Celtic’s march towards the title has been particularly impressive because much of it has been achieved with last season’s team.
Indeed, our best player from that campaign has actually found himself on the bench more weeks than not.
Our two “blue chip signings” from the summer have been notable success stories. Our stop-gap signing of Toure was also inspired; he has been dreadfully unlucky to see his game-time limited but the performances of Simunovic surprised everyone, as has the late renaissance of Dedryk Boyata.
The impact of Dembele and Sinclair has been transformative, and all the credit for that simply has to go to the manager, Brendan Rodgers. He knew what he was getting in both cases. Sinclair’s success has come as no surprise to those of us who’d seen him play but Dembele’s signing raised eyebrows at first, not so much because we doubted his quality – that was pretty evident – but because Brendan said he’d been signed as a starting striker.
It would have been risky had Brendan not completely understood the player and what he could bring to the team.
His homework on this guy must have been extensive.
When it comes to Sevco, the picture is very different.
Today we’ve heard that the last of their high profile trio, Niko Kranjcar, will not play again this season. Has he been missed? He had one good game, just before this injury struck him, after which the media frothed and raved as they had when he signed. But before it there had been nothing. He was useless. Because of the injury the media, and the club, has been able to write off his early failures, but they are part of the record nonetheless.
He was their “marquee” player, their creative force, one of the three initial (and four in total) we were told would assure their “challenge.” Some went further and actually predicted not a challenge but dominance. Their dominance over us. Ridiculous. Those predictions – mostly from writers at The Sun, but other share their disgrace – will be laughed at for years to come.
The second of these “marquee” players was Barton.
And that ended well, didn’t it?
The irony of it is that he’s playing very well at the moment for Burnley, which suggests that he might even have offered Sevco something if he had taken the Scottish game even remotely seriously instead of expecting to get by on cruise control.
That arrogance as astounding, and it is instructive to note that he was humiliated by a Hamilton player in his very first game.
Brown owned him in the one game he played against us, and the way he acted in the face-to-face, before kick-off, when he couldn’t even look our captain in the eye, made it clear that the hard man rep was a smokescreen to hide a chicken liver. He never recovered from that. It wasn’t long afterwards – it was less than a week – that he detonated in training and from there he was never going to return to their squad.
The third of these players was Jordan Rossiter, of whom little has been seen and even less is known. Is he fit? Injured? What? There are rumours that he has a long-term, career threatening, medical condition which is tragic and horrible if true.
The fourth was Senderos, who it seems to me was signed because he’s an ex-EPL player, from Arsenal. He has been like the Invisible Man. He shows up every now and again for a brief cameo and usually with disastrous results.
None of this was a shock, any more than the successes of Sinclair and Dembele should have been; there was ample information on all of Sevco’s “marquee players” to have spread disquiet through their management team or board of directors. Whoever was responsible for those signings ignored past precedent and concerns about all of them, and the media, as usual, went along with the fiction that these were all great moves and destined to succeed.
But Barton was a nutjob who was always likely to explode at some point.
Senderos hadn’t kicked a ball in anger for months before Sevco came along, and he had been less than impressive at many of his previous clubs.
Rossiter signed for them with a troubling history of injuries behind him and those stories about his overall fitness were well known to anyone who looked past the headlines saying the club had “got a £6 million player for free.”
Kranjcar had played a handful of games – and seventeen minutes of football in total – in a year.
It is not surprising that the media didn’t do due diligence on these guys, even after writers like Johnjames and myself had laid all this out, before a ball was even kicked. It does amaze me that the club itself did not look into these guys; of all Warburton’s many sins as a manager his signing policy is the one that will haunt him far into the future.
Much has been made of the new director of football role they are creating over there; the two main candidates have worked at EPL clubs and that, if you believe the hype, is proof that they’ll be good appointments. But they also worked with EPL level finance.
Yesterday, in an article about Paul Mitchell, their second choice for that job, the writer said he was the guy who “got Deli Ali to Spurs.” Which made me laugh, because obviously the hefty transfer fee and the promise of a huge salary had nothing whatsoever to do with that deal.
When Sunday comes both Sinclair and Dembele will start.
Barton will be far away from the action, probably in some pub watching it with a scowl. Kranjcar and Rossiter will watch from the stands, the latter in deep frustration and the Croatian pretty pleased with himself that in spite of little game time he’s topped up the pension pot with a nice little earner. Senderos? Your guess is as good as mine; if the lamentable Kiernan doesn’t play we might well see him in the starting line-up, but it’s more likely he’ll be warming the bench.
In the meantime, it’s been four weeks now since Warburton was fired and the club appears to be lurching from shambles to shambles in the hunt for a new management team; reports today suggest that the “Portuguese Bond” may have decided not to bother writing that £300,000 cheque after all.
Maybe he’s looked at the Celtic team and it scared The Living Daylights out of him. Perhaps he’s opted not to sign up for the Ibrox electric chair and decided to go elsewhere and Die Another Day. Playing Thunderball with Brendan Rodgers isn’t something he’ll cope with.
It’ll be a shame really.
He might have been well suited to a club whose official moto is You Only Live Twice.