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State of the Club Report, 2020

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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. Alasdair MacLean on

    Still got the pictures … but downloaded onto a computer … off my phone. Which I’m using at this second.

  2. Absolutely Alasdair as a wee bhoy I used tae go up on that bus to midweek games with my da who worked in an industrial estate across the River Leven fae Renton. Years later on trips hame I would go up on it myself. Great wee club.

  3. Alasdair MacLean on

    Well if you’re in touch with any if these guys .. I’ll send the pictures..

     

     

    Looks classy in the “Pieren Pub” in Stavanger.

     

     

    I may have spelt the pub name wrongly! But close enough…

  4. Barkas

     

     

    Frimpong Ajer Julienne Taylor

     

    Brown MacGregor

     

    Forrest Christie Elyounoussi

     

    Edouard

     

     

    that’s what I think Neil will start …

     

     

    I would drop Frimpong, Taylor or the goalie to get Leigh in the team … but I suppose that’s why Neil is the manager and I will be watching :-)

     

     

    Griff to come on and score is my next best option 🍀⚽️

  5. Good morning cqn from a grey but dry at the moment Garngad

     

     

    No pub for me today feckin 4.30pm kick off what the feck is that about. Just hhave a few mates in the auld Mickey mouse for the game.

     

    4.30pm jeezo how to kill football.

     

     

    GFTB – I posted my team yesterday same as yours bar young Frimpors, I would have El Hamed in and Frimpors on bench.

     

     

    HH

     

     

    D :)

  6. David66 8.17am

     

     

    I really like El Hammed but Hamilton (or any Spl team) at Celtic Park I would go with our wee right winger .. never a right back Frimpong :-)

  7. GFTB – Fair point

     

     

    I just want big El Hamed to get game time and get him up to speed, no slight on the wee man I think he is a great wee player, but that is a great point you made and I am up for that.

     

     

    HH

     

     

    D :)

  8. David66 8.36am

     

     

    I wouldn’t be disappointed with your first 11 either … I think we are one or two players short of the best Celtic squad I have saw … During MoN, Neil the first time round, WGS and even Brendan we had terrific first 11s but not the strongest 15/20 options…. by the way I think Greg Taylor is going to prove a few doubters wrong this season and last but not least, if he stays fit Elyounoussi could be my pick for player of the year ….. even before a baw is kicked :-)

  9. GFTB – Moi is a fantastic footballer before his injury he showed glimpses of what he is capable of.

     

     

    Taylor – like you, I think Taylor will do alright, I think he has to work on his pace over 10 yards to get by the last defender and put a cross in, or just keep going sometimes he stops and hesitates, so a wee bit more belief in himself, which will hopefully come this year.

     

     

    Have a good time at Seaton Sands we were there 2 years ago for September weekend for first time. As well as our Summer Hols abroad, We always try a caravan park at September weekend as well with the Grandson and whoever in the family wants to join us😂. We have booked for Haggerston again this year, hope everything is open.

     

     

    I was off for 2 weeks and the wife wanted to go to a caravan as Tenerife was cancelled, but I stupidly said not if nothing is open on site, now I wish we did bloody go somewhere.😂 but I’m no telling her that.

     

     

    HH

     

     

    D :)

  10. can’t understand why we would go with 4 at the back with our multi million rated defenders , play 3 at the back and 2 up front.

  11. We need to be wary today as accies have had a longer run in the top league than the two leaders at the moment …😜😜😜😜😜😜😜😜😜

  12. David66 9.08am

     

     

    Cheers, wee yin has been to Santa Ponsa 4 or 5 times, we were in Tenerife when we got pumped in Athens, she is adamant even before Covid she prefers Seton Sands or Craig Tara to going abroad … her & the wee granddaughter have been so excited for weeks upon weeks, worth the money already …. we always try and go away first week in August for the first time in years I don’t have the CL qualifiers to worry me, although looking forward to Leverkusen pumping the Huns on Thursday :-)

  13. Good morning, friends from a broken (grey) clouded mild, dry and breezy east Kilbride.

     

    *** CQN PLAYER OF THE YEAR 2020-21 ***

     

    Today’s final whistle will also mean the start of this season’s ‘Player Of The Year’ survey. Same format as before but for any new lurkers or posters here’s an explanation of the simple idea. After each game you pick the 3 players that you think performed best, in no particular order remember, and stick their names in a short email to me at CQNPOTY@GMAIL.COM . You can vote at any point up until 10pm on the day following each game. I’ll then tally up the votes and the Man Of The Match will earn 5 points, the next best performer will get 4 and so on – so the 5 players that receive the most votes will be awarded points. Actually you don’t even need to follow that, all that YOU need to do is stick 3 names in an email following each game and I do the rest 😉

     

    Watch today’s game and voting will open around 6.20pm and remain open until 10pm on Monday evening. The first results will hopefully come out before 10.30pm on Monday.

     

    You don’t have to sign up or register. Neither do you have to post on here to join in so lurkers, friends, family can all vote if they wish. Just a wee bit of fun to generate discussion as much as anything. So, all together now 🎶 Here we go, 10 in a row 🎵

  14. Ron 67,

     

     

    I am baffled and disappointed that Marian Shevd has not had a chance. We do not know the reasons for this.

     

     

    What we do know is that Shevd is a Ukrainian international player of undoubted talent that we paid circa £2million for.

     

    Despite Neil saying in Dubai that this player was ready to ” burst onto the scene ” he has only played about 15 minutes of top football with us.

     

     

    Have we let this player down ?

     

     

    His English is said to be poor.

     

    His wife is back in Ukraine and there is reports that he feels lonely and isolated.

     

     

    Has our safety net for young players ( he is only 22 ) failed him ?

     

     

    We rely on young talent from abroad, we nurture them , acclimitise them, develop them then sell them on for hopefully a karge profit.

     

     

    Something has gone badly wrong here, at least Teemu Pukki got a chance.

     

     

    HH to all and COYBIG.

  15. Paul The Spark on

    Art of War

     

    I’ve cycled that a few times from Knightswood. Duelling Banjos from Deliverance would be more appropriate at a few spots.

  16. AoW 9.42am

     

     

    Hope you weren’t listening to that music as you were cycling …think that video has been “doctored” as I have never saw you move as fast as that :-) but it could be “real” watching how many people were either avoiding you or the wee couple at Balloch who looked like they were running away from you …. now that is believable :-)

  17. think we have developed a horses for courses mentality with eyes on the prize of 10 to the detriment of others.

  18. Neil’s press conference from Friday on utube is excellent … our manager is very grounded and can handle the journos loaded questions pretty well :-)

  19. Paulthespark – aye you’re right, some dodgy geezers around Renton way. I also started from Knightswood. Baldwin Avenue.

     

     

    GFTB- – I Cannae go that fast… it’s speeder up! 😁 Enjoy your break.

  20. AoW 10.19am

     

     

    Cheers … I was being a tad facetious

     

     

    Broony press conference from Friday when asked about getting another deal after this season … “who knows, depends on if I play as well as I have in the last 14 or 15 seasons” brilliant Scotty Bhoy :-)

  21. Going for and working towards our next title.

     

    Same as we have always done.

     

    Work for each other and work as a team.

     

    Go to it Celtic

     

    God bless Celtic

     

    :-)

     

    HH

  22. ***LAST SEASON’S POTY POSITIONS (to be concluded….)***

     

    With at least 1 but hopefully 2 cup games still to come to finish season 2019-20 here’s how the positions currently stand. The chance of winning the non existent trophy will surely be enough for Eddie to stay on past Christmas!

     

    1st – Edouard – 76 points

     

    2nd – Brown – 73 points

     

    3rd – McGregor – 69 points

     

    4th – Jullien – 53 points

     

    5th – Christie – 46 points

     

    6th – Forrest – 45 points

     

    7th – Frimpong – 40 points

     

    8th – Ntcham – 38 points

     

    9th – Ajer – 31 points

     

    10th – Elyounoussi – 26 points

     

    11th – Forster – 25 points

     

    12th – Taylor and Griffiths – 22 points

     

    14th – Bauer – 14 points

     

    15th – Bitton, Rogic and Bolingoli-Mbombo – 13 points

     

    18th – Hayes and Elhamed – 8 points

     

    20th – Johnston and Welsh – 4 points

     

    22nd – Bayo – 3 points

     

    23rd – Morgan and Robertson – 2 points

     

    25th – Simunovic – 1 point

     

    26th – Bain, Gordon, Klimala, Sinclair, Ralston, Arzani, Hendry, Dembele, Shved – all on 0 points.

     

     

    Remember, for season 2020-21 all players start from scratch.

  23. AOW,

     

     

    I have cycled along the cycle path to Balloch a few times. You only exit the path at Dumbarton for a short period until you join another which takes you all the way.

     

     

    Did you get the train back ? We usually did, after a few swallies in Balloch.

     

    It’s bad enough negotiating the path on the way back without all the local “sunbathers” from Dalreoch and the Renton. 😀

     

    Great video by the way.

     

     

    HH.

  24. Greenpinata, thanks.

     

    Aye I used to do the same at Balloch, a cool pint or two and train home cos didn’t think I’d make it. But no beers the last couple of times and coming home under my own steam. Good for the soul.

  25. As supporters we only see players when they play or video clips from their previous Clubs.

     

    We have little or no idea what is happening at training or in bounce games.

     

    Players like Shved & Kouassi come & fill us with hope they can just as easily go without ever appearing to be given a chance & may even go on to do well somewhere else.

     

    Some players settle, some don’t some are just damn unlucky with injuries or could have problems in their private life.

     

    Our trust must be in our Manager & his back team.

     

    They see & talk to all players day in & day out, they of course are fallible too & can make mistakes but in general our Management team have been getting it right.

     

    Having said all that, as Supporters we are of course entitled to have a moan & advise Lenny & his team what they should do. If we can’t do that then there is not much fun to be had.

  26. Can’t make up my mind whether I hate the fitba or love it.

     

    Currently coming down on the side of hate….

     

     

    :0

     

     

    Tic – toc CSC

  27. Hope we get a “Fred C Dobbs” virtual iron horse post today :-)

     

     

    And “Jobo” virtual doors to automatic post as well :-)

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