Celtic’s French Connection Might Be The Basis For Our Future Success.

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Over the summer last year, I read, with great interest, the books written by the person who calls himself The Secret Footballer. They were insightful, buzzed with energy, quite brilliant in places. In those books he covers every inch of the pitch, as it were, from how scouting really works to the problems at the very grass roots of the game.

One of the things he writes about with great knowledge is how the dynamic in a dressing room works, and he wrote something about Newcastle United that I’ve thought about a lot since. When their club started to sign a large number of French footballers he said he knew it would either result in great success or total, abject failure. There would be no in between.

The French, he said, are cliquey by nature. Put a group of them in a dressing room and they will form their own wee nucleus. Fall out with one and it’s likely you fall out with them all. Make one feel unwelcome and the rest will act up in sympathy. But integrate them properly, and they will blossom like no group of players from any other nationality. On the pitch they will fight for each other like tigers. They will develop a ready understanding which is hard to beat.

A wise manger recognises this and counts on it.

Brendan Rodgers knew all this. He factored it in when he signed Oliver Ntcham. He probably reasoned that having Olivier in the squad would make it easier to properly integrate Edouard and that it might even be critical in keeping Dembele. You saw how they all played at Ibrox; the two strikers scored and Ntcham walked away with the man of the match award. These guys gelled brilliantly. They worked their socks off. It made the difference.

Brendan has spoken at length on how he feels about our signings having the right mentality. Over at Ibrox that word gets used a lot, but in a different way. In my opinion, in the wrong way. They talk over there about it being all about being able to live up to the enormous weight of expectations that go with playing with “a huge club.”

But as Brendan has said, there’s a lot of players out there who tick that box. A lot of players have played for big clubs and in front of big supports. It doesn’t make them good signings. Brendan means something else. He means the ability to fit in.

Pedro Caixinha tried to create his own little football foreign legion at Ibrox, but he was doomed to failure right from the start because he was putting his together in a big hurry without doing the kind of due diligence which is required. That is readily apparent when you look at the total failure of guys like Pena and Herrera. But it’s equally evident in the way his Portuguese contingent failed to settle. The other problem – a bigger one, by far – was that they came into a dressing room that was factionalised and riven and where many of those already there viewed those signings with the deepest mistrust, and made that known.

Perhaps that was to be expected; as I said, Caixinha tried to do things too quickly instead of adding players over a period of time. Celtic took no such chances, and every player we scout and make an offer for has to have proved that he can fit in with the rest of the team. The personality type is just as important as a player’s natural ability and if it takes us a little longer to find these guys then the wait will have been worth it because no signing will cause a dressing room split.

And that opens the door to all sorts of possibilities; I don’t believe we’ve seen the last French signing and that’s about more than just assembling a wee unit of them here. French football is on the crest of a wave right now. Its players are amongst the most technically gifted in Europe and the conveyer belt just keeps churning them out. They are, in a sense, where Spanish football was 15 years ago and we all saw the results of that.

This bodes well for our future.

This is a positive way forward.

Whilst other clubs focus on the wrong things, Celtic is getting the fundamentals right and looking ahead.

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