State of the Club Report, December 23


My friends in Celtic, we finish the year top of the league having just schooled our nearest rivals for the second time in two games.  A dip in form ended just in time to see the club collect nine points from three games, with an important trip to St Mirren to complete before the winter break.  All is right for three-in-a-row.

So why am I so worried?  It’s about the strategic direction the club takes going forward.  I don’t want to just win the league, or even just qualify for the Champions League.  I am 56 years old, I want to see Celtic dive deep into that tournament.  I want to see us achieve what Neil Lennon and Gordon Strachan did in Europe, even if the achievements of Jock Stein’s era are nothing more than a fantasy.

If we get everything right, I believe a successful football club can come from our league and achieve what the best in Holland or Portugal have done.  To get there, we need to double down on what we are good at, improve where we can and avoid the obvious pitfalls.

Since 2021 we have concentrated development resources into players (largely) under 24 years old.  Augmented by the significant contribution of a then-unknown (i.e. risky) Kyogo, this has delivered an enormous haul of trophies.  Celtic finished a distant second in 2021 but have dropped only two domestic trophies since, a period in which their main rivals reached significant milestones in European competition.

Finding and developing players of the calibre of Carter-Vickers, Jota, Hatate, Maeda, O’Riley and Abada is so obviously where Celtic are as a club, it defies explanation (but here we are).  The aforementioned benefited from arriving at the club during a period of rebuilt.  In the squad, goalkeeper, defence, midfield and attack were all overhauled.  The new arrivals got gametime and soon flourished.

This summer, our man outlays went on Nawrocki €5m, Palma, €4.75m, Lagerbielke €3.4m, Holm €3m, with an option to buy Bernardo for €6m.  Palma was first to get a sustained opportunity and has thrived, scoring in the Champions League and recording assists in important games.

After a run of only three starts, Paulo Bernardo was the toast of Celtic Park.  He contributes every inch as much as Matt O’Riley and at €6m is an absolute steal – IF we contribute to develop him correctly, and not allow him to wither on the vine.

Odin Holm (20) has the potential to be every bit as good as Paulo and Matt.  He has had a terrible time with illness since arriving in Glasgow, but he will fully recuperate and by his peak years will be performing in a top European league.

For reasons I have not been able to fathom, Gustaf Lagerbielke’s face doesn’t seem to fit.  The player has scarcely taken to the field, and when he did, he scored a Champions League winner, but minds have been made up.

On the other hand, great things are expected of Maik Nawrocki.  He has endured persistent injuries since August, and was thrown into the deep end yesterday, but the consensus at Lennoxtown is that he will also play his peak years in a top European league.

If Celtic have been exceptional at anything in recent years, it is finding and developing great prospects.  We need to do more of this, we need to look for ways to improve it, and we need to lead the club with this exceptional strategy.  Convince the footballing world, if you have talent, Celtic will find it and grow it into something great.

Luck plays a part in football.  Injuries, illness and opportunity can all determine whether or not a player is successful.  But in this respect anyway, luck eventually evens itself out.  Can we all agree, let’s have more of Cater-Vickers, Nawrocki, Jota, Palma, Abada, Holm and Hatate.

So with the strategic plan clearly so successful why am I worried?  We lose two league games, get our backsides handed to us in Madrid, and we want a quick and lazy fix (which will not work).

This “we need more experienced players” harks back to past successes, like the phenomenal Scott Sinclair.  But Scott came 8 years ago and the world has changed since then.  “More experience players” means fewer like Nawrocki and more like Nat Phillips.  Nat is 26, has experience in the EPL and Champions League with Liverpool and is exactly the player we can expect to sign when we go for “more experience”.

Nat is not the only example.  Let me disturb your afternoon with memories of Duffy, Laxalt, Bauer, Marvelous Marvin Compper, Gamboa, Toure and (still on the payroll) James McCarthy!  Look across the city. They have gone full pelt with this strategy; Lammers, Dessers, Danilo, Dowell, the wee boy with the tints in his hair, Davies and Lundstrum.

It’s not cheap either.  Despite being universally acknowledged as being rubbish, they have a higher payroll than Celtic; Dessers is on £30k per week and that big lump Lundstrum banks £40k a week to traipse around in Callum McGregor’s shadow.

It is a strategy, but it’s a rubbish one.  It leads to a development dead end, not just with respect of the players, but for the club as a whole.  The chances of bringing a Scott Sinclair-type talent to Scottish football are remote, this is what “more experienced” looks like and it isn’t pretty.

This is where we are: Nawrocki or Phillips, Bernardo or Lammers.  There is only one way forward for Celtic, do more of what we are good at, do it ruthlessly, without exception.  Even Brendan should have personal developmental goals.  This is where Alex Ferguson was so exceptional and others (Martin, even Jock), didn’t adapt.  Managers need to be confident enough to disarm and learn.

It’s also worth correcting a commonly held belief that Celtic have a particularly young team.  If our preferred starting 11 includes Abada and Hatate instead of Palma and Bernardo in yesterday’s line-up, the average age is 26.6 years.  We are a team with a decent range of youth and experience.

Jota, Carter-Vickers et al gave us a reputation as a great place to for a young prospect to come to.  If we screw up with the (also very good) most recent crop of recruits, we will not get next season’s crop, they will go elsewhere.

The next two transfer windows are pivotal to the direction of the club.  The manner in which we won the game yesterday, with Bernardo and Nawrocki writing the script, adds valuable perspective on where we are and where we should be moving.  Double down, be the best and what we are very good at, no reverse gear, no Phillips, Duffys, Comppers in a vain effort to find Sinclair.

Our condolences to the family of Len Murray, Celtic fan, lawyer and twice guest speaker at the CQN Golf Day.  Len was a warm man of great intellect and a devastatingly entertaining manner.

Many thanks to those who helped me on CQN this year, Alex Gordon in particular and the two Mods (one on temp vacation) – honestly the worst role in football!

Thanks also for everyone who drops in to give their thoughts or only for a read.  I know so many people I respect who read this stuff.  Not everyone ‘gets’ this club.  You can see the intelletual sneering in some who have left grubby matters like thier football team behind; they have no idea what they have lost. It is a tonic to know my Celtic addition is shared by people I like.  This is who we are, it is our link to the generations past and forward, and for some of us, that really matters.

Take care and have a great 2024!

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  1. bournesouprecipe on

    Celtic wide right?




    Daizen Maeda is the correct answer. His very persistence (even on the right flank) is the best all round Celtic option.



    James Forrest, or M. Johnston, both impact subs at best, Abada ( not fully fit ) or Yang ( project ) make the Japanese player an easy option for Brendan.



    I’d prefer Brennan Johnston from Spurs wide right, but don’t think we’ll top the £45M Ange paid.

  2. Go tell the Spartim on




    2023/2024 version of the emperors new clothes



    I wonder what Peter had up his sleeve, I think the point you’re missing, whoever is writing, is quality.



    We don’t keep our good players long enough to make any dent in Europe, the model is find a nugget to sell on to boost the bank balance.

  3. HH Celtic Quick News……


    and the discerning contributors to


    This Dear Green Place




  4. bigrailroadblues on

    Good afternoon all from the Victoria Bar. State of the club? Should have seen the state of me yesterday.

  5. If we keep developing projects into good players and then selling them, we will never move forward on a European level. It’s just an almost impossible task. I’m not sure how we break out of that process.

  6. Way past the bells here in Melbs, so HNY to all my fellow fans (and the odd fannies) who frequent this salon.


    Brought the NY in down on the foreshore watching Melbourne’s spectacular banger bonanza.


    Hope the suits and recruits see we are only a few bods away from being a great side and strengthen Brendans squad in Jan. He played a savvy role again yesterday, so ‘hail hail’ to the manager from this bhoy.



    Wishing you all, all the best for 24. HH

  7. My own wish for the New Year.



    Please Celtic remember we also value entertainment on the park.


    The Huns will buy enough cluggers to best most of the ithers, knowing full well that the SFA can be relied on to help out as required ( See TavPen)



    As a semi-retired Stank- Lifter I’ve no idea what “strategy” is but I do know what Celtic winning feels like.



    Magic CSC

  8. Happy New year to all on the blog, may Celtic go from strength to strength with the first team the number 1 priority.


    Any goings and comings news?

  9. Paul



    Thanks for all you do to keep the blog going. It must be a huge personal challenge. Even with the subject being something you are emotionally attached to.



    Really thought provoking status update which I am sure will be cynically analysed by those who fear a bogeyman.



    Taking it at face value and appreciating the medium term strategy to be correct I would say I was struggling as to what ‘upgrades’ in quality we would want to deal with the next 5 months. A goalkeeper and a right back and possibly a left back might be my personal priorities plus a striker of cover is needed for the Asian Cup period. The latter one could be a domestic option.

  10. The only tweak to the strategy that I’d like to see is that Celtic should accommodate one or two late career, good professionals in the team. Aaron Mooy, Billy Stark, Pat Stanton, Lubo, Joe Hart. Solid experience with a season or two still in the legs would be invaluable in kicking on in Europe.

  11. Good analysis/strategy ideas Paul.


    Wishing you and all the Celtic Family a Happy Healthy successful 2024.


    That result yesterday finished off December in the ideal Glasgow Celtic way! :))







  12. I forgot to add, and those on the blog not in the best of health at the moment ,Big Jimmy who often blogs on this, I hope the New Year finds you all in better health and fit for normal duties as soon as possible.

  13. Paul67 – thank you for all of this, for all these years.



    RIP John Pilger.



    Let’s hope for more peace and less war – best wishes and good luck to all in 2024.

  14. Corkcelt,



    Please don’t give me that old,you know better than the manager stuff.The Japanese manager plays him through the middle,in his set up.Never on the wing.I have previously said if he must play,it has to be there,where,as yesterday,he can cause problems.But that is only against teams who are open.He can’t dribble,can’t pass,can’t cross,so what the hell is he doing on the wing.Granted he runs about a lot,which suited Ange style,but with BR,he is a fish out of water.For over 50 years I have watched great Celtic players,some not so great,Maeda,I have no idea what he is.Sometimes it looks like it’s the first time he has tried football.On rare occasions does something,but much to rare to warrant a place.

  15. Compelling article Paul67. A sound argument well made.



    That said, I think being flexible is important too. If we have need for cover and experience at certain times we need to get it. My recollection is that is why Phillips was brought in. My view on this aspect of signing players is, avoid the EPL and EFL when bringing in ‘experience’. The astronomical money there is not in direct proportion to the quality. It couldn’t be.



    One other part of the strategy I’d like to refine/ improve is trying to keep some of the quality we do recruit. That and developing our own youngsters into long term first team players. We still need to build successful sides with a stable spine of players if we want to play well in Europe and dominate at home. For example, what is plan to replace Cal Mac? There’s a gaping hole in the team/club on the horizon when he eventually retires. Given the volume if games he plays that may happen sooner than we might anticipate.



    Also, agree entirely on what this club means to so many. For me I get a bit sentimental about Celtic at these times. It is among the most precious of gifts handed down to us by those that went before. I’m sure I’m not the only one missing a few of them as we stare into the new year and look back at the old.



    Whatever 2024 brings I hope you have peace and joy in your lives. Happy New year and hail hail!

  16. The key the success you speak of and what we would all like is balance. More of the same is fine if there is more Jota’s than Kwons feels like stating the obvious but to do that we need a top notch scouting and recruitment network – do we have that or are we willing to build and pay for it? We also need to be careful we don’t churn players too much – it takes a core of settled players to make a team to get beyond Xmas in ECL and we’ll not achieve that by driving players to the airport the minute a semi decent offer comes in.


    The balance I want is some experience and some football brains – and to mention Phillips as some kind of cautionary tale is just daft – think more Mooy than Duffy please. They are also out there and perhaps easier to find than the “development players” and across the city there is a good example in Butland. We should not ignore that market and the role good pros can have in the development of the younger ones.


    Lastly it’s amazing to see Calmac run the show yesterday and we all appreciate bringing through our own boys but it’s there we have the biggest worry. Whether it’s our boys preferably or we get young Scots like GT or DT there does not seem to be a line of kids waiting to come through. If we think we can develop Koreans why can we do do the same with our own?


    Anyway yesterday was great and if we are in the same mood on Tuesday we will take care of StM and for a wee rest before we go again with a few injury returns and perhaps some help from new guys.



  17. GlassTwoThirdsFull on

    Oh dear, back to the glory days of Artmedia, Copenhagen (twice), Aalborg, Cluj, Ferencvaros, etc


    Back to Amido Balde, Rogne, Benyu and those two American lads (can’t remember their names and certainly can’t be bothered looking them up!). See how easy it is to be selective!


    Inexperience cost us in Europe – surely you remember the two red cards in Rotterdam?


    Our points total will be well down on last season. Not only did we fail to strengthen, we didn’t even properly replace the experienced players we lost.


    “Look across the city”. Well I’d rather not as I am just not interested. But they have outperformed us in Europe consistently in recent years.


    But hey – I’m all for an injection of youth. How about starting in the board room?

  18. I think any state of the club report needs to cover more than the first team and recent performance.



    The youth setup, lack of pipeline, lack of linked up thinking in terms of data analysis and player profiles being brought to the club (Lagerbielke is not suited to a Celtic style of football). Where’s the innovation? What aspect of the club is truly cutting edge or world class? What is the 5 year plan? Is there one?

  19. Just back online after a week spent with family pretty much disconnected from the world, bar old school phone and texts. Thanks to Paul and all at CQN for helping provide this service to Celtic fans – much appreciated; and also to a lot of the posters on here for their often much needed perspective, from all sides of each debate.



    I also want to thank a couple of lurkers on this site, whose kindness (and sadly, health issues) have allowed me to share the joy of the live Celtic Park experience far more frequently with my eldest son who has fully caught the Celtic bug after too many years just seeing them on TV or at the odd charity/away game! They know who they are – again, much appreciated.



    As comfortable as yesterday felt for the majority of the match and as much as I agree with almost all of the lead article I do think with the Asian Cup, Sevco going all in, injuries and the Pattern of Assistance that if ever there was a time to go a little above and beyond then it is this transfer window given the potential financial impact on ourselves and our closest domestic rivals potentially for years to come based on this league title and the Euro money available from winning it with FFP in mind.



    If ever there was a time to flex our financial muscle then this is it, especially if done wisely.



    I rate both Lager and Rocky (the ball from Rocky that cut the lines to find MOR who then fed Kyogo for our 2nd yesterday!) – but if Lager’s face doesn’t fit them loan him (and any others who don’t fit) to domestic rivals to strengthen them against all bar us and get in one or two known quantities, even if just short term. We could even loan Shankland for a fee that would help his club retain the player longer term if it benefits us for this season, with loan players in exchange sweetening the deal if needed.



    Whatever happens in the transfer window; I will be back as much as I can as even when my appetite for the 8 hours expeditions has wavered due to what I was watching looking like lack of effort/application at times the wee mhan’s infectious opTIMism and the chat on the supporters bus makes it a no brainer, win lose or draw.



    Hope all here (even the TIMposters) have a Happy Hogmanay.




  20. Malone Bhoy,



    “Lagerbielke is not suited to Celtics style of football”


    And you are basing this on what.5 games played,3 away from home,including Ibrox,15 points,and 2 goals against.


    Or maybe you mean CHs that can header the ball in both boxes.Definitely not for us.



  21. A most important and timely article that will hopefully give more than just a few of us cause to think. The club needs to be united, disharmony will only work against us.



    The temptation to step away from the negativity and leave people to it is always there so it’s nice to read your words at the end.



    Best wishes to all for 2024

  22. All the best in 2024 to all the Tim’s around the world,hopefully after yesterdays result we can beat ST Mirren 5 / o’clock kick off on Tuesday,again Happy New Year

  23. PeterLatchfordsBelly on

    I’d take a Bernardo over a Lundstrum any day. Not sure I would take a Kwon over anyone though.



    I too have high hopes for Holm, but not this season. Nawrocki has looked excellent on the few occasions he’s played. He looks an accomplished passer too. Lagerbielke thing is properly odd, whilst Scales has been a very pleasant surprise.



    What we need is a better balance between the here and now and future seasons. Matt being the poster boy for best of all words. The problem with this season is that balance has been completely out of whack.



    I’m surprised at P67’s untypically utopian hopes of Euro success. The model just isn’t built for it. Case in point will be Matt’s inevitable sale in the summer (fair enough) and replacement by an (at least initially) inferior young prospect. We are in a permanent state of turnover of our best players. The team will never be allowed time to develop to a peak. Our mediocre record in Europe confirms this, albeit we might have one outlier season now and again.



    I’ve long believed our model and style of play lends itself to domestic dominance, whilst the huns’ defensive and direct style serves them better in Europe – Europa not ECL where their limitations are exposed.



    I crave big Euro wins as much as the next Tim, but given the choice I would prioritise league titles every time.




  24. thanks for the year paul 67, mods and cqn peeps.



    May I add to that – start looking for a replacement for calmac now – we take him for granted.

  25. The irony is the call for a younger more dynamic board while at the same time calling demanding a return to a pedestrian risk-averse outdated model that guarantees a limited return in Europe.



    Real ambition demands something beyond that. If we don’t at least try we’re letting everyone down

  26. bournesouprecipe on




    The irony of some logging in to slag Celtic or Paul67’s take, while quoting Sevco as a yardstick



    Well I never CSC

  27. DESSYBHOY on 31ST DECEMBER 2023 2:22 PM


    I forgot to add, and those on the blog not in the best of health at the moment ,Big Jimmy who often blogs on this, I hope the New Year finds you all in better health and fit for normal duties as soon as possible.





    Thanks for your kind thoughts mate.


    I had a Christmas ” BY PASS” and Im about to also have a New Year ” BY PASS”, Due to being unable to shake off this Chest infection/Flu Bug etc


    I am slightly better in recent days, but NOT well enough to go out for any Beers.NO DRINK since 1st December…its murder Policeman, so it is.



    I am hoping to be much fitter come the New Year….TOMORROW !






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