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. TB – If Hart has been identified and its 50k a week then yes.




    We have to back Ange.



    D :)

  2. TM@2:01



    I have asked that same question a few times months ago.



    They would have gone in anyway to CL play offs if they finished second,still would have been invited.



    Hand shakes all over the place.

  3. fergusslayedtheblues on

    As a self confessed HAPPY clapper converted to a conspiracy nut The


    It is my belief that our board left our club compromised with its complicity in the res 12 scandal



    The rest as they say is history




    Good luck to Ange today and the players who want to b there



  4. FSTB – I dont have a crystal ball I just walk funny.



    You remember my house is Tea total tonight when you come in for footy.



    NOT we will be pashed before 8pm 🍺🍺🍺




    D :)

  5. PHILBHOY on 31ST JULY 2021 3:52 PM









    News from Croatia?







    Please tell!



    Dejan Lovric.Reporter saying he wants to come.It was also on Turkish sports today saying interest might be cooling in the striker from Turkey,as it looks like Lovric is our choice.


    Can only hope it’s true,PHIL.

  6. DAVID66 on 31ST JULY 2021 3:55 PM


    TB – If Hart has been identified and its 50k a week then yes.









    We have to back Ange.







    D :)



    Or change his Drug supplier.

  7. David66 on 31st July 2021 3:46 pm



    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 :)





    If it was that easy why would players/clubs bother paying huge money to agents?

  8. Scullybhoy it was a bit of tongue in cheek.



    I do however think we make negotiations protracted



    Regarding Agents well I will watch what I’m saying… Let’s just say there are some undesirables doing that type of work, now I wonder why that is.



    D :)

  9. the_huddle on 31st July 2021 3:53 pm





    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





    Are The R@@@@@@ a great team? One trophy in 3 years in the easy street of a set-up.

  10. Is it possible that Edouard will be selected tonight? I would not have him in the squad – nothing personal against the guy, he may have problems, but on the field he is a consistent passenger. We keep playing to him and it is just a waste ….sorry, after some of his displays two seasons ago, to have to say this – Bon voyage Eddy.

  11. So we dont pay 50k a week and go out and buy another Barkas for £5 million. Why not pay 50k a week fir a keeper with no or very little fee.



    Ah the old buy young and cheap and sell on model.



    Howm many players never mind keepers has that worked with.



    D :)

  12. JHB



    I asked if the tea lady travelled for a reason.



    Agree completely with your post.

  13. !!Bada Bing!! on

    Ref in Albion Rovers game off injured, AR sub running the line…🤦🏻‍♂️

  14. We are normally gettin’ beat 2-0 at this time on a Saturday.



    Makes a change.



    C’MON THE CELTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. ST posted to soon there I meant to add if it’s what Ange wants that’s what counts.



    D :)

  16. !!BADA BING!! on 31ST JULY 2021 4:22 PM



    Ref in Albion Rovers game off injured, AR sub running the line…🤦🏻‍♂️



    *I was at a Dryborough Cup game when big wullie young landed on the ref, he had tae come off and the Jungle side linesman replaced him.



    A call went out for a certified official tae run the line, wee member of the Renton CSC left the stand and walked across the park.



    Before the ref returned he had chalked two sheep goals aff, we won in extra time that night.



    As he walked back tae his seat he got a standing ovation from all 4 sides of the ground plus our dugout.

  17. Rolling_Stone on

    Have just managed to read this article now. As others have pointed out, quite predictable that Paul mentions Neil, BR, Eddie Howe, Ange and Sevco, but not a solitary mention of PL or the Board. Difficult to paint an accurate picture without mentioning the main protagonists.



    As for the starting point of our decline, which Paul suggests was BR’s 3rd summer, I think we should go back further than that. Is Paul forgetting that BR came in and improved the standards across the club? Were we in decline or improving as a club when we had a turnover of £50m under the Ronny years? Or during Neil’s tenure when we also had a turnover of circa £50m to June 2012.



    Even looking at the CL years under Neil our cash at bank position to June 13/14 was £3.8m and £3.7m, respectively.



    BR raised the standards of the club across the board. He increased our turnover dramatically and left a huge cash surplus, something PL had not been close to achieving in the years that preceded BR.



    With BR gone everything started going downhill until last year’s crash.



    We have had an ossified management structure at the club which has shown no clear footballing strategy for the best part of a decade, but was fortunate enough to exist in a monopoly where it was shielded from critique.



    Even after the disaster of last season, we are still yet to see any true accountability. It appears to be business as usual.

  18. ST – My opinion is the only 1 that counts. :)


    Big Jimmy – I text him during the week he is a bit under the weather.



    D :)

  19. !!Bada Bing!! on

    Rumoured team…



    Bain; Ralston, Bitton, Starfelt, Taylor; Soro; Turnbull, McGregor; Forrest, Édouard, Christie



    Kyogo on the bench.

  20. Rolling_Stone on

    @ SFTB



    “I have long since learned that this kind of realism will get dismissed as “making excuses for failure”



    We have qualified for 4 CL out of last 13. In that time only one of the clubs that has knocked us out had a superior turnover.



    Do you think we are underperforming or is that to be expected? As you point out we ‘overpay’ our board members. I would argue we grossly overpay PL. Do you think that is a good record for such an obscene outlay on a CEO?




    She will be getting pelters on social media as well.



    Out of order.

  22. itscalledthemalvinas on

    Kyogo is 16/1 to be top scorer in the league this season.


    Go on son, leather the huns and bookies in one fell swoop.

  23. scullybhoy on 31st July 2021 4:16 pm



    I would’ve thought that was obvious.



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





    Are The R@@@@@@ a great team? One trophy in 3 years in the easy street of a set-up.





    My post just said that you don’t need to be a good team to win things in Scotland, and yet you read that as Rangers are a great team for winning 1 trophy.



    What was your thought process there???

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