The Gap Widens On Another Blessed Day For Celtic Supporters.

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The injury to Jonny Hayes aside, the last few days have continued a nice wee trend; these are great days to be Celtic fans. Of course, being a Celtic fan is always nice, it’s always been kind of special, but it’s hard to deny that we’re living through a real Indian summer right now, one of clear skies and sunny weather. These are great times for us.

There are three more days to go in the year, and only a game against Sevco stands in our way of closing it out on a real high. I expect that high. I expect us to win comprehensively on Saturday. I expect us to ratchet up the pressure they are in over there, and to end 2017 as it began; with Celtic the only show in town.

I’ll do my year’s review later on, but suffice to say we all realise what a special one this has been. That it ends with us still in Europe, netting a windfall of around £7.5 million, League Cup winners, top of the league, and another talented young player – Anthony Ralston – signing a new deal is pretty amazing. It’s as if the good stuff just keeps on coming.

The two most recent developments, that £7.5 million bonus from the Van Dijk deal and young Ralston’s new contract, are obviously hugely significant. How much of the £7.5 million will Brendan see? I think he’s entitled to feel he should get it all. This is money in the mattress. It was not budgeted for, although it would have been expected to come. In the end, I think he’ll get a percentage of it, perhaps as much as £5 million.

When he chooses to spend it is another thing, but before we think too much about that I’ll say something that’s been on my mind recently, and it has to do with our business during the summer. I think the manager was sold short, but not as short as some seem to think. I don’t think he got all the players he wanted, but he got the big one right.

The media briefly enjoyed telling us that Sevco spent more money in the window than we did; whether or not you believe that depends on whether or not you believed the inflated transfer fees they published as their “proof”. I personally don’t think you can rely on those, but let’s say for the sake of it that they were accurate; so what?

I said at the time that there was no way of knowing what any of those players could do; the idea that Caixinha had scouted them or knew much about them was based on pure conjecture. Almost all had question marks against them. Every single one was going to face the issue as to whether or not they could settle in a foreign country, with a harsher climate.

I also thought that the media was getting swept away in raptures because some were Mexican and others were Portuguese and all had strange names. Yet had Hamilton signed these guys there would have been no fanfare. I lost count of the number of times I read on Sevco forums how the standard of signings was much higher than previous years; there was a certain inevitability about all of this ending as it has, in tears.

But we made one big purchase, that of Olivier Ntcham, at a cost of £4.5 million. I have lost count of the number of Sevco fan discussions there have been on Brendan’s signing record and in particular a focus on this guy as a “bad signing” which is simply stunning.

It could not be further from the truth. Olivier Ntcham is a prime example of what Brendan has done right, and what our club continues to do right. We were linked with a dozen players in the summer, but this was the one we got. And the press had not a whiff that it was in the offing until the deal was signed and sealed, but clearly we’d done our homework on the guy and knew exactly what he would bring to the team. A settling in period was inevitable … but he is sheer quality and that becomes more apparent with every game you watch him.

This is the model we have to follow in building this team, and in handing Brendan a transfer kitty we have to remember that he might want to sign one blue chip player, with the attendant costs in wages and fees, per window rather than spread the cash around. That can be more effective in growing a team than signing two or three with the cash.

The Van Dijk money will be nice, of course it will. And whatever Brendan’s cut of it is, it’s likely to be more money than is available to every other boss in the league combined going into this window, where we’ve already made one signing and apparently tied up one more.

I think the Ralston news might be more significant. Certainly, it’s an over-the-horizon move, one that will keep a top class young footballer at the club far into the future. We seem to have a happy knack for producing good full backs right now … I do hope we can add a quality centre half to that soon, but no other club in Scotland has such a ready supply of great youth prospects … and that’s going to matter more and more as the Brendan revolution progresses.

This has been a big year, but the last few days have been significant outliers for what’s coming in 2018. If you thought this year was fun brace yourself; I have a feeling that the next 12 months are going to make them look boring by comparison.


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