State of the club report, summer 2021


My friends in Celtic, in the corresponding article a year ago I put our chances of losing the league as high as 30%.  The rational behind this was:

  • Newco were actually closer to us than the league table indicated and I expected them to improve,
  • Teams have a shelf life and that (winning) Celtic squad looked to be nearing the end.
  • It is by no means down to this alone, but I wrote, “If the virus gets into the Celtic squad, we will not win the league.”  It did and we didn’t.

What I did not expect was the scale of the collapse.  In my Celtic supporting experience, it is only eclipsed by season 1977-78, when a double winning Celtic team finished trophy-less, fifth in the league and out of Europe.

So where did it go wrong?  I think we can go as far back as Brendan Rodgers not being released from his contract in August 2018 to allow him to go to China.  The writing was on the wall then, so when he found a club that would both pay him a huge contract and meet the release terms on his Celtic deal, we should have been better prepared.

Let’s be clear: Neil Lennon did brilliantly taking over from Brendan.  He kept the ship afloat, delivered the league and Scottish Cup, under the circumstances, that was an outstanding return.  However, I doubt if even Neil himself believes he was wise to take the job permanently.  This was a mistake by Neil, his advisors and most of all, by Celtic.

Objectively, what followed in season 2019-20 flies in the face of this assertion.  Despite our customary Champions League qualification debacle, we finished ahead of Lazio and Rennes to top our Europa League group.  The League Cup was won in memorable, if not convincing, style, nine-in-a-row was delivered, and when the Scottish Cup Final was eventually played, the quadruple treble.

It was as though the muscle memory at the club got us through that season but we all saw Newco boss us at Celtic Park.  The portents were clear.

Should Neil have been relieved of his duties in October, when it was evident we were such a shambles on the field, despite winning all five trophies he competed for at that stage?  Probably, but that question is all about who would come in to replace him.  John Kennedy as an interim was not necessarily going to change direction.  When Neil eventually left the building in February, our season was shot to pieces and he endured torrid months.

A clean break in February should have been a huge advantage, you get months to prep for the new season.  Most of that time was wasted on a failed pursuit of Eddie Howe.  Ange Postecoglou was sitting by his phone waiting on the call, had he been offer the position when Howe’s agent floated the first curve ball at Easter, we may still be in the Champions League.  This was also a mistake.

So where are we now?  If we go on to qualify for the Europa League group stage, last night’s defeat will have no more bearing on Celtic than the Lincoln Red Imps game in Gibraltar that started the Brendan Rodgers era.  We were never going to reach the Champions League group stage this season through the League Route.

Our primary objective is to win the league; on the back of Wednesday night’s evidence, we look well short.  There are, however, reasons to Park the Panic for a few weeks.  We have spent over £12m on three players, only the cheapest of whom, 19-year-old Liel Abada, has played.  Carl Starfelt (26) and Kyogo Furuhashi (also 26) are now available for selection, they will improve defence and attack.

We will sign a goalkeeper and a right back.  Odsonne Edouard and Boli Bolingoli are almost certain to move on, both will be replaced and bring in enough cash to recruit for other areas of the team.  I hope Ryan Christie extends his current deal, but if he goes, Ange has more scope to shuffle his pack.

This degree of player turnover should have happened a year ago.  It didn’t because of that fabled record.  I believe that without that looming milestone, Neil Lennon would also have gone last summer.

The decision to keep the squad together last year was thought less risky than undertaking significant change, especially with international travel restricted for most of the year and football curtailed, limiting, and in some circumstances eliminating, scouting opportunities.  Faced with a choice between keep what you have or buy blind, Celtic chose the former (with a goalkeeping exception).  Despite your hindsight, you would have made the same decision then.

We do not have a contemporary reference for the level of squad turnover that is currently underway.  The only historical equivalent is 1997, when an equally chaotic summer thrust the club forward, coincidentally, when we broke the mould and looked for a manager with experience in Japan.

Despite the toll the pandemic placed on Celtic’s finances, the club is structurally strong.  It has excellent long-term commercial deals that continue to perform, healthy ticket sales and a valuable squad that can be traded.  We were always going to emerge from this crisis battered but not broken.

The same is not true at Ibrox.  Newco need Champions League money this season, in losing the league, we opened a door for them to escape the consequence of Uefa Financial Fair Play.  I bored you with the details on this before so will be brief here.

Newco have run a persistent operating loss since their formation in 2012, most recently reported at around £1m per month – and that was pre-pandemic.  They are out of FFP road, only Champions League money will prevent a collapse.  New investors cannot help here, for FFP, spend must be balanced by football generated income.

What happens in their qualification tie against Malmo and if they progress, in the subsequent play-off round, will go a long way to determine how competitive the league race is over the next decade.  It is the sting in the tale of losing such a momentous title.

Right now our chances of winning the league are probably 30% – held back by so many unknowns, but despite the recent hit to finances, I expect the club to sanction a larger spend this summer than has ever happened at a Scottish football club.  We can tip the balance in the weeks ahead.

The hurt of missing the 10 will last forever, or at least, until we get close enough to dream again.   It is now part of our narrative.  I hope we will look back on the experiences of season 2020-21 as a touchstone, the harsh lesson that propelled us forward.

Enjoy your Celtic and continue to take care.


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  1. Tom McLaughlin on 31st July 2021 2:01 pm



    Assuming it is even remotely feasible, could Ernie or one of his fellow conspiracy nuts explain how Celtic winning 10-in-a-row would have rendered Rangers less liable to be invited, along with Celtic, to join an English set-up?



    If Celtic winning a 10th title in succession would have scuppered Desmond’s plans for a personal financial jackpot, why wouldn’t 9, 8 or 7 etc? And how about a quadruple treble and 12 trophies on the bounce?




    I don’t believe there was a conspiracy to lose the 10, I think Ernie’s point is that a more competitive league is more attractive to the outside world (potential invites to other leagues, commercial revenue,TV deals etc).



    Celtic appeared to do the bare minimum to stay ahead, making the league more competitive.



    I’d imagine that Celtic boardroom were confident that we’d always have enough to finish top, so last season would’ve shook them, though they’ll never admit it. You get the feeling that they genuinely don’t think they did anything wrong last season (or any of the previous seasons), and that it was just bad luck.

  2. squire danaher on

    THE_HUDDLE on 31ST JULY 2021 2:23 PM


    Tom McLaughlin on 31st July 2021 2:01 pm



    As a conspiracy nut.



    The logic is that the Hun 2.1 financial need has become so pressing that they now desperately need CL money.



    TGD sees EPL riches as the carrot at the end of the stick (I see no obvious route but never mind) and thinks we can only go as a pair.



    He needs a strong and financial robust Hun.

  3. quadrophenian on




    Whats the elegant payment option for the Celtic diaspora ?




  4. Burnley 78



    If you switched over after the first Sevco goal you will have caught a great game between Japan and S. Kore women in the Volleyball. The Koreans came back from 14:12 down in the 5th set , winning 4 points in a row- a very rare occurrence.



    I did catch some of the Sevco game- the Morelos replacement is faster but not as deadly in scoring against diddy teams.

  5. Tom McLaughlin on




    How does winning all 12 trophies, a quadruple treble, 9 titles in a row, beating Rangers time and again, including 5-1 & 5-0 at home, 5-1 away and 4-0 at Hampden constitute doing “just enough”?



    That just doesn’t make sense.

  6. I see we are still talking to Spurs for Joe Hart.



    That’s about 8 days of negotiations.



    How long does negotiations take? Oh wait I only gave think of Eddie Howe.



    D :)

  7. squire danaher on

    TOM MCLAUGHLIN on 31ST JULY 2021 2:37 PM



    The factors you mention served only to heighten the critical need for intervention when it came.

  8. THE_HUDDLE on 31ST JULY 2021 2:23 PM



    You get the feeling that they genuinely don’t think they did anything wrong last season (or any of the previous seasons), and that it was just bad luck




    I concur with all you posted and select the above as the most pertinent point



    They did not feel that they were doing wrong at all – in fact I’m sure that there was much back-slapping that 10iar was ‘in the bag’. They had resisted offers for Edouard, Ajer and Christie and kept the squad intact. The manager had been authorised to spend c£20m to strengthen…what could go wrong?



    It certainly wasn’t bad luck. The Ibrox squad and set-up was badly underestimated. The loss of form of was not predictable although plenty have been wise after the event. Self-inflicted Covid disasters are even now unbelievable.

  9. IniquitousIV on



    I agree it does sound daft, but where was the logic in Lawwell obstructing Rodgers by not signing the players he wanted and foisting others on him he had never seen? Rodgers was winning the trophies, generating huge turnover, and Lawwell was giving him no support. So Rodgers looked around, and departed for pastures new. Check out Sutton’s comments today. It doesn’t sound as if the Board is too bothered about Sevco winning another title. They have sat on their hands since February. A veritable hive of inactivity.

  10. any booin’ from the huns………………………..?



    The fans back is a double-edged sword for thems.



    That horrible mob will destroy a few o’ the uglies…………………..

  11. the radio did comment that “the very noisy almost riotious crowd of the first 20 minutes are now subdued a bit unsettled and beginning to letthe players know”



    i truelly believed last season no fans was a benefit to them,

  12. Yup…………..



    Goldson and Tav (pen) would have been roasted………………..

  13. ireland vs the empire imperialists in the ladies hockey on just now is a good watch,



    cmon you ghirls in green.

  14. Did Kamara get a bookin’ for his tackle on Kabia?






    …and then they score?




  15. quadrophenian on

    Livingston are a truly awful team.


    THEMS looked relatively cocky and fluid IMO.

  16. Nope,not buying the conspiracy theory.Now I know why they call them “Conspiracy nuts”.Absolute twaddle.


    Watched the Huns first half.One shot on target,very hum drum against a terrified Livvy.Commentary team,including Tim,Mc Fadden,gushing over everything.Boak inducing.


    Let’s see what we can do tonight.Ange has had time to see what he can do with the husk of a defence.Cant believe our Japanese Bhoy won’t start.WTF not?He is fit,even give him first half,get him tuned up for midweek.We just don’t have time to faff about.Need a win tonight.

  17. DAVID66 on 31ST JULY 2021 2:49 PM


    I see we are still talking to Spurs for Joe Hart.




    That’s about 8 days of negotiations.




    How long does negotiations take? Oh wait I only gave think of Eddie Howe.





    On transfers the media gladly report the daily detail of our long drawn out transfer process / saga …. There is the other written rule than Hun transfers just appear out the blue if you like , one phone call job done



    …. So the stated 2 objectives of the media has been met : never criticise the Hun sales go up : always leave the impression Celtic are a bunch of fannies , sales go up



    … added bonus of splitting the Celtic support



    … wake up CFC

  18. Inquisitous,



    When I start listening to bandwagon jumper,Sutton,I will chuck it.Face for everyone.His treatment of Ronnie was disgraceful.

  19. EKBHOY,


    Are we looking to sign Hart?Heard nothing from either club,plenty from Media.How many times they been right this window?Don’t know if the foreign press are any better,but I tend to pay more notice.Hoping the Croation press are bang on with their news.

  20. Turkeybhoy,



    Some on CQN didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory with their treatment of Ronnie.




  21. EKBhoy – so it is a short process?



    I know the score with the press but we need players now not 2 weeks from now.



    Negotiations: How much do you want fir Hart – £1million done. How much wages Joe done.



    There thats how you negotiate when you’re board are fannying about. That’s the problem we haggle and haggle and haggle.



    Look at the Eddie Howe debacle…ffs we should have said are you coming we are not waiting on backroom staff if it’s no then move on.



    D :)




    How does winning all 12 trophies, a quadruple treble, 9 titles in a row, beating Rangers time and again, including 5-1 & 5-0 at home, 5-1 away and 4-0 at Hampden constitute doing “just enough”?



    That just doesn’t make sense




    I would’ve thought that was obvious.



    You don’t need to be a good team to win in Scotland

  23. David 66,



    So if Hart wants 50 grand,would you give him it?Agree,don’t haggle,move on.Better keepers all over Europe who would love 25 grand a month.


    Howe not only let us down,himself also.He was coming,up until the last minute.Shit the bed.The Board wanted him,the majority of fans wanted him,he was actively looking at players.How many offers has he had since?

  24. I would go with Forrest and Abada and Kyogo up top, Eddie on bench.



    Go with 1 full back and Starfelt, Welsh and Murray. Unfortunately he will play the hopeless Bitton.



    Soro, McGregor and either Christie or Turnbull not both



    Put Hazard in.



    D :)

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