When the transfer window closes at the end of this month – in a couple of weeks actually – the chances are good that we’ll not have spent much more than £6 million.
In terms of Scottish football that’s big money, the kind that puts one team so far in front of the rest that the media is now talking about how evil all that spending is.
But there was a time when spending that was no big thing for Celtic; in fact, one manager at our club, Martin O’Neill, spent that on a single player … and he didn’t do it once or even twice but three times. In 18 months. Sutton, Hartson and Neil Lennon cost £6 million apiece.
It’s our transfer record, set, in the case of Sutton, 16 years ago now. As football has moved one way, we’ve moved another. Sensible in one sense, but not designed to keep us as a major force in the game. Whilst transfer fees have sky-rocketed to obscene levels, we’ve gone backwards which means you get less bang for your bucks than you did then … no wonder we’ve struggled so badly on the European stage these last few years.
Major opportunities have been blown at Celtic. Our failure, twice in a row, to get to the Groups has cost us an almost unbelievable sum, reputed to be in the region of £30 million. That would have given us the kind of transfer muscle we’ve been lacking.
Recently we went out and purchased Scott Sinclair for around £4 million. This is Celtic slowly but surely returning to the big stage. Brendan’s appointment is more than just filling the key seat in the dugout; it’s a statement of intent. Bringing in Sinclair and Toure is a tentative step towards putting us back with the big boys, and that’s just the beginning.
By this time next year I expect our squad to be smaller, but better than it has been in years. I expect to be excited by the business we do in January, and that’s not to say I’m suddenly a believer in all this “jam tomorrow” cobblers. Full houses at Celtic Park, Champions League Group Stage football, if we get there, and an exciting manager with an aggressive attacking style all adds up to major changes happening at our club.
The Champions League format changes, and the introduction of the Champions Route in the qualifiers, means that we’ve got a shot of getting to the groups more often than not. The media and a lot of our own fans were quick to pour cold water on the idea after the fiascos of recent years, but that’s the reason the Ronny Experiment came to an end.
In point of fact, we ought to fancy our chances and getting there this year would provide us with the financial muscle to have a right good go at getting back there next season too. On that framework, we will see the really significant changes coming.
Brendan has already spoken about our transfer record; he’s not intimidated by it and nor should he be. He doesn’t look at it as some kind of insurmountable obstacle. It’s a number, that’s all. If he has a big enough transfer pot and the right calibre of player came along I have no doubt he’d spend that kind of money on one. It’s a matter of time.
Of course, the Scottish transfer record is another thing entirely, and that wasn’t set by us. That was set by DeadCo, and it towers over ours as the final, ludicrous, proof of David Murray’s bizarre and ultimately suicidal “for every fiver” policy. The name Tore Andre Flo should be etched on the clubs tombstone and on his. For that money they could have had Sutton and Hartson both … which goes to show just how dumb they actually were over there.
We’ll all probably be dead and gone before Celtic spends £12 million on a single player.
Whilst we’re playing in Scotland that will most certainly never happen, and nor should it. Barring our access to some kind of European league that’s a ridiculous amount of money to splash out on one footballer; I would balk at us approaching the £10 million mark.
But the £6 million high watermark of our last great period of ambition and drive and imagination is not beyond our reach, simply something better not pursued unless the club has absolutely faith in the man in the dugout and the wholehearted support of the fans. Top that off with regular Champions League income and it’s simply a matter of who’s available and what that kind of money would bring to the team.
Sutton, Hartson and Lennon were worth every penny. If Joe Allan had been available for £6 million and Brendan was longer in the job and with a Champions League pot of gold at his side I have little doubt he’d have made the move and the player would have been at Celtic Park.
This is where we’re heading back to, a place where we can, again, as Lawwell promised once, have a core group of top level footballers backed up by able deputies, capable of looking beyond the Groups themselves and towards qualifying for the latter stages.
We have no reason to be fearful about Wednesday night, and a good result at Celtic Park, a resounding win, will put us in the driving seat and on the verge of reaching the Promised Land. The benefits to our financial state will be enormous and will demonstrate the value of calculated risks and pushing the boat out that little bit further.
And in the end, that will change everything at Celtic Park.
In Brendan We Trust.
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