Today one of Scotland’s resident hacks, Gordon Waddell, wrote an article bemoaning the culture of money that is flooding through the game.
He appeared to take great offence to clubs spending big sums on players.
Whilst I agree with him that English football’s transfer market has become not simply outrageous but obscene, that wasn’t the point of his piece.
The piece was on how Scottish clubs are better off developing their own players. About how the game and the national team will benefit if we do. None of that is essentially wrong, but the article was so negative about the idea of Scottish clubs splashing the cash – especially on players from other lands – that I was moved to wonder if it was actually about us?
Of course it was about us.
Spending money has suddenly become a negative, a bad thing, a shady concept. When did this happen? Certainly not in the last couple of years; we paid more money for Jozo Simunovic than we did for Scott Sinclair, and whilst defenders aren’t sexy in the way wide players with an eye for goal are, it’s not even Sinclair himself who has made the hacks go goo-goo.
No, this has a much simpler explanation.
Spending money became bad when people realised Sevco didn’t have any, nor were they likely to suddenly get their hands on some. People have twigged that King is a busted flush; he promised a transfer warchest for Warburton and has not delivered. He’s upped the wage bill and signed nine players on free transfers. Now the manager is facing up to having to sell Tavernier, who has just signed a new deal, to get money for a striker. That’s the reality.
King is not going to suddenly produce oodles of cash, not in this window and not in January. They will be trying to find money to keep on the lights long before that. If the New Year comes and Sevco are competitive – in the top four – then Warburton will be praised for his good work, told Europe is the goal and be forced to get on with what he’s got and the usual promises will be made about spending in the summer.
If he’s outside the top four or so far behind the second spot that it’s clear he’s not going to cut it he’ll be sacked and the new manager – one of the Real Rangers Men – will come in, to work on a shoestring and the merry-go-round will go on as before.
Celtic’s spending power will continue to dwarf theirs. If we make the Champions League Group Stages we’ll be able to buy the kind of players their fans would once have dribbled all over themselves about. Nothing they do can close that financial gap; as I’ve pointed out repeatedly, and as Paul Larkin’s excellent documentary The Asterix Years makes clear – shocking clear – our financial performance outstripped Rangers’ even in the years of the old board.
Their losses were higher than ours year on year on year.
Their debt level climbed inexorably towards crisis points three times in the years before the 2008 crash.
I’ve analysed the turnover of these two clubs in detail over the years; there have been two years, and only two, in the last fifteen when they were able to post higher turnover than we did. Sevco is financially weaker than Rangers was – even when you consider the doping – and I’ll be long dead and gone before that changes if it ever does.
It’s taken their fans a long time to twig to this, and the media would have gone on ignoring it indefinitely, but Warburton, as we’re so often reminded, was a city analyst. If there’s one thing he knows how to do it is crunch the numbers and he knows what these add up to as well as anyone. No-one can have failed to miss, although the media didn’t highlight, King’s implicit threat that finishing second is “non-negotiable.”
No-one should be surprised that Warburton has got nine players in and still wants more; this is a potential career ending situation. As I pointed out in my Fields article The Killing Fields, better managers than him have come to Scotland and seen their reputations destroyed. He can’t and won’t survive finishing third or lower, because King’s grand plans would be in ruins if he did. These people will throw him to the wolves without a second’s thought.
But the new narrative is already being laid out; Brendan Rodgers’ will have “bought success”, as Ronny’s two titles “didn’t count” as Sevco weren’t in the league and Neil Lennon’s were devalued by the same. It’s already being suggested that even winning a domestic treble won’t be considered “good enough” by the media, and that Brendan is to be judged on how we perform in Europe. He’s being set up to have the “failure” story written already.
These people will never give Celtic credit, and they will do everything they can to make sure Sevco comes off looking good no matter how bad things are, and this isn’t the first time they’ve resorted to this “youth is the way forward” stuff because an Ibrox operation was coming up short of the cash.
The difference is, that was in 2012 when they were in the bottom tier.
By this time they were supposed to have built that youth team already and been sitting on a pot of gold.
Instead we are so far ahead of them that there’s no longer any denying it.
Spending money has always been applauded in Scottish football; after all, what else was the point in letting a guy with 82 criminal convictions appear to have skipped through “fit and proper person” criteria to sit on a football board? He was supposed to have the cash to turn their provincial Scottish club into a superpower.
He never had the cash. A mixture of his lies and the media’s need to believe in the sugar daddy miracle, a lot of wishful thinking and his penchant for the limelight and stringing them alone … it’s all come together at a time when we’ve gone out and brought in the real quality, the good stuff. Now, with that gap a yawning chasm, they’re retreating backwards to the old standbys, the old excuses. Suddenly wealth is a dirty word.
Apparently the real honour is in scrambling around in the bargain bin.
Well they can enjoy life there. We’re aiming bigger and going for ten in a row. We’re going to keep on spending the money that’s available and developing great young players at the same time. We’ll do it all legally, above board, and without resorting to cheating.
That’s what makes us better than them.
In Brendan We Trust.
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