Celtic And Sevco Talk About Building And Investment. Only One Is Capable Of Doing It.

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It’s interesting, following last night’s Champions League match at Celtic Park, in which we were somewhat outplayed, that Brendan Rodgers is talking about how our future success depends upon investment in the team.

I am sure most of us agree wholeheartedly.

It’s worth reminding ourselves for a moment that Brendan has been at Celtic Park for less than half a season. He has purchased or signed five players. Three of them were on the pitch last night from the start. One of those is a stop-gap centre half, although I wish we could guarantee another three years out of Kolo Toure because I’ve enjoyed watching him thus far and last night has done nothing to change my mind on that subject.

Of Brendan’s other two signings, one is a full back who’s still getting up to speed with the game here and couldn’t be risked last night. He’s a young guy and based on reports I’ve read about him I think we’re going to like him when he cracks it and starts to play regularly.

The other signing is a goalkeeper, who is clearly, like Toure, a stop gap. It’s too early to judge him (although the hacks already have) but De Vries may also prove to be Brendan’s first mistake; but a one in five ratio isn’t bad at all. That has earned our trust.

Changes in the backroom team reveal the scope of Brendan’s plans for Celtic.

The language coming from him and from the squad shows that nobody is interested in staying for a year or two and moving on. This guy is laying the foundations of something long term and he intends to be here for its development and growth. So too do his players.

We’re at the start of a journey here. The Champions League Group Of Death turned out to be exactly what it said on the tin; no-one is surprised and sure as Hell nobody is going to panic because we didn’t beat a top Bundesliga outfit any more than there was a meltdown because we didn’t get a result in Barcelona. The City game showed us what we could be, not what we are. That’s what made it such an exhilarating night for everyone who saw it.

So we’re building towards that, and don’t let anybody kid you about other objectives. The media had a lot of fun at the start of the season talking about how Brendan was appointed because we were rebuilding for the arrival of Sevco. Some of them still cling to that fantasy. But it’s clear that we’re not, that there’s more to our grand ambitions than ruling the roost in Scotland. Sinclair and Dembele were not signed to destroy Scottish defences nor Toure to keep out SPL strikers. These guys were brought here for nights like last night.

They just need a little better backup.

There are some clear areas where we have to rebuild and midfield is foremost amongst them. It is, in fact, the main one. I have little doubt that the manager knows who he wants in that area and that we’ll pursue his targets with vigour. The cash is there; that cannot be repeated enough times. This is not a job that needs to be done on the cheap.

Last night has not dented my optimism about our future or the direction Brendan wants to take us in. The improvements at every level of the club have given us real reasons for believing that nights like last night are just bumps in the road, steps along the way.

Over the last couple of days I’ve read comments from Mark Warburton which suggest that he too sees the development of his team as a process, one that’s just getting started. I have no idea what he bases his own optimism on, because it doesn’t appear to be a process at all.

If building a football team is like baking a cake, with ingredients, mixing, layering, icing and a cherry on top then what we’re watching at Ibrox is simply someone throwing random items into a bowl and hoping that what’s produced won’t put you on the critical list.

Warburton and his people are good at talking, and it has the desired effect for a while of creating headlines and making it look as if things are getting done. But as anyone who worked in certain public services during the nineties will know (I’m thinking council run ones, not the big ones) there’s a common equation which explains that away; real work plus appearance of work equals actual work. The media falls for it time and time again.

Sevco fans can see what Warburton’s Grand Scheme amounts to; it’s there on the park, in the form of Clint Hill and Niko Kranjcar. It’s there in the Joey Barton saga and having Garner, Waghorn and Dodoo in the squad when none is as good as the ageing Kenny Miller.

It’s building a midfield out of free transfers and Accrington Stanley players, the detritus of the English lower league loan system. In his first year he signed eleven players on permanent contracts and brought in four loanees. This season he’s brought in another eleven; that’s two full teams in two years.

Theirs is now one of the most bloated squads in the game, and his answer to their dismal form is to say he wants more players, more signings, on top of that.

Yet all this is “appearance of work”.  By his own admission, much of that splurge was about nothing more than “bringing in warm bodies” which is why the central defence is an ageing juddering shambles and the midfield is an over-bloated nightmare.

Aside from seeing no evidence that Warburton is doing more than plugging holes, it’s clear that he’s only emulating the attitudes of those above him at the club.

As Brendan is echoing the way the Celtic brand has been built over the years – one brick at a time – so Warburton is the perfect encapsulation of making it up as you go along, which has been the guiding survival principle of Sevco since the day and hour it emerged from the wreckage of Rangers. In some ways you can feel sympathy for Warburton; his hands are tied, after all, by the financial plight of the club itself. Yet in other ways, he’s earned the denouement that’s coming.

Both of these clubs are changing before our eyes.

One of them is heading up, looking beyond Scotland and striving to become a force again in Europe. Oh we won’t make the Champions League final any time soon, but our board understands that any future realignment of European football has to have us involved.

The only way to make sure that it does is to be on that stage year after year and to offer every team that comes to Celtic Park a torrid experience. Our club views itself in that way, and has built much of the infrastructure to be taken seriously at that level. We’ve got a ways to go though.

The other club is simply struggling to survive, betting everything on a project that was based on our own, but in miniature, a version of it that was never going to be up to par.

Sevco chose the very worst part of the Strategy to copy, the signing of reams of young players who they hope will be worth something someday. I understand how it happened, but not why they can’t clearly see what’s in front of their faces. They don’t have the underlying infrastructure, the scouting networks, the contacts book, to make such a scheme work and they have no concept of the enormous financial cost of building one.

Their situation at the moment is desperate. Whilst their manager talks about laying foundations, he has to know that the resources for that simply are not there. When he talks about signings in January and beyond he has to know that the club needs to start cutting, soon, and that increasing the squad size simply isn’t viable.

There’s really no need for them to put themselves through this ordeal. If they simply accept what the rest of the country knows – that they are years behind us and far better off if they concentrated on simply being the best team they can be instead of trying to catch up to us – they might have a shot at mere survival.

As it is, these clubs are heading in different directions but talking the same language about building and development.

But only one of them has the resources to do that.

The other is simply trying to keep on the lights.

As we’re going to see over the next few months, that’s going to be a battle far greater than any their players will ever have to face.

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