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. PHILBHOY on 31ST JULY 2021 4:49 PM



    TONTINE TIM She will be getting pelters on social media as well. Out of order.



    *I have no doubt but these sites are not worth bothering about. The first of her team mates tae hug her when she returned fae the dressing room telling them she was pulling out and could possibly cost them a medal was a white lassie.



    The “normal” media are still in her camp wishing her well and stating mental fatigue is worse that physical, in fact that could cost a serious injury in itself.

  2. IniquitousIV on

    Dancin’ in the streets of Raith tonight. Must have been some game against Hamilton. Defences on top and 4-4.

  3. David66 on 31st July 2021 4:15 pm



    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 :)





    Apologies – I was just through the door and didn’t tune in to your sarcasm – sorry mhan.



    I remember the time Harry Kewell went from Leeds to Liverpool, the story was that the agents involved were real crooks (aren’t they all?). I looked it up and here is a wee cut and paste that shows just what a murky world it is.





    The reality is that on Friday 4 July I agreed a deal of £7m with Liverpool Football Club, which Kewell and his agent refused to countenance. Instead they made a condition of not doing a Bosman that we pay £2m to Kewell’s representatives, and Liverpool Football Club then reduced the fee to £5m. What happened to the remaining £2m only Liverpool or Harry Kewell could tell you.



    The PLC was therefore faced with the alternative of taking the net £3m (plus £2.5m in saved wages) to enable Peter Reid to strengthen the squad or getting next to nothing, if rather like Lee Bowyer, Kewell did a Bosman. And in Kewell’s case, given his outburst on television and his indication he has been talking to Liverpool for 6 months, it would be impossible for him to play for Leeds ever again.



    So sadly the PLC felt it had no alternative but to accept the paltry sum.



    I believe that Kewell and Mandic have taken no account of the contribution Leeds has made to the player’s development. This relates to the time and energy invested in Kewell by the management and coaching staff, we well as the fact that he has been in the elite group of our highest paid players. I am outraged that having threatened to walk away for nothing in 2004, they now seek to suggest that it is our fault that my PLC board felt the need to settle for such a small sum.



    John McKenzie




  4. !!BADA BING!! on 31ST JULY 2021 5:03 PM



    Paul Wilson always done well in the Dryburgh Cup



    *so he did, in fact he scored a cracker the night I’m talking about including the equaliser in extra time.

  5. 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?’








    What state would the huns be in now if Celtic had won the 10?



    How many season books would they have shifted for this season?



    Would Park and the rest of them still be burning their own money just to keep the lights on?



    They were at the end of the road last season. They had thrown everything at stopping the 10. They had nothing left in reserve.



    And Covid made a bad situation worse.



    I’d have thought a smart chap like yourself could have worked this much out for yourself.

  6. TURKEYBHOY on 31ST JULY 2021 3:43 PM








    Try to blank all of it …. They are working on the principle it’s the hope that kills you ….



    Half the folks on here are convinced that the directors support Rangers , and that almost uniquely we are a bunch of fannies in everything we do ….




  7. “In the white heat of the Ulster Championship final, Rory Beggan burst forward and LITERALLY gobbles up the ball and the opposition! Ha ha!



    Mon 12-Tyr13…13mins left!




  8. the_huddle on 31st July 2021 4:53 pm


    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???





    Sorry, I wasn’t saying that you personally said R###### are a great team. There are many who claim that they are world beaters. I have just finished reading an article by Ewan Murray that states that R###### will win the league at a canter, and claims that they could sell some of their top players and still be too good for Celtic. I just wanted to highlight that they have only won 1 of 9 trophies they went for under Slippy G. Please God they will be found out this year.

  9. Scullybhoy- No problem I am useless at humour on the blog.



    But my stand up comedy is second to none.



    Yes agents, was Ron Atkinson and his murky pals, naw Big Sam Allardyce sorry Ron not on panorama for all that carry on plus buying referees.



    Anyone who thinks football is not corrupt are burying their head in the sand.



    D :)

  10. We’ve been told so many times that we have protracted negotiations while the huns jet in an’ oooot……



    I don’t think either is accurate.



    It’s a scoddish thing.

  11. glendalystonsils on

    There’s a Starfelt



    waiting in the sky



    he wants to come and meet us



    cos he knows he’ll blow our minds .

  12. Woe is me.



    Mistakenly didn’t realise the game was on tonight when Mrs SS was booking dinner for 4 for tonight. I’ll miss the game live and have to turn off all notifications to watch the recorded game when I get back in.



    Not sure how much I’ll eat. Already nervous, caused by the 3-0 score line earlier. I badly want us to match or beat every score they get.



    And, optimistic though I usually am, I have a feeling the team is still to green to implement Ange’s tactics.

  13. !!BADA BING!! on 31ST JULY 2021 4:41 PM


    Rumoured team…







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







    Kyogo on the bench.







    is it Jamsie or Nfl thats the leak …..🤣🤣🤣 cant believe they havnt put a stop to this …..

  14. glendalystonsils on




    I think if Ange finds out , I wouldn’t want to be in the culprit’s shoes!

  15. GLENDALYSTONSILS on 31ST JULY 2021 5:54 PM









    I think if Ange finds out , I wouldn’t want to be in the culprit’s shoes!








    It pisses me off , dont know how the manager feels .



    i always thought it had to be Broony , Jamsie or Nfl himself

  16. Hopefully Eddie gets it in his head that he needs to play for a move – starting tonight

  17. It should be reasonably easy to find who the leak is, employ what’s called the resonance of truth, there has to be only a few who are suspects so give them false info and see what is leaked, it shouldn’t take long to find the culprit.

  18. Just heard the team –



    Bitton is in goal!



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

  19. THE EXILED TIM on 31ST JULY 2021 6:09 PM



    How would that work where it’s a team sheet and they’re all together and talking to each other?



    Not sure that it matters all that much anyway.

  20. TheLurkinTim on

    Philbhoy…u put that glass of whisky doon, yev had enuff…go and get a coffee ;-))




  21. Ernie


    Quite often the team was leaked way way before any of the players would have been told the team, my powers would tell me that it has to be one of the coaching staff, but as you say, not that it really matters apart from the obvious

  22. DAVID66



    Got a bottle of LOCH LOMOND CLASSIC single malt whisky, 40% abv.



    It’s no bad!

  23. Philbhoy sounds lovely. Enjoy



    I am on my 4th can of Tennents 1 year old.😂🍺😂🍺



    D :)

  24. TheLurkinTim on

    D66…aye. i think u mentioned it before…fekin Sky taking liberties scheduling an opening day game at 20.00…hope you’ve no run out of beer already ;-))




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