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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. mike in toronto on

    st. stivs…

     

     

    go for it!

     

     

    just make sure you and vp dont get into a bidding war!

  2. celtic40me on 2nd January 2019 5:35 pm

     

     

     

    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?

     

    ===

     

     

    Better wording word be “a decent and more consistent scouting network”.

     

     

    3 quality players worth a huge sell on fee (which is after all the boards mantra and raison d’être) from the ? we have signed in ? years would indicate we do not have a decent and consistent scouting system. IMHO

  3. It’s been a successful first half of the season for the Hoops on the pitch despite the problems on the transfer front which we all hope Dermot Desmond will resolve in the coming weeks now that we can see new Rangers have become a threat again. We all want a competitive Championship and it’s happening no doubt about it.

     

     

    I was impressed with the lad Kent whom I believe is on loan and he sure caused us a lot of trouble – he was a standout in some of their games in Europe – maybe their version of Paddy Roberts. Celtic were caught in an Ibrox ambush and it will not happen again when they come to Celtic Park next March. The Hoops will be ready this time.

     

     

    No doubt Brendan and the lads are enjoying their well-earned break in the sunshine. A little bitty training here and there and knocking back copious pints of stout building up the old energy for the final push for the title.

  4. SAINT STIVS on 2ND JANUARY 2019 5:55 PM

     

    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.

     

     

    ======================================================

     

     

    Me too, though I used to add a balaclava on him. Gave it a whole different perspective…

  5. SUCCULENTLAMBSTINKS

     

    A bit harsh as in the three games prior to huns he played well.

     

    Against Motherwell he scored and was involved.

     

    Against Dundee he did not score but created a lot.

     

    In both these games he had a formation that helped as he ,Izzy and Ollie formed a great triangle giving him more options.

     

    His 3 goals against Aberdeen playing as a centre showed his game sense and value.

     

    Like a lot of other players his form has dipped since Brendan’s brilliant first season.

     

    Just maybe other teams studied film and have set up to reduce the effectiveness of our team and individual players?

     

    In life adaptability is key.

     

    Time for players and coaches to reverse the decline.

     

    Sinclair has talent but is mentally fragile so proper use of his strengths is required to overcome his mental frailty.

  6. OGLACH on 2ND JANUARY 2019 6:06 PM

     

     

    A profit on transfers of £55m over the six years to June 2018, while maintaining a squad which has won the last seven trophies available in Scotland and is going for an eighth league title in a row suggests recruitment isn’t that bad.

  7. HANKRAY

     

    Kents performance was straight out of Jekyll and Hyde.

     

    A brilliant first half against Lustig and a total no show when facing Ralston in the second.

     

    Hard to tell wether a weak looking Lustig made him look better than he actually is or was Ralston defensively brilliant?

  8. Buying players cheap and selling them on is part of a strategy, not the strategy in itself and definitely not a raison d’etre. Those leagues and cups don’t get won by accident

  9. CELTIC4ORME

     

    Guess it’s what is your priority.

     

    If simply profit then it’s outstanding,

     

    As for improving the team that’s debatable.

  10. Celtic please listen on

    Thinking back to the mid- late 80’s it is my belief that Souness got it a lot easier than he otherwise would have. We lost a lot of experience that imho contributed to our rapid decline, some if not most offered better elsewhere or father time, illness . Macleod, Aitken, Burns,Mc Cluskey Mc Garvey & Provan even Bonnar. Previous to them Mc Grain & Lennox. Must add choccy & le petit merde too though they for sure it was money & the old board seeing pound signs. My point is those listing the likes of Broony, Lustig & Gordon for the chop careful what you wish for, these guys again imo are invaluable to the squad. Must add those slating James Forrest ? One good game out of ten really ? Widnae no a player if he sat next to you that’s being polite. Seven out of seven Brendan & some want to bullet him tae ? Get a grip ffs or stay away fae the net please n goes peace. HH

  11. FAN-A-TIC on 2ND JANUARY 2019 6:40 PM

     

     

    We’ve definitely been better at winning trophies than turning in a profit, at least since 2000.

     

     

    The squad definitely looks in need of improvement at the moment but I’m not sure how you improve on winning each of the last 7 trophies available. Either football success is the actual priority or it’s a fortunate by product of chasing profit.

  12. CELTI4OME

     

    We have won trophies in the six years referenced in your first post.

     

    Why change that to 18 years in your response?

     

    In the last six years it would be hard to deny that there were different conditions than in the other years dating back to 2000.

     

    Footballing improvement with our financial resources would be my priority.

     

    Can you honestly say we improved in Brendan second season over his brilliant first?

     

    Have we improved on his second season this time?

     

    A one dimensional signing strategy fraught with risk and our statistical decline over last two suggests such.

  13. make no mistake, if we feck up this transfer window them sevconians will be rubbing their hands with glee, don’t forget they have the establishment on their side, the masons in the black will stop at nothing to help them,hh.

  14. It’s a very simplistic way of looking at it of course, it’s not one thing or the other, reinvesting profits wisely will help ensure we stay successful on the park

  15. Think the Bhoys are heading to Dubai on Saturday. They were given a few days off to spend with Family after the Hun game.

  16. celticrollercoaster on

    ***Goals Galore 4 -starts this Saturday***

     

     

    Good Evening folks, with just 3 days to our big launch, we are delighted to say we have 62 entrants, so far. You should have all received a welcome email with your first set of fixtures. If not, please drop us an email at cqnpredictor@gmail.com. With it being January, please feel free to join our competition and pay by the next pay day at the end of January. If we get to 67, all entrants will be entered into a draw for an additional entry, so don’t miss out!

     

     

    We will also be announcing our beneficiaries later tonight. Two fantastic causes as always!

     

     

    HH

     

     

    CRC

  17. Back to Basics - Glass Half Full on

    Deniabgoy @ 3:22pm – good stuff. Apologies for delayed response.

     

     

    Re the Brady comment – IMHO some of our fans have forgotten (or not experienced) what REALLY BAD looks like.

     

     

    Furthermore, again IMHO, some of our fans have been suckered by the orchestrated ‘souring of the milk of our success’ blatantly perpetrated by other forces.

     

     

    Celtic won the treble in 2016-17.

     

     

    Celtic achieved the double treble in 2017-18.

     

     

    Celtic are top of the league with a game in hand.

     

     

    Celtic won the league cup last month.

     

     

    Celtic are still in Europe.

     

     

    Kilmarnock won more league points in 2018 than any other SPFL team.

     

     

    Celtic won more league points per game in 2018 than anyone else.

     

     

    All of these are incontrovertible facts.

     

     

    Lawwell’s motivations, Rodgers’ aspirations, Congerton’s responsibilties and Sevco’s potential capabilities are all conjecture.

     

     

    Why are people on here scared of Sevco but not scared of Kilmarnock? Grow a pair !

     

     

    Opinion – we’ll win the league by 6-10 points. I projected 11-15 at beginning of the season.

     

     

    If you think all of the above is indulgent BS then let me boil it down to this.

     

     

    Celtic have underperformed MASSIVELY this season so far and have STILL won the ONLY trophy up for grabs and are TOP of the league.

     

     

    Just how BAD must the others be?

     

     

    Hail hail

  18. CELTIC4OME

     

    Not simplistic at all.

     

    Not advocating a huge spend but a better balance of resources and priorities.

     

    Our performances have declined in the last two seasons and we need to be less complacent and look to see if our seemingly profit first transfer strategy is contributing to such.

  19. Fan-a-tic………..He looks quite a skilful player with pace to burn and he frightenend a few defenders in their European games. Consistency as you observed could be his problem.

  20. GlassTwoThirdsFull on

    Some good posts today.

     

    We need to rebalance the squad in favour of quality from quantity.

     

    Every good team has competition for places.

     

    If you have Johnny Hayes in your position are you going to be thinking you might lose your place to him? What if it was Patrick Roberts? Same with the likes of Gamboa and Hendry.

     

    Ryan Christie works his butt off every game because it took him so long to get into the team that he doesn’t want to lose his place because he might not get it back. Callum McGregor was the same. It’s only really this season he has become an “automatic” pick.

     

    We have good options in midfield. Not so much elsewhere.

     

    Fewer players of higher quality. Supplement with the development team players.

  21. Glasstwothirdsfull………..Would love to see a big physical center forward, good in the air in the Sutton, Hartson mould signed.

  22. Maybe just me ?

     

    Jonny Hayes, was as good as anyone else playing on the left hand side of a team in Scotland, when we signed him, this included numerous games at left wing back for Aberdeen.

     

    He has suffered a knee injury, then a double break in his leg, trying to play for us

     

    He needs games, but from what I have witnessed, never let us down to any great extent

     

    A very decent squad player for FtSPFL

     

    I struggle to understand the criticism of him.

     

     

    Paddy Roberts, got James Forrest performing to expectations, Roberts suffered an injury, keeping him out the team for over four months, by time he came back from injury it was Feb, his contract with us expired in the May, he still made a significant contribution in his last few months.

     

     

    Just my opinion mind

  23. CURLYBHOY on 2ND JANUARY 2019 5:29 PM

     

     

    Hi bhoys,

     

     

     

     

    Curlybhoy

     

     

    I ‘might ??’ be able to get a tkt.

     

     

    Get my email from P67.

     

     

    No guarantee as havent been offered yet.

     

     

    HH

  24. Seen a wee snippet on news now, that we showed an interest in Nathaniel Clyde of Liverpool, a Brendan signing, who has been out for around 18 months with injury, but now fit, and cannot get back into squad, due to the New England right back wonder kid that plays for Liverpool

     

     

    Like Coleman of Everton a decent option ??? If we could afford

  25. Back to Basics

     

     

    Great perspective.

     

     

    Too many Record readers and BBC website followers not seeing the full picture.

  26. I think most folk see that the BBC has gone way beyond its normal depths since April and the appointment of a certain RichRd Wilson as online editor for sports in scotland.

     

     

    It is well known as to where his allegiance lies and he is taking media manipulation to another level on a daily basis as many can testify.

     

     

    He has publicly stated his position and doesn’t hide it. I have no problem with that but I do believe his 8 month tenure so far has taken bias to another level. Pravda does not come close as a propaganda vehicle. Anti Celtic and pro pro Rangers every day.

     

     

    Please feel free to complain to the national broadcaster in London if you do see any obvious suggestions of this. He is and should be answerable.

  27. celticrollercoaster on

    Norrie67

     

     

    I think Johnny Hayes will be one of those players that come to Celtic but never made the grade. I hope I am wrong but not seen enough so far, but then as you say he has struggled with injury

     

     

    Did Paddy’s final season not peter out due to injury and the in form James Forrest? I do not remember him having much game time at all in the season never mind the last couple of months.

     

     

    By the way, your youngest daughter did well on her horse betting yesterday :-)

     

     

    HH

     

     

    CRC

  28. BURNLEY78 @7-49

     

    Too many Record readers and BBC website followers not seeing the full picture.

     

     

    Conjecture or fact?

  29. We really need to hope that Leicester don’t get any injuries to their CB’s and that Boyatta stays, else we are sort of fecked at the back, seems like a priority to me

  30. Evening all

     

     

    On for some help.

     

     

    SkyGo error message tells me I am running software capable of capturing video.

     

     

    Any idea how I resolve it?