Earlier on today our good friend, James Cameron, wrote a thought-provoking blog about whether the Celtic board would sanction a minor signing spree in light of the distinct possibility of Champions League revenue heading our way.
I have always wanted my beloved Celtic to be successful, I love to see us genuinely ‘compete’ with Europe’s giants of the game.
I remember with great affection and with immense pride, watching Celtic go toe-to-toe with Juventus, Milan, Barcelona, Ajax, Manchester United and many, many more illustrious continental clubs…all comfortably better than anyone we could play at domestic level.
We rarely under O’Neill or under Strachan capitulated and were totally embarrassed, sure we had our wobbles, we had more than our fair share of defeats, especially on away duty but humbled…no!
In the days of O’Neill, Celtic spent a unpresidented level of cash on supplementing the squad with quality players. We had never seen signings the likes of Hartson and Sutton before, at a hefty £6million a-piece we probably won’t see them again, or at least for a long time to come.
What we spent though, under O’Neill, was however badly, badly needed after the equally high value Barnes signings like Rafael Scheidt and Eyal Berkovic failed to shine.
Celtic were falling, or so it seemed, light-years behind Rangers who had consistently for many years splashed out millions and millions of pounds, lavishly and to great acclaim from their fans and the media. Their then ‘great’ chairman, David Murray, had even the gall to tease and mock his rivals transfer bugets…what a brass-neck he had, huh?!
O’Neill was Dermot Desmonds’ bhoy, his baby, his appointment. Dermot was a proud Celtic man and deep down he was hurting like hell, he decided on O’Neill and backed him to the hilt…that was spending actually beyond our means but Desmonds’ pride was hurting and he bank-rolled the club to the tune of many millions in order to stem the tide of arrogance emanating from Ibrox and Murray Park.
Desmond did however know that the excess was a short-term solution and that to prosper on the park and to curb yet another decline, it was badly needed.
We were spoiled by the days under O’Neill, both on and off the park we had reasons to cheer our clubs achievements, it seemed we were on the up and up.
Consider the standard of player then at the club, ok forget Guppy, Sylla and Rab Douglas, seriously though the calibre of player we had then was frightening…Larsson, Sutton, Hartson, Petrov, Balde, Valgareen, Lennon, Lambert and Lubo, each of them legends in their own right.
Still we may have competed at Europe’s top table but financially the plan was neither viable nor more appealing than it was to produce our ‘very own’.
David Marshall and John Kennedy, to name but two, were massive revelations during that spell, both were besieged by bad luck and never fulfilled their full potential at Celtic but both alongside guys like Jamie Smith, Colin Healy, Liam Miller and Stephen Crainey showed enough to suggest that international stars of tomorrow were also ten-a-penny at Parkhead.
All that despite our then training academy being just a pipe dream, our facilities at Barrowfield, frankly laughable and our coaching set-up ‘first team centric’.
I can honestly say that guys like O’Dea and McManus, whilst not quite Valgareen or Balde quality, could stand up favourably among the performances of Daniel Majstorovic, Gary Caldwell, Kelvin Wilson and Glenn Loovens for whom far more money has been individually spent.
Dermot Desmond, you and I, and the Celtic board invested money into a major redevelopment of the clubs, scouting, youth academies, training facilities and coaching programmes…the talent is already bubbling just below the surface. The fruits of much hard labour may be about to pay off, big style too.
Unlike the spend, spend, spend days of old…we now have an opportunity to make a virtual conveyor belt of top talent ready and able to match our needs, all the while doing so at a very much financially viable, indeed profitable level of business that will safeguard our club through whatever future recessions may throw at us.
Given that we have a great depth of youth and that we have a more than strong enough squad to win our league, any spending would be purely with a view to being credible contenders in Europe.
As James suggested earlier, should that be a mandate to go and make a signing or two, we would not grumble…but do we need to? Does it make financial sense? Will it make a footballing chasm, easily bridged?
To all three of those questions, I say no.
If we can preserve the crown jewels in our squad whilst further developing our youthful talent, I’d be happy.
Any money banked from a European adventure may well be better spent next season or the season after, if saved wisely it may buy the kind of player who virtually guarantees to compete at the top-level, spent in drips and drabs now…it will almost certainly be on players at a level we have consistently explored previously.
Course we all want to see a new face or three, hey I’d love Jordan Rhodes and a top class centre half but we neither need Rhodes desperately enough to entertain the notion of a £6million plus bid nor have the funds to do so.
I’d opt to hunt around the transfer market and look for another hidden gem, another Wanyama would be a delightful wee find, or perhaps we could even get a loan deal with a proven player of some pedigree.
I’d love to make every player in our academy as successful as possible rather than continue to seek someone elses waifs and strays. I’d love to develop another bunch of modern-day ‘quality street kids’ the likes of which Dalglish was a product.
Our greatest ever team was undoubtedly the Lisbon Lions, a bunch of Scottish bhoys mainly reared through our youth policy and supplemented with the best Scottish talents available. The joy those guys give us all to this very day and will forever more cannot be equalled by our signing of English, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch or South American league left-overs, for every Ledley, Crosas, Balde, Thom, Cadete, Di Canio, van Hooijdonk or Izaguirre we’ve also had a Slater, Fernandez, Doumbe, Hinkel, Ibrahim, Blinker and Scheidt. Not that all of the second batch are necessarily a waste of time but most haven’t or didn’t cut the mustard.
I’d love to have the Celtic team full of Mulgrews, Forrests, McGeoughs and Watts, admittedly a Twardzik or an Atajić will do equally as nicely…these bhoys are motivated not just when the going is good but through thick and through thin, most if not always, now are, Celtic fans and will do anything for the jersey.
Most of those young lads have also been given a wonderful experience by virtue of our NextGen series involvement, a few may very well be motivated to new heights of achievement if the carrot of real Champions League experience looks likely.
Do we spend money to make sure we get beat by less of a margin, a short-term strategy or do we at long last use the market and the situation we find ourselves in to make sure that our long-term stability is wholly catered for?
For me that’s a no-brainer…who said you can’t win anything with kids anyway?