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. Still no critism of the main culprit.




    Excellent article by Stephen McGowan of the Mail earlier

  2. timmy7_noted on

    Multi-Moniker Villain on 30th July 2021 12:54 pm



    I’ve known it since day one I knew you would eventually out yourself …………..



    My internet sixth sense strikes again.

  3. MELBOURNE MICK on 30TH JULY 2021 1:07 PM


    DAVID 66



    Av heard he’s NIPPON about the Gallusgate.



    H.H. Mick




    Mick – Ill text Big Jimmy to look oot for him.



    D :) :) :)

  4. Who is the Multi Monikerd Villain?



    Could it be Henry the Janitor……..




    D :)

  5. Melbourne Mick on

    Just to be clear TIMMY 7 I have absolutely no concern about critical


    posters, as most of my mhates in our CSC will tell you, I can slag off


    players, management , board like the rest of them.


    But I really don’t think you’re realising what I’m saying, or other CQN


    stalwarts are saying, there’re are many people on here, whether paid


    or not, and their primary function is to disrupt the flow of this dear


    green place.


    Make of that what you will. anyhow I wish you well as a good Tim.


    H.H. Mick

  6. timmy7_noted on

    I obviously read P67’s article with a kinder eye that some.


    I saw it as an actual, first I’ve seen, admission that the club is being badly run. But if you think he suddenly will come out all guns blazing against the board you’ve not been paying attention ( copywrite Melbourne Mick).


    IMO if P67 is being even mildly critical its a step in the right direction.

  7. P67



    We are not in a good place — we get our money through the gate.


    If we fail this season then the season ticket sales will collapse.


    Especially if we fail in a DD / PL couldn’t be ersed sort of way.



    Regarding the BR departure — you forgot about the MO’N angle.



    MO’N made a fool of DD in 2002 and guess what he never forgot about it.


    DD told the LU bloke that he could talk to MO’N all he wanted — he was wasting his time as he would not be interested. MO’N turned up a few days later with a much better offer and a desire to go.



    And the rest they say is tragedy with BQ struggling to work an answering machine.



    So when another star manager starts to play games and fish for more money — summer 2018 — DD cut him loose and brought the gimp out of his box to do what gimps do best. Their master’s bidding with a certain panache.



    All about ego — nothing about improving the team.


    BR wanted to take the whole footballing department to the East Midlands to prove a point.


    He offered half the squad a chance to join him when he had settled in.


    Total fairy story but he wanted his “revenge”.



    BR is / was an erse but DD’s ego has delivered the collapse we saw on Wed night.


    Consequently Ridicule phasers set to Malky — coming to a golf course near you.


    I hope.

  8. Back to Basics - Glass Half Full on

    A thoughtful, detailed analysis Pablo.






    I think Quadrophenian marked your paper accurately – “a decent stocktake”.



    Inevitably perhaps, I’d (mildly challenge) a few of your observations ….



    “We were never going to reach the Champions League group stage this season through the League Route”



    Never? Says who? The analysts informing our board?



    I’d have preferred an alternative attitude.



    “Chances were slim but the club – from top to bottom – were geared towards having a bloody good go at it !”






    “when Howe’s agent floated the first curve ball at Easter, we may still be in the Champions League. This was also a mistake”



    Not just one mistake in a list.



    If the curve ball was indeed thrown this was a HUGE single error.



    Unrequited love stuff. She’s not calling you back for a second date. Move on.





    Sevco and FFP – there will ultimately be a reckoning but this can will also get kicked down the road a bit.



    Superleague proposal earlier this year gave UEFA a bloody nose.



    More than half of the 12 signatory clubs were haemorrhaging cash BEFORE Covid-19.



    FFP will be paused or watered down for a couple of years – part practicality, part politics.



    The crooks at Sevco will take advantage as always.






    As for this season – I’d actually now prefer an Artmedia scenario.



    Forget Europa League or other.



    Take the £10m hit.



    Free up the squad to keep fresh and spend more time with Ange.



    Remove Thursday-Sunday catch up from our schedule.



    Win the league at all costs. Enjoy the spoils of auto CL qualification



    (Worked for Gordon Strachan)

  9. The sooner Ange can stamp his authority on the team the better.



    Starting tomorrow with Starfelt, then hopefully a goalkeeper and Kyogo by next Thursday.



    Followed by a Right Back for next Sundays game.



    Then a left back and another Centre Forward



    D :)

  10. I’d be very surprised if there’s anything in the Joe Hart rumours. Hart was chased out of Man City not long after Guardiola took over. Pep gave him a number of chances in his early squads to play the type of football he wanted, playing the ball short, on the floor, quick and precise. Hart was entirely incapable or unwilling to play this role, regularly receiving the ball short and hoofing it straight up the pitch or into touch, Pep’s patience lasted about 4 games.



    Pep was singular in his vision to build a team in a particular style, and he soon got Claudio Bravo in as a stop gap, before eventually signing Ederson a year later. You don’t get a manager who has been vocal and consistent in his style of play, to which the keeper is an inherently important role, and then give him a keeper who can’t play that way. And if Hart couldn’t adapt his game to this style when he was 29, it’s doubtful he’ll be able to do it at 34. This would be an entirely illogical signing for Celtic.

  11. timmy7_noted on

    Melbourne Mick on 30th July 2021 1:22 pm



    I don’t doubt for a second that there are posters on here for nefarious reasons, one in particular I regularly attack because he is a racist bigot.



    My original point was that its easy to discount the opinions of people who genuinely want the best for Celtic because they disagree with you. I also see the “camp followers” who very rarely make a positive contribution of their own but love to jump in on criticism of another poster without a single bit of evidence.



    All the best.

  12. GlassTwoThirdsFull on

    “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. ”




    Kept the ship afloat? The ship that had won every game (9 games?) since the break, conceding only one goal (the dodgy one from Motherwell)?


    Eight points clear with nine games to go and the team closest to us dropping points every second game was an “outstanding” league win? Yeah – they’ll be writing about that one in decades to come when they are doing their football miracles books!




    All in the Europa league is worth considerably more than £10 million. Not to qualify would be a disaster which is why a GK and RB should be walking through the door now any minute.



    Sevco for instance made over £20 million in their last audited accounts thanks to a last 16 run ( From memory I think it was £25 million). They still bled money that year so I don’t see a one off CL qualification as changing things too much long term.



    As P67 says, it’s the long term commercial deals that are key and theirs are, well, not exactly to their benefit.

  14. The Blogger Formerly Known As GM on

    Agree with most of that, Paul. The past few years have been littered with mistakes at the executive level, which brings me back to a point I’ve been making for a while – we need proper executive oversight by proper NEDs, not a rubber stamping committee.



    You forget mention Nitcham, hopefully we can at least get him off the wage bill. A couple of million would be a bonus.



    The only thing I disagree strongly about is Christie. If he re-signs it will be because no one else wanted him or could afford to pay him as much as Celtic. Aberdeen is his level. Celtic have already made a gross error of judgment by giving a contract extension to Griffiths, they should not compound matters by doing the same with Christie.

  15. GTTF @ 1.06



    You have a better memory than me.


    Coincides with my thoughts on the summer of 2018.



    When BR gets a sniff of more money and makes it known — DD cuts him adrift there and then.


    PL works his rocks off scuppering the signing targets and the rest they say is tragedy.


    AEK game — BR is lacking a little bit of focus and the squad act accordingly.



    Again everything points to DD being a bo(ll) weevil who needs to go.


    The old board thought that the EC win would always save them.


    They were wrong then and DD should be reminded that he is replaceable.

  16. MADMITCH on 30TH JULY 2021 1:07 PM


    AD @ 12.53




    You work in IT — don’t you?






    Nope. But I do have big thumbs and a small phone !

  17. Melbourne Mick on

    TIMMY 7



    Ok then common ground, if you realise some come on here for


    nefarious reasons, all I’m trying to say , not very well I might add


    is that, criticism is fine , points of view are fine, people on the board


    blah..blah are sh@t, fine, but a concerted campaign against everything


    Celtic from trolls is not fine, in my Celtic world.


    I’ll always stand against it, like my forefathers did, I take it you would also.


    H.H. Mick

  18. 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.




    Do we really have a valuable squad that can be traded?

  19. Comment on tactics


    The short ball killed us. It led to the second goal Wednesday, and when dane made a sloppy pass v west ham we conceded another 5 from a leading position. Sviachenko even said they got the ball from us 15-20times. The short ball tactic over 2 hours was a massive factor in the loss on Wednesday. Massive. They started with the same tactics but after 70 minutes started kicking into our half. Óne kick bought them 60 yards, but ange insisted on 6 or 7 perfect passes to make the same distance, and our forwards are bored stupid waiting for the ball to arrive. There must be a plan b.


    Ps I still believe buying sts have killed us this season. Much better to have boycotted and sacked the board. Those fxxxkers don’t have to win a lottery to see the games, but they probably don’t want to go anyway!

  20. In the short term build a defence that can defend,a proper goalkeeper for one, dont have full backs charging forward then cannot make recovery runs to get back, both Taylor and Ralston are one paced and it aint quick, a stong tackling organiser in the middle would be great the skill mix in there is too offensive and not creative from 20 yards from goal, all are too similar we need to choose from many available and stick to it, Abada fades out of the game when doubled up on as inside there is no movement, we need 2 strikers on the park and will need to sign them as Eduard is missing snips, Ajeti and Griffiths wont do at all.


    Who is scouting signing players as I was under the impression that we had no head of recruitment or has this now been passed to the Football Board?


    Come on Dominic McKay you said World Class in all areas make it visible.

  21. celticforever on

    Hope the board give Ange his wishes very quickly because with the


    right players and his playing style I think we are going to be exciting to watch and could be


    set for a roller coaster season



    Personally will never ever give up hope of the league to the rancid huns



    If we get the right players in quick enough then the league is there to be won



    The manky mob are not as good as they think

  22. Our rivals across town now have a glaring opportunity to put clear blue water between them and us, and hugely improve their balance sheet at the same time. Back to back seasons in the CL groups and offload a couple of high value assets and they will be around £100m to the good.


    That should really focus minds in the Kerrydale Street boardroom but will it ?



    Our majority shareholder has the power and the means to put a spanner in the Govan Works Team but does he want to and can he even be bothered any more. The Howe fiasco would suggest the later.

  23. Very honest assessment, Paul. Good article.


    Lots of poor decisions made by ‘Celtic’



    I would have liked to know, specifically by whom?


    Otherwise, an excellent piece and covers much of the mistakes we have made over the past 12 to 18 months.


    Still not convinced COVID affected us more than other clubs. Perhaps, the decisions we made and perhaps the SG response to our decisions.

  24. jph


    Agreed – do we currently have the players to play the way Ange likes to play? Not for me.


    As Dessybhoy said, for a start we need quicker full-backs so maybe adjust the tactics to


    fit the current squad?

  25. Back to Basics - Glass Half Full on

    An Dun – cheers.



    I hear you (but don’t agree with you🙂)



    We’re not chasing coefficient points when auto CL qualification is available.



    Who cares if we are third or fourth seeds in the group.



    Not convinced on the numbers?



    How much did WE make from EL?



    Typically 140,000 – 150,000 tickets sold across all 3 group games at c. £30 a pop.



    UEFA prize money, EL group qualification plus 2 wins and a draw worth c. £6m.



    Fundamentally though – just buying new players alone won’t get it done.



    Early integration is key for this season’s league outlook.



    And 15 days a month on the training ground across September to November much better than 10.

  26. P67


    A blog entitled ‘state of the club report’ and 3 paragraphs dedicated to sevco!!


    Nothing about the board and your idol Lawwell.


    It’s quite sad to see how pitiful you’ve become

  27. Melbourne Mick on




    So which one are you, in the multi monikered mob.


    H.H. Mick

  28. Ernie



    re DD’s wee golf club outing and interview.



    Can you recall if they existed at that time? i do nt even think they had been ‘accepted into’ scotlands 4th tier.




  29. Multi-Moniker Villain on

    Sean Thornton at 1.25.



    Ah’m no a hun but ma brothers Attila, Dermot and Peter are.

  30. MELBOURNE MICK on 30TH JULY 2021 2:09 PM




    So which one are you, in the multi monikered mob.


    H.H. Mick




    I’m not sure what you mean Mick

  31. yaaas. got a pass into CP on 8th and i am arriving in scotland off the ferry on 7th. there is a God

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