State of the Club Report, December 2018


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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  1. HOT SMOKED @ 9:55 AM,



    Yes, I hope we keep it simple this transfer window, a few quality, longtermists in the positions we need strengthened…



    Prospects, Projects, Loanees, Squad Fillers… We need to seriously manage the squad in the summer when so many contracts end and we have a great opporchancity to restructure the first team…



    AN DUN @ 9:58 AM,



    Yes, was thinking the same, to the fair to Dedryk though, after his initial huff he settled down and played.



    But he’s going to be trying to avoid injury and probably not going to be playing with knocks



    Hail Hail

  2. Struggling to comprehend the wisdom of Brendan demanding that Boyatta stay,when clearly,he did not want to.Even more baffling at the time was the view on here that it was somehow a victory for Brendan over the Board.Now where are we?.The reason Brendan wanted him to stay,is that we did not have any CHs lined up to come in,likewise striker when Dembele upped sticks.Through this glaringly poor foresight,we lost out on a £ 9 million transfer fee which would comfortably have got us our CH,and probably our striker.We could have had our new CH,playing alongside Benko,and gearing up,after a full season,for the CL qualifiers.A right back bought this window,and we would have been good to go in July.Instead,again,due it seems to further shocking scouting,it seems lessons were not learned.


    Yesterday I stated that if Bayo had been thoroughly scouted and was deemed a target,that £ 2.7 million was not a lot of money,some came on slating that.Too much money.Is this the same people who go on about Mc Ginn.On the Mc Ginn thing.When he went to Villa,we then signed the second best ,after Broony,midfielder in our league,Mulumbu,Brendan has not thought him good enough to play.Why.Saturday wouldbhave seemed a perfect game for his battling qualities,considering we were missing main men.


    The Board,who deserve equal measures of abuse,and congratulations,cannot be held accountable for the shambolic scouting,and signings of the manager.A lot of other things,but not this.

  3. Don’t care who’s fault the recruitment shambles of the last 12 months is, just get it sorted.



    We need quality and a few of them over the park. NOT PROJECTS.



    If Castagne is costing 10 million, then either get him or move on… I think if Brendan wants him then we should get him 10 million or not.


    This is not panicking, we have needed players in these positions for more than 12. Feckin months.



    Ps I don’t read papers, don’t buy papers, don’t trust smsm or TV. I look St official feeds from the club, or some good Celtic sites






    D. :)

  4. South Of Tunis on




    Mainstream Italian fitba media have him likely to be signing for Lazio @ 7.5 million euros



    That doesn’t mean it’s true !

  5. succulentlambstinks on



    so a basic requirement will be 2 non-project , ready to go , CB’s for starters.



    That’s been the case for years now .. but who cares .. the board ? Do they hell. The thumb suckers on here ? Do they hell.



    So next year and next and next will pose the same statement … so a basic requirement will be 2 non-project , ready to go , CB’s for starters.

  6. Paul67 et al



    Best wishes to Jack Hendry if indeed he goes out on loan to Sunderland or elsewhere. Could be good for him if he gets gametime. Not so sure it is such a good move for us though given our current situation. Not everybody’s cup of tea I know, but I think there is a player of some ability there, with good qualities who could benefit from playing alongside a good old fashioned and experienced professional if only we could find one. I would say he is where Boyota was 3-4 seasons back. Would be surprised if Celtic didn’t sell Boyota if an offer came in, we had him sold to Fulham don’t forget, so losing both Jack and Dedryck will hardly improve matters, not unless that is we get past Airdrie in the SC and draw Greenock in the next round giving Marvin “Morton” Kompfner a chance at redemption.

  7. So – 3 days into the Transfer Window and Celtic are getting it in the neck for not signing anybody.



    We’re right up against it with only 28 days left in the window, aren’t we?



    And, of course, it is best to get your players early and try to bed them in during training practices but, as always you need a lot of factors to combine- a willing selling club, a player willing to come, a fee within the parameters of the players estimated worth and an agent being happy with his cut, being amongst the prime ones.



    We could easily recruit players within the first week of January.



    All we would have to do was shop for players for whom Celtic was going to be the biggest club coming in for them. We could get Lawrence Shankland easily but…. who else?



    The boy in Slovakia, it seems is willing to come. Celtic seem interested in him. I am unaware of the agent’s view on his proposed cut or even if it has got this far. But the club, we know, has, as many do, tried to bump up the price at the last minute claiming there are other clubs willing to pay more.



    So, if we estimated Bayo as a player worth buying at anything between £1 to £2m, should we pay £2.5m to land him no questions asked? What about £3m or £3.5m. At what time do you decide we are being asked to pay more than the product is worth?



    And the same question arises whether you are scouting a £1-2m player, £3-4m, or £8-10m. There is a point where you must walk away because the price is too rich.



    And while the buying club wants to land its targets early, it has to work within an environment where the selling club and player and agent may want to wait till nearer the end of the window or until the bidding war has climaxed before maximising their price.



    This is always the case in every transfer window. Sometimes you land lucky and get a gem that few others were interested in, certainly none of the bigger clubs, but mostly you have to wait.



    Yet we always get those who cannot or will not understand the restrictions under which deals are done.



    If we left business in the hands of those who advocate “just pay them what they’re asking for”, or who advocate “if he won’t sign straightaway, move on to the next target who is willing to come”, they would have us either quickly bankrupted or with a squad full of inadequate but eager players.



    Are other clubs doing all their business in the first days of the transfer window? Have their fans called them a disgrace for not getting it done?



    I just looked at the transfer news and rumours section on a paper’s website; it tells me that Falkirk have signed Abdul Osman and Preston have signed Jayden Stockley. Every other story is about a transfer rumour or a bid but no settled deals.



    Why, as a fan, would you castigate your own club for not doing something that no other club manages to do?



    I read the earlier defence that much of the criticism comes from feelings of love and concern over what is happening with our club and I accept this.



    But, I ask you, if you applied that to other loving situations you have with spouses, children, family and friends and castigated them 19 times more than you ever praised them, how long would that remain a loving relationship?



    This club has delivered 7 titles in a row and, most recently 7 trophies and titles in a row. At any period of history, that is unprecedented success.



    So, concern and encouragement to do well in transfers over this month is understandable, but why this level of criticism before we’ve even allowed players and clubs to have a New Year’s break?

  8. David 66,


    Brendan is in Dubai.The team fly out Saturday.I take it,that its up to PL to try and get these over the line.Not a CH mentioned so far.Castagna was initially around,£ 6 million.That,according to reports is now considerably higher.Does he even want to come.Seems it would be a last resort for him.


    Move on.To who?Is their a list?


    Sorry,I have no confidence in our scouting dept..I fear another shambles.

  9. Succulent lamb,



    Where are the CHs?Its not up to the Board to find them.They employ,at great expense people to do that.So far,Jack Hendry,and a panic attempt to recruit a CH from Aberdeen.Not the greatest of research gone into that.


    In the summer,everyone except our Scouts were coming up with suitable targets.The Mc Ginn saga took a lot of flak of them and Brendan.I include Brendan,because he should be demanding 2 or 3 viable targets.Does not seem so.

  10. Sn@kePLissken67 on

    If it is true that Dunajska Streda are rejecting Celtic’s bid – no confirmation from my end but it looks like it has happened – then it is time to say Celtic are going to make a mess of this window as well.



    EVERY window the club identify players, put in bids that are too low and think they are being clever by doing so. Wanted targets move on more often than they sign and we get laughed at.









    The manager wants someone.



    End of.



    No excuses. No obfuscation.



    We cannot pay 2.7M for a player but can pay a bonus of 2.3M?



    Which do Celtic need to pay for more right now? A striker or a bonus for not spending any money when it needs to be and losing top targets over a summer making other clubs contenders in the process?



    Sick to death of this every single time.



    Identify players


    BUY players (occasional loans allowed)


    Buy more if needed


    Sell what you don’t need



    Is it just me?

  11. TURKEYBHOY @ 11:06 AM,



    Apologies for not getting back to you before, have noticed some replys when aff oot, I like to reply when I’m able…



    Ok, firstly, in my view blaming is not the answer, as far as I’m concerned the recruitment issues are systemic.



    Now let’s try to put the John McGinn thing to bed.



    No one needs to be shot at dawn for this..:)



    The Board had a plan to get JMcG; a transfer fee last Summer, a Pre-contract, possible nominal fee this January, a Bosman next summer… ok… no dramas



    Brendan wanted him in early doors last Summer, probably realised Broonie not fit… ok… no dramas



    The Board sigh, say ok and put in a strategy… something this…



    Start the bidding to Hibs at 1.5M go up to half as much again with follow up bids… stop at 2.25M



    Few would disagree with that strategy, few thought we should go higher, most thought we would get McGinn one way or another.



    We start Bidding, Hibs stop playing McGinn but the Club’s can’t agree… Hibs want more, a lot more…



    This is where things seem to have diverged. The Board feeling they’d gave it their best shot. The Football department thinking they need to go further…



    Though the communication here seems to be a failure…



    Aston Villa come in, pay the asking price give McGinn assurances what he wants as a player and a very good salary…



    So, who’s right and who’s wrong?



    There’s an argument that says you don’t go above your max price when bidding. There’s an argument that says when you want a player you do the necessary to close the deal.



    It’s a matter for those involved at Celtic to sit down and agree.



    IMO no one was particularly right and no one was particularly wrong… part of the systematic failing.



    Let’s hope we’ve got our ships in line this window…



    Hail Hail

  12. SFTB,



    I agree with you on what price are we prepared to go to for players.Pity this was not discussed in the summer,when Celtic offered a reasonable fee for Mc Ginnand Hibs then bumped it to £4 million.We all know the outcome,but this did not matter to the perpetrators of the witch hunt aimed at the Board.Anyone trying to put your present points across then,called a “Board lover”.With Brendan in Dubai for 2 weeks,he must be reasonably content with his scouting depts list of targets.We shall see.




    One thing is sure,this will be a very important window.With failure in the qualifiers last year,and a real challenge on for the league,we must strengthen.I remain to be convinced that Congerton and Brendan have the answers.As I said earlier,Brendan for not seeming to demand a bulging dossier of targets from his scouts.No use having one target as seemed to be the case in the Summer,when that failed,start throwing the toys,or panic and turn to Aberdeen.

  14. succulentlambstinks on

    We’re right up against it with only 28 days left in the window, aren’t we?



    You better believe it as is the normal.


    Then it will become 2.8 days and we will sign another stop gap heap of trash.



    This is the new normal. Very sad.



    The press have always had an agenda but historically there was more individual proprietors giving different viewpoints.


    The Vietnam war changed everything.


    The establishment realized that they failed to control the message and it was their opinion that it was not the Vietnamese who defeated them and ended the war but public opinion.


    Since the seventies it is not coincidental that media ownership has concentrated.


    The sevco Lazarus situation being a perfect example of having control of the message.


    Politicians have facilitated and Thatcher was a prime example.






    In America Murdoch also got the benefits of politicians rule changes.






    Since then consolidation has continued.







    Without the insidious effect of media many empires would never have come to pass.

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