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State of the Club Report, 2020

538

My friends in Celtic, our first nine-in-a-row, coming days after the infamous European Cup semi-final defeat to the thugs of Atletico Madrid, brought some cheer to a muted week for Celtic fans.  It was a new World Record, but the globe is too big a place for World Records to be meaningful to most people.  Those honours count most in your own backyard.

Winning nine for a second time this year would, in normal circumstances, be an occasion to cherish; I bet the merchandise opportunities were a glint in the eye of the commercial department a year ago.  When it eventually came, through an SPFL board vote, we did what we could to muster some cheer, but the world had much more to worry about than sporting records, even if nine was now only a Scottish landmark.  The pandemic robbed some of far more than football glory, but it denied Celtic fans a special moment.

The football industry, like most entertainment businesses, is on its uppers, with consequences for every club.  Aberdeen, with costs far lower than ours, talk about losing £1m per month, but with furlough arrangements, voluntary wage reductions of managerial and executive staff, deferments among players, the financial impact of the virus has yet to hit.

Celtic’s risk is three fold: there will be a reduction in revenue from match day activities, merchandising and commercial streams, while health and safety costs will increase, albeit not by a significant margin, between them, these two measures will cost at least £10m, possibly much more.

The third risk is the increased jeopardy seeds like Celtic face in European qualification.  The first three rounds of qualification for the Champions and Europa Leagues are one-off games.  The Europa playoff round is also single leg, whereas the Champions League playoff is over two legs.  The danger is clear: have a Lincoln Red Imps away day and even an invincible treble winning team could be out of Europe altogether.

No European football and, all other things being equal, Celtic will make a loss of several tens of millions of pounds next season.  Europa League group stage participation will see that loss curtailed, but not by much.  Reach the Champions League and, for a period, we will be one of the financially strongest clubs in Europe at a time when perhaps 75% of clubs will be underwater and keen to trade players.

So what can we do about it?  It is generally difficult to overhaul your team before the early qualification rounds.  Paying €5m for a goalkeeper is a good sign of intent, but it could also be interpreted as acknowledgement by the board of the stakes at play.  Years of good leadership put Celtic in a strong position going into this crisis, now we are splashing millions in July, when the keeper who started last season’s qualifiers is still on the books; anxiety levels must be different than the corresponding time last season.

Some clubs with options will use this crisis to trade well and improve their team beyond what would be achievable in normal times.  Celtic have options, but goodness, a bad night in the likes of Gibraltar would change all that.

I deliberately used the word ‘trading’ not just buying.  Selling wisely is as much a part of building successful football teams as buying is.  Manage your assets (take me back to 2004), get the good ones on long-term deals, if this is not possible, sell them at the top of the curve.  There is no obligation for football fans to care about finances, so if it’s not your thing, that’s ok, but my Article of fFith is ‘Teams which fail to manage their assets perform significantly worse than those who do’.

Understand your place in the food chain; let others get emotional when players (KT) or managers (BR) declare this or that, then leave.  It’s football, we have seen it all before.  Be unsentimental in the transfer market, trade well and you will outperform those who simply hope players love them back.

Our financial outlook over the next 12 months is so varied, it is not even worth speculating what will happen, but this is not your first season as a Celtic fan and you will know how to interpret the events as they fall over the next two months.

“Be unsentimental”, you say?  Try that.  Try getting 10-in-a-row out of your head when planning for this season.  If you can, you have icier fluids in your veins than I have.  Whatever ails the world, Celtic have to find the fortitude to deliver 10-in-a-row, but there are risks.

If you remember this corresponding article from a year ago, I said our chances of nine-in-a-row was no better than 50%.  While we were comfortably ahead when the league was called, a home defeat on 29 December opened the door to a challenger who bossed us for the second time that month.  I could write a book on what went wrong with Newco after the break, but they were more than capable of beating Hearts, Kilmarnock and Hamilton.  Had they done so, instead of losing and dropping two points at home to Aberdeen and another two to St Johnstone in Perth, they would have been champions when the votes were counted.

Winning leagues is seldom easy and Newco’s biggest problem last season was that they did not have a manager or players who had come through a campaign and delivered the title.  There is institutional knowledge at Celtic Park and Lennoxtown.  They know how to handle defeats – think back to Steven Gerrard’s post-match “bottle” comments about his players in defeat.  Reversals soon become crises, dressing room resourcefulness disappears, while the champions scent blood.

Newco know the league was lost before Covid struck but they also know they came closer than the final league table indicates.  They had a good opportunity and they still do.  As things stand, I don’t think their chances are as good as they were a year ago, but I would put the probability of the title going to Ibrox next year at 30%.

Several things temper my confidence: this is the last season I expect Newco to be close to Celtic.  They have made an operational loss every year since they were formed (and an actual loss if you overlook a remarkable IP revaluation).  This cannot go on, they are out of road on Financial Fair Play, and while Celtic contemplate a significant potential loss, Newco do not have the possibility of Champions League football and will find it impossible to break even and remain competitive.  Their outlook is very bleak and they face a significant retrenchment after this season; whatever resources they have will be deployed now.

Teams have a shelf life.  In the 60 years following the War, there seemed to be a time-limit of two seasons on a title winning team.  Two-in-a-row was achieved 11 times in that era, but nine of those champions lost the following season.  In the other two ocassions, the settled winning team went on to achieve nine successive titles.  Celtic’s Gordon Strachan and Rangers’ Walter Smith spoiled this symmetry by successively winning the title in three successive seasons.

There must be reasons why three-in-a-row was so difficult to achieve.  My suspicion is that any one team has around two years at the top and that winning sides are not broken up as quickly as they should be.  There is also a reason why, when three titles were achieved, it so readily turned into nine.  Perhaps the disruption of reworking a losing team three successive summers brought counter-productive turmoil.  We need to acknowledge that champions have a shelf life and history indicates this fact is usually recognised too late.

There is also the ‘What next?’ issue.  Rangers should have had more than enough to see off the challenge from Celtic in 1997-98, but early in the season the manager and some senior players were looking beyond life at Rangers.  Focus slipped and never recovered.  The ‘Stay for 10’ sentiment has kicked around Celtic for years now.  ‘What next?’ is a question some at the club will inevitably contemplate.  This is a watershed season for many at Celtic and there is nothing we can do to pretend otherwise.

There is also the potential for the pandemic to impact the new season.  Isolated lockdown and illness could severely affect any individual club.  If the virus gets into the Celtic squad, we will not win the league.  I know the club are vigilant on this issue, but all it takes is one infected opponent, or a careless Celtic player, and your first team could be unfit for months.

If a second wave comes, it is possible next season will also be curtailed.  A slow start to the season could lead to the league being called against you.  At no point can we be comfortable if we have ground to make up.

All empires fall and these Celtic players are competing in the rarest air.  They deserve enormous credit, as do those who support their work.  Whatever lies ahead of us this season, 10-in-a-row, two Scottish Cups and a fifth consecutive treble, or tears and despair, this will be a season you refer to for the rest of your life.  Enjoy it, and enjoy Green Day for the Foundation on Sunday, you wear something green and make a donation.

Take care, we are not through this yet.

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538 Comments

  1. KT joins Henk, Dalgish and Paddy Crerand as players that have left Celtic to go on to win on a bigger stage. Maybe others, but you don’t get much better and bigger than The Famous Glasgow Celtic…. just a reminder to the Bhoys currently on our books.

  2. Scaniel 8.17pm

     

     

    Add in McClair, Nicholas & MacAvennie for me … Kenny Dal in 1977 was my first downer even though at 7 yrs old I didn’t really understand … McClair wasn’t a bad thing (terrific played for us but no animosity) Nicholas = arsehole and MacAvennie left for two reasons Jenny Blyth’s right & left breasts …

     

     

    All kidding aside I would much rather concentrate on the players who want to be there … over the years for the decades for me my Celtic is.

     

     

    Tommy Burns

     

    Paul McStay

     

    Neil Lennon

     

    Scott Brown

     

     

    Now there is a midfield with a few appearances in the hoops :-)

  3. Gene 8.26pm

     

     

    Big Rambo …

     

     

    Whooft there is a Bhoy who made the very most of limited ability …

  4. Just had a wee swatch at the other “articles” on CQN … alistair mccoist slagging Leigh Griffiths ??? I very rarely say a bad word about CQN but FFS … am absolute areshole giving airtime to discuss our Leigh … if any reporter or CQN writer has Ally’s ear … why not ask what he said to Neil never mind an opinion about our Leigh … slightly disappointed an article like that would appear on any Celtic site … considering McCoist is a horrible parasite

  5. GFTB & Gene

     

    McClair, maybe. Charlie Nic- nae chance. One League cup final doesn’t qualify. Frank Mac – better days behind him and big Rambo a one hit wonder at Bayern which he made a career out of.

     

    I’m sure there may be others but much more common are the likes of big Pierre who thought of leaving us for Forest would give him godlike status when he saved them from the drop. How did that turn out, Pierre?

  6. Scaniel 9.03pm

     

     

    Even Henrik & Dembelle shouldn’t have left … who cares about La liga, Chdmpions leagues & Ligue Un :-)

     

     

    That’s why people who don’t appreciate football slag the Maestro …

     

     

    1995 … big Pierre … Paul McStay’s final :-)

     

     

    All kidding aside … am gutted when very good players leave but I would prefer to concentrate on the ones who don’t

     

     

    Jamesy Forrest CSC …. legend 🍀

  7. Eddie Howe and Bournemouth part.

     

     

    Well done Keziran Tierney.you done well

     

     

    HH

  8. GFTB

     

    I’m with you all the way on The Maestro, Jamsie, Daniel Fergus inter alia. I would also include Jinky, Yogi and Bobby in that, as they did not want to leave and were Celtic to the core.

  9. Scaniel 9.32pm

     

     

    Much to my dismay I didn’t appreciate Danny McGrain .. maybe just took him for granted :-)

     

     

    But in a good way before the Clydebank crew of DD, AoW & Dallas start going for me …

     

     

    Centenary Bhoy that I am … Chris Morris our in a shift for the bhoys

  10. BTW – Uncle Paddy only matched what Celtic achieved and KT has quite a way to go yet, so only KD has surpassed his career at Celtic… in my humble opinion, of course.

     

    Many congrats to KT on today’s performance and achievement. Before the game on 5Live Big Chris was singing the praises of KT and saying you ain’t seen nothing yet. What price that when Messi becomes MD at Barca his first signing will be. KT.

     

    Night All – can’t wait till tomorrow when the real stuff begins.

  11. MACHRIE44

     

     

    From BBC stats

     

     

    Aberdeen v rangers

     

    Fouls 18. 14

     

    Yellows 1 0

     

    Red 1

     

    =======********=======

     

    Dundee Utd. V. St Johnstone

     

    Fouls 12 8

     

    Yellow 1. 3 yellow

     

    1 red

     

    ========+++++++=========

     

    Hibs V killie

     

    Fouls 13. 12

     

    Yellow 1. 1

     

    =========########========

     

    St mirren v livi

     

    Fouls 16. 16

     

    Yellow 3. 2

  12. Fellow Celts .. good night & god bless but as you close your eyes remember one thing …

     

     

    The Maestro never left … it’s easy to stay when everything is good 🍀🍀

     

     

    Hopefully… we have more good times to enjoy …

     

     

    One more sleep to Jobo’s terrific competition… a terrific idea and very enjoyable:-) ..

     

     

    Hail Hail

  13. Don’t worry GFTB, indeed more good times lay ahead under NFL. (Wee Lenny Bless Him)

     

    & Also well done to KT & The Gunners in winning the English FA Cup which is a fair size of

     

    a tropthy (Bigger Than The Scottish Cup) anyway KT congratulations & well done

     

    That’s another cool & unique medal to add to your collection anyway KT all the best &

     

    good luck with playing with Arsenal who are based in London

  14. Akbw 1888 10.36pm

     

     

    Cheers but there is no worry in this household over football .. I love Celtic but even before Covid … I have never needed any Celtic team to win … probably like many on these pages my enjoyment of Celtic were far from these terrific times :-) … but I do agree when it comes to our manager … Neil has lived the dream … managed the dream … and in my eyes already a legend … Neil Francis left Leicester for less money … our previous successful manager left Celtic for more money… at times life is shoite and during 2020 it’s been very shoite …. so in the shoiteist times we should enjoy what we have …. and thankfully Celtic is a great thing to have :-)

  15. St Mirren have made an approach to Celtic to sign striker Bayo. Saints made move for Bayo in Jan window.

  16. of all the teams in the SPL this season, St Mirren are my prediction of the team to surprise. Think they’ll finish up in 7th or 8th. A good win today for them.

  17. Jobo 11.14 pm

     

     

    I will raise your St Mirren with Dundee Utd …

     

     

    The SPL isnt as bad as some might believe

  18. Congratulations KT ! You had the guts to go and better the life’s of yourself and family ! Wee Mick must be proud of you, hope you come back one day to wear the hoops that your dad would have been so proud to see you wearing HH

  19. WT 11.39pm

     

     

    Hear hear … I was gutted when KT left but crazy money for any youngster

     

     

    Hope all is ok with your good self, I appreciated your post last weekend .. am off work till the 24th August been working through all this nonsense BUT off to Seton Sands on Monday … the good lady booked it back on New Year’s Day ,.. much to my moaning back then

     

     

    Hail Hail 🍀

  20. I dont believe the English Cup was held in higher worthwhile regard than the Scottish Cup, until maybe the early 1970’s. They were equal till then.

     

     

    Scottish teams , and players were some of the best in the world from the beginning of organised football, right up till the Liverpool team of the 80’s.

     

     

    Kilmarnock, Hibs, Dundee (a shankly), Dunfermline (Jock). all had remarkable results and scalps in Europe, before Celtic did. Whisper it, first rangers had 2 european final defeats before they won the bauble presented in the toilet.

     

     

    Jimmy Delenay won a Scottish , an English, An Irish,

     

     

    THATS A GREAT CELT.

  21. Jobo 12.05am

     

     

    You have waited a few years to utter those words …

     

     

    Good things come to those who wait

     

     

    :-) 🍀

  22. Although he lay dead he was kicked in the head .. by the hair they dragged him around … but they still fear him yet they will never forget .. how brave Billy stood his ground …

  23. Alasdair MacLean on

    And lest we forget.

     

    Which team has the best record in in European competitive football against the mighty Barcelona?

  24. Alasdair MacLean on

    JOBO BALDIE on 1ST AUGUST 2020 11:14 PM

     

     

    of all the teams in the SPL this season, St Mirren are my prediction of the team to surprise. Think they’ll finish up in 7th or 8th. A good win today for them.

     

    —————————-

     

    And not least because ex-Ross County captain, Delaney’Dunky’s nephew is now playing for them. Good win for them today.

     

    Hopefully now Marcus Fraser will get the recognition he deserves!

  25. Alasdair MacLean on

    And here’s to living within your means.

     

     

    Something only one side could say on the opening game of the Scottish premiership.

  26. SAINT STIVS on 1ST AUGUST 2020 11:51 PM

     

     

    Jimmy Delenay won a Scottish , an English, An Irish,

     

     

    *and was only 13 minutes away from an FAI Cup winners medal when Cork led 2-0, however Shamrock pulled them back to go into extra time and with 45 seconds left snatched the winner.

  27. Alasdair MacLean on

    TontimeTim,

     

     

    If you’re still on … I was in a pub in Scavenger end of last year … And there was a “Renton CFC” scarf pride of place on the wall. I took pictures and sent to Delaney’s Dunky …

     

    He said you would like?

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