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.


Click Here for Comments >

About Author

  1. Pages:
  2. 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. 4
  6. 5
  7. 6
  8. 7
  9. ...
  10. 14

  1. AN DÚN on 30TH JULY 2021 2:52 PM


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




    We make £20 million circa with Europa group stage football.




    I took the figures from The uefa website for distributions for season 2021/2022. It’s prize money we will actually receive from participation not what we have in the past.



  2. Back to Basics - Glass Half Full on

    “If a Covid breach situation did crop up, they fought their corner ‘tooth and nail’ and mitigated any problems”



    Respectfully – not an appropriate like-for-like comparison at all



    They (Sevco) had a supporting cast that allowed them to mitigate unchallenged.



    That same supporting cast were deployed to hinder Celtic.

  3. JHB on 30TH JULY 2021 3:33 PM



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



    It was included in your post, the suggestion that the alternative ruthless, successful, Rangers way of old had been adopted with similar successful outcomes by “Rangers”



    They died because of their recklessness, it’s as simple as that

  4. Could be wrong but have a feeling that Paul is waiting on a “rangers” collapse to help us.



    We have never in the past few years helped ourselves ,we are reactive not proactive and again it has come back and bit us in the arse.



    How often do we have to scream Celtic need STRUCTURE and not DD heading up transfers.I hope Dom shows a pair but i have my doubts.

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

    THE EXILED TIM on 30TH JULY 2021 4:10 PM


    Ach well, looks like Ange has been told to rein it in by the sounds of it.







    That, very regrettably, is exactly what that wee clip sounds like.



    “…two or three additions…” – not nearly enough in terms of key areas and depth in quality that we need.



    Sounds like he’s been told – two first-teamers and the anything else will be cheap / young development projects.



    As Dom said – ” Ange is a builder “. I’m sure he didn’t think he’d have to get the clay ovens out to make his own bricks!!!






  6. TET



    Sounds like it.



    More projects than team ready coming our way.



    Mind you I did say yesterday we have to sell to buy.

  7. It sounds like pedantry but it’s fundamentally important to the understanding of both clubs’ views of risk



    I would have thought that seeing them go bust, die and go 9 years without a trophy would have made us a little more understanding of an approach that doesn’t put the club at risk of the same thing happening. I can understand why there might be criticism of an overly cautious approach, but not an unfavorable comparison with a dead club who cheated us and then died, or a new one who’ve won a single league with its arse hanging out it’s trousers, all the while running up huge losses and depending on loans and share issues for its survival. You’d think they’d have learned but they’ve managed to reframe their demise as something else so I guess it’s easy not to fear something happening again if it never did in the first place. I don’t think I’d see it that way, but I have a conscience.



    Paul67 is right, the club has very solid financial base, we’ve been doing and continue to do most things right. One disastrous season doesnt mean everything Is bad, that models need revisiting, that the fundamentals are wrong. Unfortunately we’ve done some key things badly, but that’s not to say we can’t do them well again.

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

    PHILBHOY on 30TH JULY 2021 4:21 PM


    Mind you I did say yesterday we have to sell to buy.






    Sounds more like sell and bank the cash

  9. About the Ballot …



    Got a ticket for West Ham game (unfortunately).


    Pity about the performance – and the 3 “fans’ in front of me up in the gods (not in usual sensible WS2). With the vaping, Buckfast and general rowdiness (with no masks), it was not enjoyable – it’s a long trawl from Embra by train for that.



    So just received a text saying I’ve got a ticket for the Dundee game !?


    If I’m not back in WS2 (ticket next week), I don’t know if I fancy the possible random “company”. Hoping WS2 is ‘open for business’ .



    Sorry for you guys who have been unlucky when I’ve been lucky enough for 2 in-a-row – plus living in Embra !

  10. Angie said we need 2 or 3 more in key positions and then we can start looking at adding depth to the squad



    He didn’t say 2 or 4 more players

  11. It’s going to be a long season(the way things are at the present) Saturday night could be a nail biter.

  12. TIMHORTON on 30TH JULY 2021 4:39 PM



    I think if we’re all pulling in the same direction it will be a help 👍

  13. ST TAMS



    He mentioned Bitton more than any other player and commented on his experience being important.



    Sounds like he’s the first name on the team sheet.



    HELP MA BOAB!!!!!!!!!!!.

  14. Good analysis Paul67



    As for now, despite the doom and gloom the time to even initially judge Ange is after all players deemed to be first 11 picks have arrived, bedded in and have at least 4 or 5 games under their belt.


    That could be 5 or 6 weeks from now.



    Europa League is essential for money but outwith the money, not 1 bit important to me this season. Let’s walk before we crawl before we run and that starts with the league. I can’t help thinking how “catastrophic” Artmedia was but we used the absence of European football as an opportunity to build under a new manager and we won the league that season (and the next 2 seasons as well).



    I do hope at least to see our fitness under Ange improve. Of all the many problems we encountered last season I think in a general sense, lack of fitness was the worst. Celtic teams are renowned for their fitness, playing to the last whistle and turning losing & drawing positions into victory late in games.



    The reverse was true last season – we lost far too many points from winning positions late in games for lack of fitness not to be a factor.



    I was alarmed to see us wilting in extra time on Wednesday. The type of football Ange wants us to play is impossible without a high level of fitness so I do have concerns on that and hope we see it addressed quickly.



    And for what it’s worth, I have a feeling the new guys will have a dramatically positive effect on our league chances.



    God Bless The Celtic.

  15. Unfortunately at present nir Bitton is our most experienced available defender other than Starfelt. My feeling on Starfelt is to give him a further week to train rather than risk injury or a dodgy first performance which may hinder his acclimatisation. Same with Furahashi. Welsh and Bitton isn’t ideal tomorrow but it may have to do.



    Being honest, on his day Nir can play. If he can stay out of rash challenges and avoid early bookings that is…..



    For the avoidance of doubt, we shouldn’t be in this position. But we are. And we have to do the best we can do.



    Risk Starfelt if he is genuinely fit, but I don’t know how training on a bike in a hotel room or doing PE with Joe Wicks for 10 days would prep you for 90 minutes at swinecastle. Same with Furihashi but at least you can generally look to give forward players60 minutes and get them subbed. Not so much with a centre back unless we are 4 or 5 goals up by that stage – I can only dream…….

  16. Personal opinion


    People asking what do we do in f Anthony Ralston gets injured



    Lee O’Connor ( just turned 21) looked comfortable in the pres-season game he played at Right Back, and was getting decent reviews on loan last season, playing at RIght Back


    Osaze Urhoghide, can also play at right back


    And finally with Carl Starfelt arrived and NIr Bitton out of suspension – Stephen Welsh can also cover at Right Back, his natural position.



    Oh – and it appears Furuhashi has arrived in the building (announced on the Celtic website)

  17. Imo, without European football we are just another fish in a shrinking small pond. Put bluntly, Scottish football is not rated outwith our own bubble. Our wage bill demands European football.



    It’s European football that can entice the players ( indeed coaches ) we all desire.



    HH to all.

  18. timmy7_noted on

    Speaking of Bittons experience, this is the guy who got himself provoked/bullied into getting sent off at home last week and Ibrox last season. I don’t think any amount of experience makes up for being an idiot.

  19. timmy7_noted on

    Don’t want to get all pessimistic here but the reality is that anything other than a defeat at Tynecastle would be a decent result. Way better teams than this one have come under huge pressure in that racist shitehole. Particularly if they score first.



    I would be really concerned about this team if they lose an early goal up there, literally anything could happen. I’m sure the wee huns smell blood.



    I’d love a clean sheet with no real disastrous performances from any individuals.



    But obviously a scrappy 1:0 would be great.

  20. 67 European Cup Winners on

    Paul67 – i am in for most of that and thank you


    But a couple of points i am not buying




    The huns will not implode regardless of CL money


    The bigger issue if they qualify is that they will definitely spend it on footballers (unfortunately for us probably proper ones)


    Waiting for the guy in front to slow down can leave you further adrift it is our job to get after them (assume they are brilliant and rich and good) it helps focus the mind




    NL did not need advising – he thought it was Christmas – he could not believe his luck PL is the culprit here arrogance from him looking for the easy option assuming NL with all his deficiencies could still win the 10


    Three :


    AP was not sitting by the phone At the time PL and DD genuinely took a minute to decide what to do there was no harm in that as the league was lost DD and PL got the right man they just failed to convince him to sign a contract At that point AP was a last minute decision based on availability and probably a decent endorsement from The City boys




    We do not have a scouting system a head of recruitment we are just buying what’s available and willing to come Ajeti and Barkas are a £10m nightmare



    It will be a long season but forever Celtic




  21. ROBERTTRESSEL @ 5.03


    “…… least you can generally look to give forward players60 minutes and get them subbed. Not so much with a centre back unless we are 4 or 5 goals up by that stage – I can only dream…….”



    ROBERT, I’ve been thinking about this over the last two competitive games and Ange’s style of play, it occurs to me that if, after going helter skelter for an hour, we are not a few goals in front then the tiring players start to be vulnerable to counter-attacks and losing goals. And, as we all know, goals change games.



    So, as much as we need decent defenders, we really, really need guys up front who will take the chances made and score the goals expected/needed. In both games against the Danes we missed easy chances that would have put the game(s) out of reach before they managed to get back into each game.

  22. The Blogger Formerly Known As GM on

    Quick quiz – he was the subject of the 3rd question at Tuesday’s pre- CL qualifier presser and the only player asked about specifically by name today?



    Who is the player? Hint – he’s created a circus and is an unwelcome distraction in the rebuild of Celtic.

  1. Pages:
  2. 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. 4
  6. 5
  7. 6
  8. 7
  9. ...
  10. 14