It is 3 years and 3 months since the previous time we met Newco in a League Cup Final. Celtic were poor that day but still took home the trophy amid wastefulness in front of goal and one of the greatest goalkeeping displays I have ever seen.
Since then, Celtic have been completely transformed. From that matchday squad, only Callum McGregor and James Forrest remain at the club (Mikey Johnston is out on loan). We generated cash by selling players, scouted and recruited well, and now sit with a valuable player pool that is comfortably outperforming all others in Scotland.
Seven of the Newco team that lost in 2019 started against Celtic on Sunday, another two were on the bench. Their squad development has been limited and mostly unable to force their way onto the field. Four of their starting 11 on Sunday are not contracted beyond June, another two are in their final 18 months.
By contrast, none of Celtic’s starting 11 are out of contract this year and only the oldest two, Hart and Mooy, are out next year (they are also the only two in their 30s). Everyone else has two, three or four years under contract.
Since 2019, one club in Glasgow went through the gamble of selling and buying, while another went through the gamble of inaction. You could argue that both worked and failed by some measure. Newco won their first title, Scottish Cup and reached a European final – a reward for retaining talent through their peak years. But now they are a busted flush without resources to rebuild. Celtic dropped one particularly important title, but the next generation, well as the last, is ours.
It might only have been the League Cup that was won and lost on Sunday, but the anguish across the city is indicative of a greater pain, that of structural disadvantage. More on that soon.