Another winnable loss in Europe
BY CRITICAL BILL
The implosion of our friends across the city, has successfully neutered a lot of the disquiet over our European exit. Indeed a reaction of a number of fans that I know was one of resignation but not really that bothered because of the comedy going down in Govan.
However Copenhagen join a long list of other clubs with far fewer resources and cash yet who have been able to put us out of Europe. The Danes now have a great chance to make a European quarter final something – we have failed to do in 16 years.
6 times in the last 6 years, a team from abroad who could only wish for the salaries and transfer fees we pay our players have fed us our dinner, very often with a win at Celtic Park. This should result in real self examination by those running the club at why this consistently seems to happen. But nah don’t hold your breath. Given previous seasons, it would appear that it doesn’t matter because as long as we’re ahead of Rangers and whilst 10-in-a-row still beckons, who cares?
Well I for one think we should. Yes, I accept that the manager didn’t cover himself in glory for the second time this season in Europe. Ajer at right back will figure along with McGregor at left back against Cluj as a really daft tactical decision.
But here’s the rub. Whilst we are having a right good snigger at Gerrard’s meltdown in Ibrox, none the less in January, they went out and signed someone who helped get them over the line in the Europa Cup. We signed two projects.
Now Klimala and Soro could yet come good and I have nothing against signing players who may take a year to settle properly and be integrated into the team. But and its a huge BUT, there was also a need in January to address the immediate needs of the team. Rangers turned us over in our own patch at the end of December and had outplayed us a few weeks earlier in the league Cup final. At the start of the transfer window the manager said he wanted 4 players and at least some experience. Well he clearly got nowhere near what he asked for.
Einstein’s definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Well if the German physicist’s exact meaning is accurate, can someone please come and section the Celtic board. How many times must we approach European competition with money in the bank but a total unwillingness to address blatantly obvious deficiencies in the team.
Since Astana in 2017, Jozo Simunovic’s form has in the main been sub standard. He simply has never been the same player after his failure to get a move to Burnley. In January after we came back from Dubai, he wasn’t punished for a number of mistakes against Partick and Thistle and Ross County. Against Kilmarnock he was, but the competition and opposition meant that we could recover from the mistake. Against the Danes, it was a major factor in ending our European hopes.
For the first time in over a decade we went into a European tie after Xmas as favourites. But instead of addressing team needs, Peter Lawwell fiddled and as a result Rome burned. You didn’t need to have Helmut Schoen tactical awareness to know that Centre Back needed looked at.
In the first part of the season, we relied heavily on the Ajer/Julien partnership. Now it did serve as us well over the piece but it became obvious in December that Ajer was tiring. We had no replacement to give the big Norwegian a rest due to Simunovic and El Hamed being injured. El Hamed has been almost constantly been on the treatment table since signing and as mentioned Simunovic can’t be relied on.
A small part of the £40M in the bank could have addressed that glaring problem but c’mon thats not how Celtic work. We therefore go into a massive tie with the Croatian at centre back and Ajer at RB despite signing three right sided full backs in the summer.
And of course the inevitable happens. Look who Copenhagen have got in the next round. They probably can’t believe their luck. We have however moved on since last week without a care in world. More revenue lost, a selling point to attract players gone but hey, we’re in front of Rangers and they’re out the cup so what does it matter? Forgive me but for this fan and shareholder it really does.
I accept that we can’t compete with the big 5 leagues. But the likes of Ajax, Porto, Benfica etc… are in the same boat as us – bigger geographical neighbours next door. Yet – and let’s be honest – we are miles behind them. And I’m not just looking at results in European Competitions.
Under Peter Lawwell where are we going infrastructure wise ?
He inherited a high maintenance main stand that wasn’t fit for purpose back in 2003. 17 years on, we are still holding pressers in tents outside it and the telly gantry’s a joke. Compared to the likes of Porto, Benfica, Ajax etc our main stand really is second rate.
Other big clubs have museums which earn money and are actually major tourist attractions. Go to Porto if you don’t believe me. It shows the club and its history in a great light. Our plans for one are now on the back burner.
Standard amongst many a big club are purpose built medical facilities with doctors to deal with injuries, prolong career etc. Indeed Ronnie Deila said that is one of things clubs like Celtic can do because the quality of these facilities doesn’t depend on the league you’re in. As yet we have no plans for such a facility.
PL did build a training ground but it was one that was one that did not have a full size indoor pitch (despite coaches at the club asking for one). He has of course announced plans for such thing together with a reserve pitch with actual stands and changing facilities around it back at Barrowfield. Ajax already had this set up before a brick was even laid at Lennoxtown.
Another area where geography and quality of the league isn’t an issue is club websites and social media offerings. Go compare ours to other big clubs outside of Scotland ? To say our looks cheap is an understatement.
As mentioned countless times we have no scouting network in the Balkans, Scandinavia, South America etc….
We have £40M sitting in the bank which would go some way to addressing much of the above. I doubt it will get touched. Had we beat say Maribor or AEK (obviously followed by Videoton) we could have more than enough money to do all of the above.
And you’ll have to convince me that those plans for Barrowfield and the Hotel/Museum will ever come to fruition. The Celtic board remind me of Strathclyde Partnership for Transport who every so often used to give the Evening Times impressive artists drawings of their great visions to extend the Glasgow Subway or build a railway line to Glasgow Airport. Those things have always remained drawings.
I fear that talk of a museum, full-size indoor pitch etc…will always just be that – talk – as long as the accountant Pete Lawwell is in charge. At least SPT could justifiably say the they didn’t have the money for their grand designs.
I have written before about how having no ambition is synonymous with Celtic boardrooms. One thing that upsets those who defend Peter Lawwell the most is comparisons with the family dynasties. But those people forget that under Desmond White we completed 9-in-a-row. We got to a European semi-final against Atletico Madrid. But like the current incumbents, his over-arcing principle was to do just enough to stay in front of Rangers.
That meant that not long after the semi against Atletico, the likes of SWW Innsbruck and Politechnica Timisoara were putting us out of Europe. And as a result, well run Scottish clubs at the time (Aberdeen & Dundee United) could give us a serious run domestically (between 83 & 86 Aberdeen were the strongest the in the country)
When he died we were in the black at the bank but the “lets do just enough and no more policy” left us vulnerable to anyone really prepared to throw money at football and other events (the Taylor report being a case in point).
If beating Rangers is all that floats your boat, great, revel in the past few weeks and buy into the nonsense that Neil Lennon spoke about at the AGM when he described Peter Lawwell as the best in the business.
Don’t get me wrong, I love finishing ahead of that lot down Edmonton Drive. But if you actually want Celtic to be a genuinely big club operating as best we can outside the big 5 European leagues, then that is never going to happen under the current CEO and very possibly under the current ownership. Other than attendances, comparisons with Ajax, Porto, Benfica etc are false. We’re not in their league.
If they had the consistent failure in Europe that we have, there would be no end of soul searching as to why this always happens. But does anyone seriously expect anything to change at Celtic Park after the 27th of February ?
One final point. At a bare minimum, PL’s total remuneration from Celtic over a period of just under 17 years will – funnily enough – be just under £17M by the summer of this year – and thats assuming there is no 9-in-a-row bonus if we get it. I will be gobsmacked if there is not a 10-in-a-row bonus (again assuming we make it) that would take his total earnings to £20M in 2021.
Its up to the individual to decide if that is genuine value or if it is gross fat-cattery to pay all that money just to finish in front of a Dave King led Rangers.