Like most clubs across Europ not owned by a money laundering Russian oligarch or an Arab prince trying to wash the blood off his money, Celtic operate a player-trading model. In the context of Scottish football we do it very successfully however, as we have identified numerous times on the podcast and have written about, relative to our European peers, we do it poorly.
Our dabbling in the player-trading model has illustrated the complaint made in a piece I wrote six plus years ago; that there seemed to be no purpose to our strategy. We seem to be player-trading for the sake of it. A look at our European peers illustrates that they trade to achieve European success, whereas we trade to keep our heads above water. The fact that we have no specific player-trading infrastructure illustrates to me that it is not part of a well-thought through corporate strategy for growth.
We set up a player-trading model 10 years ago without any player-trading infrastructure, that would be like selling washing machines without an agreed supply chain. We have no director of football to create a long-term strategy that deals with the whims of the coming and goings of coaches and are only now putting some scouting boots on the ground.
I would have thought that if this had been a coordinated business strategy, a decision would have been made to commence a player-trading model, and then a working group would have been set up to plan out the infrastructure to facilitate player-trading. The director of football/sporting director (or whatever title you want to give him) would have been in place before the player-trading model commenced. The scouting network across the world would have been in place before the model commenced, or certainly as it was starting up (perhaps you may have used the first few player trades to part fund it).
We should have six or seven boots on the ground in South America, we should have two or three boots on the ground in the Balkans, not simply “good contacts”. We should have a couple of boots on the ground in Central Europe, in the Benelux countries, and France and in Scandinavia. Instead, we hire a manager who’s got “an eye for a player” and rely on emails and faxes that come through from agents who will be sending the details to us and 20 other clubs at the same time.
The benefit of boots on the ground is that they will build relationships with clubs and players and agents in youth systems, so that they know about players before the agent starts hawking them around, and whilst having this infrastructure in place will not end mistakes in signing players who for whatever reason don’t make it, it should minimise that problem. Instead, we, a club who should be aspiring to be a last 16 Champions League team, are wallowing around relying on agent recommendations, third-hand people in the know information, and continually shopping around in England (like someone with a low income shopping in Waitrose).
I understand that the club over the last 12-18 months have been, under Nick Hammond, undertaking a thorough review of the football division and recommendations have been made about putting in place that scouting network. But it is frustrating as hell that I can go back to our site and read an article written in 2011 about what we need to be doing, and I can recall podcast after podcast, after podcast on this very topic and yet here we are having learned nothing, the pandemic having pissed our financial advantage away and by the end of this season, no matter what, we could easily find ourselves on a level playing field with a club that’s only six years old.
As stated, the fact that this has been a topic on this site non-stop for the 10 years that we’ve had a player-trading model makes it all the more frustrating. Of course, it’s never too late to learn lessons in business and it’s never too late to plan and appoint the best. I believe the planning is ongoing and a major overhaul is likely, no matter what, this summer. Of course all of this makes reviewing the managers position in November even less desirable.