and highly recommend it. A World Cup with plenty of highlights, including the then West Germany coming back from 2 down to eliminate the holders and 2 cracking semi – finals.

  14. bigrailroadblues on

    Big Jimmy


    Well done old chap. Brian M has won over £1000 today. In Victoria Bar, drink flowing. See you Friday with songs to sing and tales to tell. 👍

  15. paulsthroughball88 on

    Oh, right, superfluous info, then. I reacted to what I had just seen in the same way.

  16. Back to Basics - Glass Half Full on

    When I think about Frank McGarvey my mind takes me back to the 1985 Cup Final.



    It was the first cup final I attended.



    From memory (so might be wrong) …..



    I think it was the last pay at the gate final.



    It was packed. Official attendance 63,000 !



    A few of my friends at the game also attended Scotland – England a week later.



    It was a ticket affair – 66,000 attendance.



    They swore blind the cup final was much more crowded.



    Celtic weren’t great.



    An old man standing next to me harrumphed and left with 15 minutes to go. (I think about this fellow from time to time)



    Provan scored a peach to make it 1-1.



    Frank’s header won the day.



    I’d like to think I witnessed his blend of joy and shock first hand that afternoon … but it might be I just lived it watching the highlights that night.



    Rest In Peace Frank.

  17. paulsthroughball88 on

    Helmut Schoen, the West Germany manager, (not the flasher), decided against employing the pressing game with wee Gerd in the side.



    All energy saved for the 18 yard box.

  18. bournesouprecipe on

    “ Pele! …… was a better player than I first thought “



    Graeme Sourness

  19. garygillespieshamstring on

    Always felt Frank made Charlie Nicholas and George Mccluskey better players as he did the leg work for them.



    100% every game from Frank.

  20. bigrailroadblues on

    And a great New Years Day from the Victoria Bar. I hope ye are all hale and hearty.

  21. Tom McLaughlin on

    I have booked a private room in Kitty O’Shea’s Edinburgh for the big game tomorrow.



    Any Edinburgh / East of Scotland bhoys n ghirls looking to join in an afternoon among over a hundred Tims are more than welcome. Just ask for me.



    Hail Hail the Celts are here ☘️