Fight for every ball
Big Archie wasn’t happy when I met him this week, ‘Talk about f*cking up a transfer window!‘ he began as he supped his pint, ‘what is it with Celtic, we get into a position to leave the other teams streets behind and we feck it up!’ His feeling that Celtic haven’t built on a position of strength is shared by many. The failure to land John McGinn and the ongoing situation with Moussa Dembele and Dedryk Boyata has left a sour taste for many supporters. With Patrick Roberts and Stuart Armstrong no longer at the club it could be argued losing Dembele or Boyata would leave Celtic weaker than they had been last season. As it transpired, Dembele left for Lyon and Boyata will enter the final year of his contract still grumpy about not getting a move after his World Cup appearances enhanced his reputation. He will probably move on in January as the club looks to recoup some money on him and by then they had better have a replacement lined up of fans will be asking serious questions of the club.
There is no doubt Celtic badly mishandled this transfer window and their communication to the fans about what was going on was poor. Having the best part of £20m banked for the striker and no replacement lined up is poor planning at best and negligent at worse. Moussa’s childish online strop perhaps demonstrated that his heart was no longer in it at Celtic and when that happens, you move them on. Dembele may only have started around half of Celtic’s games last season but he was a very effective player when he did play and terrorised Rangers in particular. These transfer window shenanigans will only encourage the Govan club to think Celtic are weakening and that is why it is imperative the Hoops turn up on Sunday and remind them of their place in the pecking order of Scottish football.
This transfer window saw Celtic spend big on Odsonne Edouard and the fans were virtually unanimous that this was a good move. He’s a talented young player who is developing into a powerful striker. The manager wanted and expected players of quality who would be involved in the first team from the start to join the club. Mulumba is a useful addition and his combative style offers a good option in the hurly burly of Scottish football. Filip Benkovic looks like the sort of defender who will add solidity to Celtic’s back line. The 6 foot 4 inch defender cost Leicester City £14m and should hopefully establish himself in the Celtic defence. Other additions to the squad like Lewis Morgan will take time to develop but looks like a promising young player. Celtic fans will look at the team on the park and ask, is it as strong as last year? Most would say not. They are primarily concerned with the playing squad and what has annoyed most this transfer window has been the apparent lack of planning and forethought. Surely they knew Dembele would be leaving in the near future and had a possible list of replacements ready? To allow it to run on so late in the window that there was no time to find a decent replacement was poor. The club has also failed to adequately transmit what’s going on to fans. No one expects them to make public targets given the complexities of modern transfer dealings but this window has been a public relations disaster.
The hard truth is that Dembele and his advisors engineered his exit in a pretty shabby way which was reminiscent of Paolo Di Canio’s ‘I have a little problem,’ back in the 1990s. Rodgers took a raw talent and moulded it. Celtic gave him a platform on which to show what he could do and the fans adored him. He was paid the sort of money most of those fans could only dream of and his petulance was disrespectful to the club, the supporters and above all to Brendan Rodgers. The manager has behaved with great dignity but has seen this sort of tactic before. He said…
“It is disappointing. I have seen some of the comments and you only need to look into that to see whether it is true or not. I am a Celtic supporter and as Celtic manager am I going to tell someone to go to Brighton because they are a bigger club? I’d be very disappointed if it was myself (Dembele’s tweets were aimed at) considering we took him in from where he was, developing him and giving him an opportunity. It is understandable as a tactic. I have seen it before. I have been it and seen it from the outside and it is unfortunate it has come to that. I have close relationships with all the players. The first thing I always promise them is open communication. It is always open. But of course if you’re trying to engineer something you can sometimes drop to that level of tactic in order to do it. I am experienced enough have been around it enough and seen it enough. You just have to get on with it. It is what it is. It’s disappointing it’s got to this stage and where it’s at. But that’s modern football. You just need to deal with it.’
Some may think Dembele was Celtic’s greatest asset but he wasn’t. Celtic’s greatest asset is the man who sits in the manager’s seat at every game. Dembele let him down and the Club’s recruitment policy let him down. This was demonstrated in the loss of John McGinn to a second tier English club when Celtic really should have secured his services. Celtic should do their utmost to match his ambition and be as professional in their outlook as he is. Of course there should be strategic planning to ensure the healthy finances of the club remain so but sometimes you need to speculate to accumulate and the lack of effective defensive cover probably cost Celtic their Champions League place and in excess of £30m To lose Dembele is a blow; but to lose Brendan Rodgers would be a far more damaging. He is, as he has often said, a Celtic fan but he’s no mug and he knows what he wants to take the club forward.
Among the hyperbole and bickering of the transfer window it almost escaped notice that Leigh Griffiths scored his 100th goal for the club. He had been suffering with a bug earlier in the week and actually threw up at half time in the Suduva game. He’ll be straining at the leash to get at Rangers on Sunday and that is the sort of attitude we need now. Guys like Griff, Tierney, McGregor and others go about their business with quiet determination, wait for their opportunity and give their all. The season ahead will be challenging and we now need to get right behind the team and the manager to ensure it’s another successful campaign.
I hope the club are already working on who we need to bring in to strengthen the team in January’s transfer window so we don’t have to endure another shambolic episode. The fans deserve better and above all Brendan Rodgers deserves better.
January though can wait. Tomorrow we have our noisy neighbours to shut up. A positive outcome there will at least end a turbulent period on a high note. The fans will bring the thunder as always and team needs to show up and fight for every ball.
Over to you Bhoys…