When Scott Sinclair arrived at Celtic Park he came here as a player who had never reached his full potential except under Brendan Rodgers at Swansea. Kolo Toure arrived having already made his name and had an excellent career in that country. Moussa Dembele came to Celtic as a young player at the start of his. He rejected offers in the EPL.
Brendan himself had been in discussions with the FA about the England national coach’s job. He had also been offered a return to club football down there. He turned them down as he waited for “the right job, at the right club.”
Celtic offered Scott Sinclair the chance to be the player he always threatened to be. It gave Kolo Toure the chance to end his glittering career with more silverware, to top that he already has including three Premiership titles. Moussa Dembele will begin his football development as a title winner, and perhaps more.
Brendan’s own reputation will be massively enhanced when he departs, as a manager who will have made history here, and built something very special.
Will any of them get credit for it? Of course they won’t. In England, the cynics are already sneering at all of them. Today Scott Sinclair is being told that his new form is all well and good but that to realise his ambitions he has to return to the country where massive clubs signed him and then slung him on the bench. Exactly what would he achieve if he went back?
I think Scott Sinclair is a huge talent, but his moment for getting into a top, top team down there has come and gone. To return now would be going home for the money. He’s tasted the Champions League. He’s about to play at Hampden. He could be a cup winner by the turn of the year and a treble winner before the season ends. These will be the best years of his career when he looks back on it at the end. This is his chance to win things and be a legend, and to play in those massive Celtic Park nights in Europe, which are as good as he’ll get anywhere.
Moussa and Brendan have said this, in the last fortnight, that they want to achieve great things here, not simply stay for a couple of seasons and then depart. Both know that this is a special club and they want to be a part in the bright future we’re carving out. The chance to win silverware this early will be exhilarating for both of them, and for Sinclair too.
The arrogance of the EPL media is astounding. It’s the same arrogance that brought Joey Barton here on holiday, thinking that Scotland was a doss, that he’d stroll about the pitch and look a standout. He was nut-megged on his debut and owned by Brown in the Parkhead game. Brown was right to point out that he’s not the first guy to come here and think he was better than the standard of the league, only to get a rude awakening.
Nobody should think this is about Scotland either, although our boys will never get an ounce of credit in England for what they accomplish here. I once saw Jose Mourinho, who had already worked miracles with Porto, including winning that UEFA Cup and the Champions League, being spoken to like a child by the hacks down there, whose attitude was that he hadn’t really done anything in the game until he had won their domestic title.
When he returned to Chelsea three years back, having accomplished the goal they’d set for him already and much, much more, all his victories in the time between his spells there were treated as equally unimportant. Guardiola has faced similar issues with his own enormous achievements being unfailingly downplayed.
I’ve watched games in their top flight, one that includes football “giants” such as Norwich, Bournemouth, Middlesbrough, West Brom, Hull and Sunderland. These clubs can all outspend us but they will never be greats of the game, they will never be clubs that experience what we did in Lisbon. They will never win regular titles or trophies, anywhere. Without the riches of the EPL funding them the world would barely know they existed.
Many of the games are utterly unimpressive. The last two major ones, the hyped ones, have been plainly awful, with Manchester United and Liverpool’s game a particular bore. Other leagues across Europe are far more exciting; as a guy who likes a bet I can tell you that Holland, Germany and Spain all guarantee goals and the spectacle of attacking sides trying to win. The EPL reeks of fear, the fear of sides who know relegation would be a little like getting hit with a hammer. Many of their games are played under that dark shadow, and managerial sackings are always at a premium down there as teams panic at the slightest change in the table.
At the time of writing, in eight EPL games so far this afternoon (one is already done and the other seven are at half time) there have been three goals. Abysmal. That’s entertainment? That’s the biggest league in the world? At the same time there are two German top flight games being played which have equalled that total goal haul and one that has beaten it … with 20 minutes still to go.
Scott Sinclair, Brendan Rodgers, Moussa Dembele and others will be looked down on for being up here playing football. I daresay all three of them knew that before making the move, and they probably don’t particularly care. They will withstand the barbs and snide remarks, the unfair and ridiculous comparisons and get on with the job.
But the attitude of these people down south who see this is a backwater and can’t wrap their brains around the simple truth – that Celtic is bigger than the clubs just named and that over-blown marketing hype and obscene amounts of money doesn’t change that – sticks in the craw nonetheless. It remains profoundly offensive and insulting.
Scott, Moussa and Brendan are professionals. They do a job, and that job is not easy no matter what some down south might say. They deserve far more credit than any of them will get already, and if they get us to a cup final tomorrow they’ll be entitled to even more. The status that will accrue to them if they sweep Celtic to a domestic treble will resonate down through history, but there are some who’ll not acknowledge it at all.
That bothers me, perhaps more than it should.
Even as I write this, the second halves have all got underway and Gary Hooper’s goal has given his club a lead in their match. If anyone wants to know what happens to the guys who think the grass is greener on the other side, who can’t wait to get home, they want to look at the career path of that guy, now playing in the Championship for Sheffield Wednesday after having experienced the glory of those Champions League nights at Celtic Park.
Think he’s happier now? Think he’s glad “to be home”?
No, me neither.