The countdown is now on for Season 2017/18 with the first Champions League Qualifier now less than a fortnight away.
And I’m buzzing. We’re now two pre-seasons friendlies in, but the real football starts in earnest soon and Celtic has a lot to look forward to.
It seems like yesterday when Scott Brown lifted the Scottish Cup above his head to complete a remarkable, Invincible Treble. It was beautiful, magical.
I’m hedging my bets that the Hoops will face Linfield with all the furore it’s caused. Frankly I want the tie to be over on 14t July so we can concentrate on the next set of opponents.
Celtic should have the quality in the ranks to dispose of their Irish counterparts.
But we need to be up to speed and, a couple more signings should be priority. Much has been made of this tie but let’s forget the baggage that’s gone with it and get ready to embrace the new challenges ahead.
As the dust settles, Celtic should, and will be, looking to improve on last season’s exploits in the Champions League as it will be nigh on impossible to mirror what they did domestically, no matter who questions the magnitude of this astonishing achievement.
Celtic is heading for seven-in-a-row but will want to eclipse last year’s achievements in the Champions League. It was one of the toughest groups we could have faced.
Brendan Rodgers looks as if he is in the market for quality more than quantity – we don’t need eight new signings. Celtic’s first team squad (excluding youngsters) sits at 25 just now including new Bhoy Johnny Hayes.
Hayes is more than capable of playing at the qualification level – he’s been capped now so this arena should hold no fears for him and I think he’ll settle in well.
Christie and Allan have both been farmed out again this season and no doubt Ajer and Ciftci will follow suit. Ajer will continue his development and may return to Kilmarnock. As for Ciftci, I’d cut him a deal and let him find pastures new. There is obviously no place for him in Brendan’s Invincibles. I also see Mackay-Stevens playing first team football elsewhere, probably Dundee United on loan. Or Hibs.
Roberts has gone and I doubt he’ll be back. I’d be extremely surprised and delighted if I was proven wrong but we need to concentrate on a replacement. His trickery and ability to thread a pass to the forwards was a site to behold. And he could score.
I’d love Celtic to break the bank but I don’t see it.
Rodgers has intimated at one more signing for the Qualification Stages of the Champions League and I’m hoping for a big centre half.
This was pretty much confirmed when he spoke recently saying: “There are two players in particular. Jonny was one and there is another I would hope we can get in. Then I just want to get through the qualifiers with the players who have got us through, knowing they are a year better on.”
I’d hope he’d in the market for a central defender as we need to be someone in to partner Jozo Simunovic. Despite ending up in Turin for a medical last season and looking liked he had kicked his last ball for the Bhoys, he’s become an integral part of the Celtic back line. Who’d have thought it? His no nonsense tackling is a site to behold as I’m sure some SPFL strikers will testify.
Dedryck Boyata proved the critics wrong last season and dug in to keep his place but it’s also a question of cover should either be injured or suspended. I’m not convinced that Sviatchenko is the man for the job and he’s been unhappy at being on the bench.
Kolo Toure may yet be re-signed, but I’d keep him at the club, as a coach, in some capacity. He was brought in by Brendan to steady the ship, which he did but his best days are long gone but his influence is apparent.
Tierney and Lustig have and will continue to dominate the left and right back positions respectively. If Celtic could secure a right back of Tierney’s ability and youth then we’d have struck gold. Lustig’s had little competition from Gamboa – who knows the forthcoming season may prove otherwise?
In fairness to the big Swede, he had his best season in a Celtic jersey. Tierney when injured was replaced by Izaguerre and to be frank he did a good enough job so I’d doubt Brendan will be looking at those positions for now.
Celtic has an abundance of talent in the midfield with skipper Scott Brown anchoring it and Player of the Year Scott Sinclair will always start.
This leaves a choice between Stuart Armstrong, Tom Rogic and Callum McGregor, and all played their parts in the Treble run. All three have goals in them and spectacular ones too. Rodgers worked wonders on all of them and it’s difficult to pick who gets the starting jerseys. It’s a headache for Rodgers but one he’ll relish no doubt. Bitton will feature throughout the season but won’t be a first choice.
But what of Eboue Kouassi? He turned in just 4 appearances since signing from Krasnodar. He’ll need to be on top form to shift any of the aforementioned – he definitely needs more game time to prove himself.
Up front, both Dembele and Griffiths proved themselves last season in Europe and at home. I don’t see Brendan hunting for a striker at this early stage unless a multi-million pound deal is tabled for Dembele. Do we really need one for the qualification stages?
Even at that, Celtic has re-iterated that they have no plans and no need to sell any of their stars. This side should also capable of retaining the title to make it seven-in-a-row despite boom and bluster from the south side of the city. Many have questioned the lack of signings but other than the positions I’ve mentioned we should be good to go. For now. If we do get to dine at the big table in Europe then we need that bit more quality.
As champions, we have a distinct advantage of having the talent we do and the togetherness that shone through last season. We don’t have to bond a team from scratch and Brendan’s been in the hot seat for over a year.
Things are good. Let the fun and games begin.
Gavin McCann is a Celtic blogger from Glasgow who cannot wait for the new season to start.