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. I was asking yesterday for a ‘state of the club’ report from the new CEO – Paul has stepped up to the plate. He delves a bit deeper than three good articles by journalists in the last few days, the most recent being Stephen McGowan’s this morning. He also touches on the Ibrox situation that the others have chosen to avoid.



    All highlight the missed opportunities over the last ten years, most of which we were able to ‘free-wheel’ to domestic titles & trophies.



    What of course Paul cannot cover is an in-depth business view of where the club is at present and how it intends to build its way back. Only the new CEO can give an authoritative account – an account that is overdue and which Celtic supporters deserve. Of course he won’t come out and lambast his predecessors, or detail the wrong turnings that have been made, however we need a new mission statement and a clear plan to deliver it.



    What is really interesting and perplexing is the difference to which Covid and financial considerations have impacted on us and the Ibrox club over the past sixteen months.



    From a reported strong financial position we have been tentative and wrong-footed on appointing a manager & recruiting players. Although handicapped badly by Covid regulations on occasions, the club has chosen to accept the consequences with no push-back.



    Contrast that with the Ibrox club seemingly living ‘hand to mouth’, with large accumulated losses magically mopped-up with ‘confetti shares’, able to keep their squad intact and strengthen at the right time whilst sailing through Covid as if it did not exist. If a Covid breach situation did crop up, they fought their corner ‘tooth and nail’ and mitigated any problems.



    Hoping for a second Ibrox implosion, as some in our ranks do, is fantasy – if it was ever going to occur it would have happened before now.



    In the ‘bad old days’ when we were dominated by Rangers, the word that summed them up was “ruthless”. Financial probity was never on the agenda – win at all costs was the real club motto. They have brought that ruthlessness back to the fore.



    We have always had a bit of a ‘soft-centre’, even when cleaning-up domestically. Unfortunately now our outer-shell has also thinned dramatically. We are now soft and brittle – Wednesday night was a clear illustration.

  2. Couple of obvious questions from the summary


    Did we not sign a £5m outfield player for last season ?


    Who identified and approved that signing


    Oh and a £3m midfielder, that took until Feb to get a regular 70mins



    We knew in summer 2018, Brendan had itchy feet


    What strategic planning did our board put in place to mitigate this risk



    And knowing the squad was on its last legs going into the attempted 10


    What squad planning was completed to mitigate the disastrous start to 2021/22 campaign

  3. AN DÚN on 30TH JULY 2021 1:31 PM






    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.




    It isn’t. If we were to qualify, win two games, draw two games, finish second and go out in the last 32 Uefa prize money would be around £8.3m. Four sell outs (if allowed) would bring the income total up but you have to allow for some considerable associated costs. Around 10m isn’t going to be a mile off even with a reasonably good performance which seems beyond us at the moment



    I wouldn’t believe anything the Huns say about how much money they made from the Europa. They’ll be talking revenue which as we all know is boasters talk



    The point about CL revenue, and what makes it such a game changer, as Paul says is that it means they’ll be far more likely to be able to comply with FFP. One season of breaking even or better makes a breach far less likely fit a few years, two makes it extremely unlikely. They’ll be able to make up losses with soft loans and share issues for a while yet it they can get their hands on it

  4. Oh My friend in Melbourne


    You want me to go back to being plain old







    Hope you and M are doing fantastically well Mick 👍

  5. spikeysauldman on




    “I’m a conundrum wrapped in an enigma”



    Surely a con-hun-drum wrapped in an enigma ?

  6. “In the ‘bad old days’ when we were dominated by Rangers, the word that summed them up was “ruthless”. Financial probity was never on the agenda – win at all costs was the real club motto. They have brought that ruthlessness back to the fore”



    The word that summed them up was cheats. Who killed their club and condemned their supporters to 9 years in the wilderness



    No thank you very much

  7. Melbourne Mick on




    Don’t seem to recognise your new nom de plum, always know COWIEBHOY


    and Laura kept calling you that at our house which I thought was cute.


    Yes, change back.


    H.H. Mick

  8. IniquitousIV on



    “in other news, i note that Roman Abramovich is a rubbish luxury yacht driver.”



    Hi Saint. But at least he attends many games, and shows an emotional attachment, depending on whether Chelski are winning or losing. How often do we see Desmond do that? Abramovitch keeps a very close eye on things, and is very quick to pull the plug on a manager if he is not doing the business. In contrast, Desmond let Neil Lennon wallow in mediocrity for months, which did us and Neil no favours. I also suspect that Abramovitch backs his emotions with funding, although that may not be entirely kosher, or by UEFA Rules.

  9. Melbourne Mick on




    Congrats, your so lucky, I know you’ll make the most of it.


    H.H. Mick

  10. Decent article but still nothing on the DoF, head of recruitment and sport scientists……



    Are these no longer a priority and if they are, why the delay?

  11. The Huns have won 1 league while running at huge losses, going concern warnings in every set of accounts, facing a legal challenge due in court next week that could cost them 10m, an undersubscribed share issue needed for working capital, and a failure to sell any of the players that we were told by them they needed to sell.



    But they’re ruthless and we should be following their lead

  12. Big Georges Fan Club - Hail, Hail, Wee Oscar on

    We signed embdy else yet?



    Another day goes by with Ange busy trying to weave silk purses with whatever material he finds in the cupboard…

  13. Melbourne Mick on




    Ok then where do we start, first off, the main stand that’s excellent security


    for maybe ten million, and what about the rest of the stadium? it’s not falling


    down with rust like bigotdome, so another ten million, and then we’ve got the


    players, thats another? what ?


    Naw don’t think so lol.


    H.H Mick

  14. We group UEFA income into ‘ Multimedia and other commercial activities’ in our accounts.



    We make £20 million circa with Europa group stage football. Double that for CL.



    We need the Europa Cup.

  15. GEEBEE1978 on 30TH JULY 2021 2:39 PM


    Decent article but still nothing on the DoF, head of recruitment and sport scientists……




    Are these no longer a priority and if they are, why the delay?






    We have to trust Dom to sort this out leaning on Ange ….



    Don’t expect much of a light to be provided to the fans , we won’t tip our hand in public ….



    I’m relaxed about not having DoF , we may never have a DoF , I’m sure Celtic have ‘sports science ‘ the question is to what extend , targets etc



    It will take at least 12 months to re-jig what we do in the background, we need to agree beforehand what the objectives of these departments will be … before we start recruiting, great if it starts soon but main focus will be the first team and stealing the ship

  16. Paul67 et al



    One thing that I did learn from today’s editorial……


    Neil Lennon has got advisors….




  17. Melbourne Mick on

    G’night Bhoys/ Ghirls it’s been a long but joyous day of freedom from lockdown.


    Thank you all for putting up with my diatribes, huffs, or angry expletives.


    I’m just a common aul working ghuy, as anyone here can see.


    But when Celtic get battered with monikered twatters.


    Then they will answer to me.


    I belong to Glesga..


    H.H. Mick

  18. EKBHOY on 30TH JULY 2021 3:00 PM



    Thing is, whatever people thought of Congerton and Hammond, that position hasn’t been filled. The scouting and recruiting team that has let us down so badly the past few years are still in place.



    People on here have debated whether Slippy or Beale is the brains behind the operation at Sevco but personally, the appointment of Ross Wilson is where we started to see a shift.



    Can’t put a price on these kinds of positions.

  19. SONSOFERIN on 30TH JULY 2021 1:26 PM


    I’d be very surprised if there’s anything in the Joe Hart rumours.


    … 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.




    Or it’s not Ange that is doing the selection! Or even worse, he forgets what kind of player is need for his style of football.




    JPH on 30TH JULY 2021 1:46 PM


    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.





    That is a worry for me. Sevco worked it out and did a high press even under Rodgers and if I remember correctly we didn’t win that game. Hearts and Hibs did something similar. Playing it out from the back only works if the opposition is not doing high press or our footballers at the back are exceptionally skillful. I think even Klopp and Guardiola realised that and weren’t so fixated on passing out from the back ALL THE TIME.

  20. Melbourne Mick



    With the greatest respect, sir, posters on here answer to Paul and his nominated mods. No one else.


    I realise your post was largely tongue in cheek, though I think that feeling is becoming common place.


    Debate should be welcomed. Points discussed. Nicknames and insults left off the keyboard.


    I enjoy your posts.


    The red biddy? Less so

  21. Sevco a la Rangers are no benchmark. What is of no doubt to anyone supporting Celtic is the present situation is of our own making, excluding the Covid caveat, and we can only hope lessons have been learned in our new strategy/plan for going forward.

  22. Reports from the South Coast that Brighton haven’t even enquired about Eddie.



    So if we thought his non-performance was due to him being sold in the coming days, we might be in for a disappointment.



    He needs selling and soon….

  23. GEEBEE1978 on 30TH JULY 2021 3:05 PM


    EKBHOY on 30TH JULY 2021 3:00 PM






    Good point well made .



    Pre COVID Slippy was ready to walk … to me it is a settled team which the Hun benefited from , impact of recruitment person is debatable… as Hun recruitment policy is clear big oafs from UK or similar



    We are missing a sound recruitment policy …. which must come from a club strategy

  24. I hope we never put doing 10 in a row as something credible as a club and as fans. Be better to try and achieve qualification to CL for 5 seasons in a row and that would really increase our performance levels, domestic stuff would take care of itself if that became the KPI, por cierto.

  25. MELBOURNE MICK on 30TH JULY 2021 2:38 PM




    Congrats, your so lucky, I know you’ll make the most of it.


    H.H. Mick




    cheers Mick,



    No matter who is in the employ of Celtic or what I think of them; that walk up Gallowgate is always a pleasure and always makes me happy.😎☘

  26. IniquitousIV on



    Big Forster is similar to Hart in that he is not that facile with his feet. However, and it is a big however, Fraser won us the League Cup vs Sevco almost single handed, as he did both games vs Lazio. Can you imagine, for one second, either Barkas or Bain doing that?



    I’m also wondering who we are going to play at right back against Jablonec if Ralston gets injured against minihun Hertz tomorrow? As a parallel, can you imagine any business, say a retailer, opening for business in July, and only ordering supplies for September? This quite deliberate annual disdain for strategic planning by Celtic, institutionalized by Lawwell, is what really does my nut in.

  27. 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 every happened at a Scottish football club. We can tip the balance in the weeks ahead.



    it has nothing to do with the amount we spend but on who is spending it and on the quality we spend it on , we can spend millions on individuals and still end up with ‘pigs in a poke’ as we have done in the past.

  28. Melbourne Mick on




    I’m sure I answered you in a positive manner, if not I apologise, I don’t


    think so.


    Sometimes the trolls try to drag good posters down, and as I’ve argued


    all day, it seems, to extol the virtues of being blessed as a Celtic fan, the


    hun has many acolytes on here who wish to disrupt this fine blog.


    And unfortunately many get sucked in.






    H.H. Mick

  29. CFM on 30TH JULY 2021 2:33 PM




    Of course cheating and all forms of ‘ducking & diving’ were the methods employed during the Murray era….and we all know the outcome.



    That is a whole chapter in itself – it was not what I was specifically discussing in my post.

  30. EKBHOY on 30TH JULY 2021 3:24 PM



    True, there are a number of factors that Sevco have benefited from but when you see our powder-puff team, what would we give for the occasional big “oaf”?



    Their defensive record last season was one of the best in Scottish history and yet their back five (four plus keeper) cost around the same price we paid for Julien.



    I don’t think there can be any debate they have found better value for money than us in the last 18 months or so…



    The point about strategy is important. What kind of club do we want to be? What kind of style will we play and will this run through the B team etc? Will the recruitment be a byproduct of this or will our identity be a byproduct of recruitment?



    Other than a straight swap of Ange for Lennon, the infrastructure is identical to the one that saw us lose to Maribor, Malmo and Midtjylland…

  31. JHB – I agree with you on one point – we shouldn’t be waiting on a sevco implosion. We should do our own thing independently of them. We have shot ourselves in the foot repeatedly in recent years and just years failures were on us completely. Success will be completely on us too when it comes. It won’t require a sevco melt down



    However a sevco meltdown is coming and would have come by now had we achieved 10.



    The numbers do not lie. The trophy in the cabinet doesn’t change that. The feel good factor hides a multitude of sins for them.



    Summer 1988 was feelgood central for us. It fell apart pretty quickly and stayed that way for a decade. Completely different circumstances I know, but in reality we have the means to do now what we couldn’t do then. As I keep saying, my fear us over the competence of those tasked with using the superior resources that we have.

  32. Celtic & Risk



    We all know our strategy in the recruitment of players.


    Buy low & sell high & if they can be valuable on the field – so much the better.


    We have a low risk approach because we have a fiscally conservative board & culture.



    Largely, we’ve followed the same approach with managers with one difference – we don’t care where they go after they leave us. But we still hire as cheaply as we can & try to wring success out of whoever is manager.



    Exceptions occurred in unusual circumstances – Rodgers recruited to salve Desmond’s dented ego after the semi-final defeat & their board sticking it to him. As fans, we played our part in that traditionalist culture, eg., preferring Celtic minded recruits because it fed many of our own confirmation biases.



    Ronny Deila confronted that culture first, but it was when Rodgers arrived that we saw what a modern, non traditionalist football approach could achieve. I think Paul is being circumspect when he writes of Rodgers’ unhappiness at not being released for the China job. Brendan was already unhappy with the club’s reluctance to match his own ambition – why else would he want to leave in the first place? How desperate would he have to be to actually want to go to the football equivalent of Siberia, regardless of the pot of gold he would earn? He just wanted out & his frustration would have been known in the EPL.



    What Celtic saw as “risk” other, smarter people in charge of less fashionable clubs saw as opportunity. As others have mentioned, as long as we won the Scottish title the board convinced itself that all was well & that Champions League qualification failures were merely bad luck & or even bad luck of the draw. In other words, they believed that nothing needed to change other than getting the right man in the manager’s seat. This is the same thinking that led to Jock Stein becoming manager in 1965 & our club’s strategic recruitment policy has remained in that time bubble. If it’s broken, just change managers & leave the rest as it is.



    Without an overriding, club wide, sustainable football culture we kept repeating the moves that were effective in another age, but failed in the modern era. During the G.O.D. (copyright CQN) I never questioned the football or management culture until October 2020.



    It’s hard not to associate that failed system with the current board including the ex CEO. So much of the inept PR, dismal communication & general lethargy within the club can be tracked back to that conservative (small c) risk averse attitude from those who really control the club. That attitude pervades in every department. Change has to start at the top, not in the middle or at the bottom.



    Too often at Celtic, change is resisted because it is associated with losing touch with our past. Ironically, the only part of our past we’re losing touch with now, is the sustained success.


    It might seem that expecting this board to generate the change is like asking turkeys to vote for an early Christmas, but since our Santa lives in castle in Ireland maybe they’ll have no choice if someone can persuade him.




  33. PeterLatchfordsBelly on

    The Club’s in a Stete Report more like.



    Aside from the predictable glossing over the scale and avoidability of the disaster, there is the frankly weird false equivalence with the Red Imps result. We got to the group stage after that game. Bogus equivalence.



    Anyhoo, if you continue to take this pish seriously you can forget Celtic ever returning as the dominant force in Scotland. Essentially P67 is saying no change in strategy, hope the huns get humped in ECL quals and to bust, again. In which case big Dermot and fat Peter won’t feck about with ‘relegation’, it’ll be a straightforward entry of a debt-free MkIII into the top division so the cycle can begin again. That’s what we’re really up against, the enemy within.



    Oh and as for biggest ever spend by a Scottish club? Netto? Nah, thought not. The PLC have culled wage costs and will make a significant net profit on transfer fees this year, leaving a team of boys that would be relegation fodder in EFL1.



    Even after all of it, they tell you not to believe what you see with your own eyes. More fool you if you’re buying.

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