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State of the Club Report, December 2018

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Empires rise and fall but it is usually not until well after the event that the signs of decline or rise are appreciated.  In April 1970 Celtic players took a lap of honour after winning both legs of the European Cup semi-final against English champions, Leeds United, before a record European crowd.  They were in their second European Cup final in four and hot favourites to take the trophy again.  If ever Celtic looked imperious, this was the moment.

Few watching that lap of honour could have imagined 33 years would pass before Celtic next beat a side from one of Europe’s biggest five leagues.  Decline came slowly, a European Cup final loss in extra time, two more semi-final appearances and four more league titles, then decades as an irrelevance in Europe.

Today Celtic are nothing like that force in Europe, but 2018 saw the club secure the domestic treble for the second successive season, the first time this has been achieved in Scottish football.  They also retained the League Cup this month and are hot favourites for both league and Scottish Cup.  No team has ever been this imperious in Scottish football, not even the Lisbon Lions.

Celtic have lost four league games this season, four more than they lost in the whole of Brendan Rodgers’ first season.  They failed to reach the Champions League group stage, losing to what proved to be a poor AEK Athens.  This year has seen significant players lost: Dembele, Armstrong and Roberts.  Although the latter two were mostly squad players when by the time they left, they still made important contributions.

The club broke its transfer fee record for the first time in 17 years to secure the permanent signing of Odsonne Edouard, but the deadline day shenanigans of Dembele and absences of Leigh Griffiths placed a heavy burden on the 20-year-old.  Filip Benkovic was secured on loan from Leicester City but further attempts to reinforce central defence and the right back position have been ineffective, while the predicted signing of John McGinn from Hibs proved to be nothing more than a PR disaster.

Form during the early part of the season was well below standards of the previous two years.  It was not until two first half injuries in the League Cup semi-final at Murrayfield to Ebouie Kouassi and Olivier Ntcham allowed Callum McGregor and Ryan Christie to take up central midfield roles, that Celtic started to play with fluency.

Three wins were secured in a very difficult Europa League group, meaning we travel to Valencia in February with a fighting chance of progressing, but you could sense the air escaping from Celtic during December, as eight points were dropped on top of a home defeat to Salzburg.

The question is, was Saturday’s arresting defeat at Ibrox a sign of Decline of Empire, or another sign of retrenchment?  To answer that we need to look at the fundamentals.

Celtic are financially stronger than anyone else in Scottish football.  We spend significantly more, not just on transfers and wages, but on scouting, sports science, analysis and any other metric you care to mention.  We may only be top of the table on goal difference, with a game in hand, but the first leg of the treble is complete and we are the only Scottish team still in Europe.
This season, the rest of the league are getting closer, but if points earned is their measurement, they are not getting any better.  Celtic’s lead is small, not because we face better opposition, or because we have fewer resources, but because some in the squad have aged and declined, while attempts to strengthen have not been good enough.

If you are searching for signs of Decline of Empire, keep looking.  This is Celtic at the bottom of the curve – with back-to-back trebles, the League Cup secured and resources available to kick on.  We cannot win every game, or play well every month.  We can’t even win every trophy, but the fundamentals of Scottish football have not changed.  Use this week to get in touch with how it feels to be second best in a domestic game.  It could be a while before it happens again.

Have a great New Year.

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968 Comments

  1. On 1 February 2018, Amido Amido Amido F*****G Baldé @ Green Brigade signed a six-month contract with Albanian Superliga side FK Kukësi.He made his debut 13 days later, coming on as a second-half substitute during a 1–0 win over KF Tirana for the quarter-finals of the Albanian Cup, his first competitive game of football in 11 months.His first league appearance took place on 19 February against FK Partizani Tirana when he took the field in injury time of the 3–1 success, their first-ever at the opposition’s ground.

     

     

    @wiki

  2. many moons ago, playing in the greenock summer league , one of the older and certainly one of the toughest guys around had a set to with the manager at half time.

     

     

    the boss man

     

    “joe, ffs whits the matter with you, you have been pish, your no trying a leg, ffs”

     

     

    joe responded

     

    “whit did you just say, who do you think yir feckin takin tae, no trying a leg, say that again and i will take yir effin heid aff”

     

     

    the boss man

     

    “saint stivs your feckin mince , your aff”

     

     

    saint stivs

     

    “ok, boss”

  3. bournesouprecipe on 2nd January 2019 4:15 pm

     

     

    We’re unlikely to spend large chunks of the ‘Dembele money’ in January more likely punts and loans yet Celtic fans would rather Bayo was priced at £5M because we’d be seen to be spending our stashed cash.

     

    ===

     

    Actually i’d rather we spent money wisely after detailed and prolonged assessment from our scouting dept with the board and management agreeing a ceiling for how much should be paid for a player prior to tabling a bid rather than the penny pinching haggling our board are accused of at present. We have picked up decent 1st team ready players for relatively little outlay in recent times, Moussa and Virgil for instance, and look at the return we made on them. What we lack, imo, is a decent scouting network. Too reliant on the likes of Lawell junior at Man City and such contacts at other clubs it would seem. Fed up with punts and loans that cost us a fortune and apart from a very few such as Vic W, French Eddy & Paddy R have done nothing but take up a 1st team squad position. If the lad Weah isn’t the next Kylian Mbappé , and he is a relatively unknown entity, why are we signing him and how much is he costing us? As for Bayo – Lubo claims he is worth a punt so who am I to argue with probably the most technically gifted player ever to wear the hoops – hope he is right.

  4. MIKE IN TORONTO

     

    Football seems to be outwith the normal planetary rules.

     

    Can’t really see limiting loans falling under a restriction of trade as it is clearly favoring the rich in it’s present form. but i am no lawyer and can’t ask the wife as she is fed up with me talking football.

     

    Also unlikely the financially doped rulers of the former beautiful game allowing anything to interfere with their constant quest for profit.

     

    EUFA and all the football clubs who allowed the present corrupt environment to come to fruition bear responsibility.

     

    The fans not for the first time have been shafted.

  5. SoT that’s some line up at Windsor, my type of music back then. I take it that Chicken Shack included the young Christine Perfect, BTW before John McVie joined John Mayall he was a tax inspector.

     

     

    I first saw the Gaylord’s minus Tam McAleese aka Dean Ford at a BB Hall in Balloch their singer then was Tommy Scott, Pat Fairley and Junior Campbell were with them, they were regulars down Balloch for a while. They released a record, 20 Miles, which was a minor hit in West Dumbartonshire.

     

     

    Reflections IMHO is an iconic hit that is so 70s. I had not long returned fae here tae live when Obla Dee came out, one of the better Beatles covers.

     

     

    Petec picking up on someone you mentioned a day or so ago, I’ve just finished Slowhand the Eric Clapton book, I read his biography and Patti Boyd’s about 11 year ago, she didnae miss him and hit the wall, same again in this one.

     

     

    When he left the Yardbirds John Mayall gave him an opportunity tae play the blues, he wisnae long there until Cream came along, he was a bit dubious at walking out on John who had been good to him, even giving him digs, however John said not tae worry as he had a young exciting replacement lined up, Peter Greenbaum who IMHO was the finest guitarist of that era and that includes Clapton, Page, Hendrix and TYA’s Alivin Lee.

  6. I have said before, that I do not believe everyone is entitled to an opinion. Some of the nonsense posted on here today gives substance to my view.

     

     

    JJ

  7. OGLACH

     

    We may be proactive as a business but on the footballing side we fall way short.

     

    Have often said a lot of our weakness on the field which clearly shows in European ties is we are a reactionary rather than proactive side.

     

    So hoping to be surprised that we come out of this transfer window an improved side due to good forward planning rather than the usual knee-jerk .

  8. oglach @ 4.39

     

     

     

    It’s the January market your’e objecting to, we hardly scout for summer let alone winter

     

     

    Quality comes up less frequently most ‘good’ players aren’t available mid season.

     

     

    Though it didn’t stop us signing Stuart Armstrong. Kris Commons or Barry Robson for example. all signed

     

    in January.

     

     

    This window and the next major summer window will determine how many in a row IMHO

  9. Seamus Coleman aged 30 from Killybegs Donegal, right back, falling down the pecking order at Everton. Think he is out of contract next June. Wages might be a problem but he has some pedigree, if it could be done I’d take him in a heart beat.

  10. succulentlambstinks on

    SAINT STIVS on 2ND JANUARY 2019 4:34 PM

     

    an earlier comment that this is a blog so its ok to type what you want about a player because its not to their face, well if you would say it to them why type it on here ?

     

     

    trolling indeed.

     

     

    Now your making up nonsense.

     

     

    Never stated I would say it to their face.

     

    Stated that I post it here as I have.

     

    Freedom of speech and all that.

  11. Guys,

     

     

    We keep harping back to John McGinn. We do not know if he would have had the desired and anticipated impact at Parkhead.

     

    Mabies aye, mabies naw.

     

    Many have walked through the Parkhead gates with bigger reputations then failed.

     

     

    What we do know is that Villa have only won one game in the last six and Dean Smith reckons he is showing signs of fatigue.

     

     

    Consider the amount of games he would be asked to play at Parkhead.

     

     

    No opinion , only an observation.

     

     

    HH.

  12. SAINT STIVS on 2ND JANUARY 2019 4:38 PM

     

    many moons ago, playing in the greenock summer league , one of the older and certainly one of the toughest guys around had a set to with the manager at half time.

     

     

     

    the boss man

     

     

    “joe, ffs whits the matter with you, you have been pish, your no trying a leg, ffs”

     

     

     

    joe responded

     

     

    “whit did you just say, who do you think yir feckin takin tae, no trying a leg, say that again and i will take yir effin heid aff”

     

     

     

    the boss man

     

     

    “saint stivs your feckin mince , your aff”

     

     

     

    saint stivs

     

     

    “ok, boss”

     

    ——–

     

    Saint Stivs – good wee story..

     

     

    That got me thinking about the last time I seen a Celtic player being upset about being subbed.

     

    Probably the Griffalo. Not that we want to see someone argue with the manager, but a wee huff whilst being hooked shows you care.

     

    Most of us know that when your on the park you never want to be subbed and when you are not on all you want is to get on.

     

    Only my opinion though and I am probably wrong as usual.

     

     

    D. :)

  13. mike in toronto on

    Corkcelt

     

     

    I always liked Coleman as a player.

     

     

    I remember reading somewhere that he is one of the lower paid players at Everton …. the average wage there was something like 50,000 per week, and he was only (“ONLY”) on 36 or 38,000 per week.

     

     

    Young McCarthy is on more than 50,000 per week there, so I would have thought a senior player like Coleman would be getting at least that.

     

     

    Perhaps, SC needs a better agent … I’ll give him a call. Still think that, even on a reduced wage, he would be too expensive for Celtic. But f he signs for Celtic, I’ll agree to reduce my percentage, if that gets the deal over the line.

  14. Re old pop music reminisces from sixties/seventies, The Trinkets preceded Wet Wet Wet as top group from Clydebank.

  15. glendalystonsils on

    BOURNESOUPRECIPE on 2ND JANUARY 2019 4:57 PM

     

     

    Ol’ Lee doesn’t hang around long enough to be spotted. He’s too busy jetting around the world seeking out the finest talent to bring home to Celtic.

     

     

    Allegedly.

  16. lamb stinks,

     

     

    i had a typo.

     

     

    so let me try again.

     

     

    under the animinity of a blog you are ok with typing whatever you want about a player, but you wouldnt say it to their face, just to confirm, that is the point your making.

     

    with a cover all of “freedom of speech” you will type whatever you like about celtic players. people who won us trophies, broke records, acheived great things.

     

     

    you will attack them as soon as you feel they are not good enough , and in your opinion did not try hard enough in any particular game, thats what your saying, isnt it, does that sum it up ?

  17. david66,

     

     

    i was a bit scared of both of them, i was in a lose lose situation, lol.

     

     

    i also dont know how anoyone knows that someone on the park is “not trying”.

  18. Saint Stivs— I think we have all said it at some point about a player not trying.

     

    I think it’s just that they are off form, not good enough, started badly and not up for the game ahead.

     

    I think this is where a good man manager like BR should come into his own.

     

    He and his staff should know if a player is not up to the task on any given day and change things.

     

     

    I don’t think players go out to deliberately not try.

     

     

    HH

     

     

    D. :)

  19. Saint Stivs, the beast was training with us with a view tae signing, Jock wanted him and he wanted tae play for him. Former calvinist captain dave mackay up on holiday heard about him and went tae Bill Nicholson advising him tae bring him tae White Hart Lane, which he did.

     

     

    He was as arrogant as a teenager as he was all his football life and soon demanded a first team place. Oul Bill got fed up with him banging on his door that he punted him tae 2nd Divison Middlesbrough, he wisnae a big hit until Jack Charlton arrived on the scene bringing his first signing Bobby Murdoch, Chopper was the mhan that made

  20. DAVID66 hi pal we need to start recruiting now, not waiting till the end of the window, Brendan must know the reinforcements he needs, if he does not get backed by the club I will fear the worst. hope your liver is okay.??

  21. Continuing: the beast and the rest is history, it’s quite ironic that he could have been one of the Quality Street gang who replaced the injury prone Bobby.

     

     

    Another future Liverpool player that we had training with us was john wark although he widnae sign saying in later years he just could nae pull that strip on, meaning the hoops.

  22. Hi bhoys,

     

     

    Apologies if this isn’t the correct forum for the following question but any advice appreciated…

     

     

    I’m hoping to go to the Valencia home game on the 14th Feb, as expected tickets are only on sale to season tickets holders currently. I’m not a STH as I don’t live in Scotland. I’m wondering what are the chances of getting a ticket for that game if/when they go on general sale?

     

    Would you expect the game to be sold out in advance of ?

     

     

    Thanks,

     

    Curlybhoy

  23. succulentlambstinks on

    SAINT STIVS on 2ND JANUARY 2019 5:08 PM

     

     

    What I’m saying is …. the players that have not performed all season should not be in the team. Lustig constantly allows crosses in which result in a goal conceded. Scott Sinclair hasn’t kicked a ball all season oh bar a hattrick Tap in at Aberdeen, so I state this as such nothing more nothing less. Record breakers or otherwise dosnt put future titles on a plate. We have no Devine right to anything. Earn it first. And I don’t abuse them I’m merely stating their no longer good enough…simples.

  24. OGLACH on 2ND JANUARY 2019 4:39 PM

     

     

     

    We have picked up decent 1st team ready players for relatively little outlay in recent times, Moussa and Virgil for instance, and look at the return we made on them. What we lack, imo, is a decent scouting network

     

     

     

    Aren’t you contradicting yourself there?

  25. Curlybhoy

     

    Sorry, can`t help you with your enquiry .

     

    Are you the same poster who used to post as `Curly` and sign off with anagrams thereof?

     

     

    JJ

  26. VP,

     

     

    i posted a while ago, the action man with the kit on.

     

    i was a wee action man fanatic from 5 to maybe maybe 10, then i got all radicalised with going to the games with fenian uncles.

     

     

    was funny though action man in his tank with a celtic kit on and a sub machine gun in those grabber hands.

     

     

    need to find it now.

  27. BP1 I agree wholeheartedly

     

     

    My liver is working fine just now.

     

     

    I am trying a detox for a month and need to get back to the gym..?

     

     

    Hope you are all well.

     

     

    HH

     

     

    D. :)