How much do you believe transfer rumours? How much do you believe whispers of discontent from “inside Celtic Park”? How much do store do you place in the idea that we’re just one Champions League knock-out from selling off the entire squad?
The answer to that depends on how you respond to one simple question; how much do you trust the current Celtic board of directors?
And the question is pretty complicated, with many different facets to it. And I have a long history on both sides of the argument. I have gone through periods when I haven’t trusted them at all, and others where I’ve believed they had it sussed.
Right now, I am pretty much of the view that they get most things pretty on the nose. The Strategy has delivered Brendan Rodgers, double trebles and two Champions League qualifications in a row. We have money to spend and this window has just opened.
Celtic has also been much more active behind the scenes, on reform of the SFA, than many would have you believe. We have been pushing our position on many fronts, and the public call for an inquiry into the goings on at Ibrox and Hampden in 2011 and beyond was about as clear a demonstration of our displeasure as you’ll get.
But the board has a reputation for parsimony and for lack of ambition that has, at times, been fully and richly deserved.
There was the jaw-dropping spectacle in Lennon’s last season at the club of us weakening the side for every one of the early rounds of the Champions League, and although some at the time said it was motivated only by the fact players wanted to leave I still found it inexcusable. No wonder the manager decided to go when that campaign was over.
I believe at times that we’ve been asleep at the wheel. I believe that our board has made some disastrous mistakes. I also feel that successful managers at our club have traditionally been let down by those inside it, and made to “do more with less” rather than get the back they and the fans probably expected them to get.
But you can clearly see that when the football side of it is working, and you have time to examine the performances of those in the backrooms, that we’re a well run club with a plan and the resources to make it work. You can also see, elsewhere, what happens when a board lacks any semblance of professionalism or a clue how to do the simplest things. Ibrox will always be our warning sign, posted there for all time to remind us.
In short, I think our board is paying a price for historical mistakes. Or perhaps they weren’t even mistakes but actually, as some said at the time, simply reactions to an ever-evolving situation. At the end of the day, we could not have kept Wanyama and Van Dijk and Forster if those guys wanted to go. We have kept Dembele, Tierney, Rogic, Gordon and others though even when big money was being offered for them … because those guys wanted to stay.
Nobody is being pushed out the Parkhead exit door to pay bills. We’re financially solvent, and stable. We’ve invested in infrastructure recently because that is how you grow the club, it’s how you bring new revenue streams online and that gives the manager all the more that he can spend on the first team squad and everything else required for a modern institution.
People are entitled to question the board when they see six weeks of the window go by without us strengthening the squad. It’s a legitimate concern, although I still feel strongly that we’ll get it right and the team will be better off for it.
But there’s simply no evidence whatsoever to support this idea that they are desperate to make a big sale, as if our books need balancing.
The logic of it does not add up.
If we qualify for the Champions League Groups the bounty is greater than ever before; any money we bring in from the sale of a top player would do no more than plug the gap if that sale and the failure to properly fill the hole cost us a shot at that prize.
Whatever else you might think of our board, nobody believes that it is made up of stupid people. They are smart enough that they get this. They are smart enough to know that ten in a row or not, the manager will not hang around if he thinks he’s been undercut. They are smart enough to know they won’t win any battle for public opinion if he walks.
Count on that then, that above all. The people running our club are not fools. If you can’t have faith in their best intentions, believe that they know what’s in their best interests.
This window is not getting any easier, but by the time it ends we’re going to have some answers.
I expect us to be broadly pleased by what we get.