Opinion: The Times They Are A Changing?


Posted By kevingraham

Posted in Articles, Opinion



Watched by the ever professional, John Hartson, Chris Sutton began on his post game rant at what he had just watched against Malmo.


I found myself agreeing with his sentiments but laughing at his hypocrisy as I remembered many occasions that him, and his extremely well remunerated mates, also turned in woeful performances away from home in Europe.


I wrote last year about us being on the outside looking in. I mentioned FC Basle as the model team, which seems quite foolish as they also went out of Europe to their unseeded opponents but their record over the last few years stands the test of a model that works.


Malmo have managed to find a winning formula. A disciplined hard working side, with pace in the correct areas and a genuine attacking threat but who are aware of their limitations and know what they are good at. They get great value for their football budget and seem very comfortable with it.


Celtic on the other hand seem weighed down by their budget and size but ill at ease with what to do with it. They claim and strive to be a Champions League club but spill their budget like cheap red wine over an expensive axminster.


The hysteria surrounding qualification for the Champions League is baffling. It’s a competition that we don’t have hope to win or even compete in. All the talk from the fans and media is about the prize money. It’s never about football. We want to qualify for a competition then spend 6 matchdays hoping not to get heavy defeats.


Off course the club want the money and the exposure it brings. What do the fans want? I know what I want. I want Celtic to the Pot 4 club (we are one) or the club in qualifying that no one wants. That when they are drawn against us – unlike at the moment – they know there is a chance that they could get a burst nose or a chasing so hard that their legs will fall off.


We are as far away from that point since than ever it seems.


How do we get to that point? Well, like any club from the forgotten backwaters we need to be successful in 3 areas. Coaching, Youth and Scouting.


At the moment we are seriously failing in two of these and have been for years. The third probably just gets pass marks.


In the coaching department, Ronny Deila asked him to be judged 12 months after Maribor. He’s probably regretting this check-point. Another failure in qualification for the Champions League, which makes him the first manager to fail back to back Champions League qualifications and a first competitive defeat to a Swedish side is blot that has went through a few pages on his copy book.


We have only had 2 qualifications for the Champions League in 7 years so failure in this department is not the sole property of him. That we had qualified the 2 years previously makes it more unpleasant and over exaggerated.


We can’t just forget the games against Qarabag and the first game against Malmo. The first half against Malmo saw us produce the type of high octane football that we were promised. The truth of the matter is that we should have been in the Champions League before half time.


Ronny has had 2 full transfer windows. The squad still has a light look, a lot of questions to be answered and a in transition feel. We’ve went down the development route further than we have done in the past. This heaps massive pressure onto Ronny and his coaching abilities. He’s got to turn this squad into an effect unit with very little time or experienced players to do it with.


He has a backroom compliment and infrastructure that most clubs would die for. Sports science, video analysts, psychologists, nutritionists and Lennoxtown are all at his disposal. The only area the coach is working with his hands tied behind his back is the league we are playing in.  


The Europa League draw could have been kinder for the development of the squad. While on paper qualification for the last 32 looks unlikely it is being banded about by some as a deal breaker.


I don’t agree with that train of thought but there needs to be signs of improvement. The yellow underbelly that saw us go out against Malmo has to disappear and we need to have more periods in games both home and away when we reach performance levels that Malmo couldn’t handle. The tactical nous that we showed in Baku has to return.


There could be a case that we may throw the baby out with the dishwater where Ronny is concerned but he is the most important part in the whole jigsaw. If he can’t develop the players then it all fails. This is a pressure that he hasn’t faced before. The support were pretty unforgiving with our sloppy start against ST Johnstone and a difficult September could lose him more good will.  


An argument can be levelled that he hasn’t had the support he requires. That our scouting and lack of youth players have left him facing an uphill battle and one that we are light years behind other clubs. That our policy of selling our best players and waiting to see what European competition we are in before committing funds has caused better men to leave before him.


John Park joined Celtic as Football Development Manager in 2007. Chris McCart joined Celtic in 2008 as Head Of Youth Development. Both work closely together in the scouting of both first team players and youth teams.


In the 9 seasons since this set up began we have only qualified for the Champions League 4 times and constantly failed to bring players through the youth ranks. Since 2010 we have raised £76m in transfers, which no matter how you look at it is a fantastic return and testament that we can spot a player.


Yes, we have had, as expected, some complete and utter failures. Our wage bill hasn’t increased in line with football inflation in that time. In fact, our wage bill is now close to the same level that it was in 2007. Despite dropping domestic income in the same period, the club is being propped up by player sales and European income,  our wage bill is still larger than most English Championship clubs and all the clubs we have faced bar Arsenal in European qualification in the last few years.


Despite the wages on offer remaining constant in that period, the standard of player we are seeing is dropping. That’s no surprise as standing still is in real time a cut. So, year on year despite having one of the highest wage bills in Britain we are not getting value for that wage bill compared to our other small league competitors in the lottery of European qualification.


Is 11 trophies in 9 years and 4 Champions League campaigns value for the change that took place in 2007?


There seems to have been a change since Ronny took over. Young Scottish players are now being scouted and signed. A policy that previously was ignored as we were told there was no value in Scottish players. The first team squad is being trimmed with the manager saying he needs room for our own players to get the chance to develop.


Are the youth there? They certainly haven’t been in the last 9 seasons. Only James Forrest has come through in that time and can be classed as a regular but he was already in the system before Park and McCart got involved. We seem to be great at developing players for other SPFL clubs.


Ajax a few weeks back had 11 out of their 18 man first team squad come via their youth system and that has to be our aim. It was no surprise to see Stephen Frail leave his role with the development squad. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Chris McCart follow him out the door. This is a major failing in the football club.


If the club developed it’s own it would save millions of pounds. At the moment it costs us millions of pounds every single season in running costs and that we need to buy players. There are shoots of light appearing but will the already discussed under pressure manager have the guts to play them when the demand to win is so great?


This is not a case of ripping it up and starting again. Like it or not this is the only route open to the club. It’s a case of that since 2007 we have failed on more occasions than we would have liked and a new pair of eyes is needed over scouting and youth.


We find ourselves not that much further forward than we were 12 months ago. The same issues haven’t been addressed and it seems we’re are going round in ever decreasing circles of failure.


To get where we need to go may need further change and many more bumps in the road.   


  1. Bob Cordial
    Posted September 11, 2015 at 5:48 am | Permalink

    Not another “Byres Rd” Celtic supporter? Just a pity we don’t have a genius like yourself running the club. We’ll just have to struggle along with the outfit we are lumbered with until someone with your obvious tactical nous drops into our lap like manna from heaven.

    • kevingraham
      Posted September 13, 2015 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

      Unsure what what you mean by “Byres Road” Celtic Supporter. Only been there once and it was many moons ago at a party. Never meet a Celtic supporter there. Plenty of students though.

      I’m not a genius. Far from it. How would you change or do you think everything is fine?

  2. Jim Campbell
    Posted September 11, 2015 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Did you really mean ” tactical nonce” or should it have been tactical nous?
    Nonce seems a bit harsh.

    • kevingraham
      Posted September 13, 2015 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

      heh, changed now….

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