As I wrote in the last article, there is a story behind Harry Wilson’s impending transfer to Derby. The press is spinning a comforting fiction that Gerrard has “first refusal” on Liverpool youth players who might come to Scotland, but like much else that flows around Ibrox this is little more than a barefaced lie.
In fact, Liverpool would have allowed Wilson to sign for Celtic had a couple of little wrinkles been ironed out. They almost were.
Before I go on, there are a couple of things you have to understand.
I said in an earlier piece that I was not in favour of us developing another club’s youth players when we have our own talents at the club, but Celtic has its own ideas about this and Brendan quite likes taking advantage of our reputation for bringing players on.
The idea that Liverpool are wary of us because of Roberts and Musonda is just another media lie. Musonda was a special case, a guy with attitude issues that precede his arrival at Celtic Park and Roberts was a great success at our club before he got injured, and then the form of James Forrest kept him out of the team as his contract drew close to the end.
Clubs down south look at the job we’ve done with Tierney, with Dembele, with Edouard, with Armstrong and others and they know Celtic Park makes players better. Everything else is nonsense, but it’s nonsense the media is happy to push for its own reasons. If Wilson had signed for Celtic, as he very nearly did, they’d have had some job spinning it.
So why didn’t he? What stood in the way of the deal?
There were two things. First is Liverpool’s “policy” of fining clubs who do not play their loanees. Have you noticed that nobody in the media has asked if Sevco is obliged to play the one who the Anfield club sent to them? Why would they be exempt from a rule that Celtic was going to be held to? Because of Gerrard? Don’t make me laugh.
Celtic refused to be bound by such an agreement. We made it clear to Liverpool that nobody at the club is guaranteed to start games and we were not going to make an exception for one of their footballers. That was the first problem, but it could and it would have been resolved by our paying the Anfield club an enhanced loan fee, which Celtic was more than happy to do … but under one condition, and it shows the brilliance of Rodgers’ thinking.
Neither Celtic nor Brendan believes that you can get the best out of a player by working with him for just one year, and our manager and Peter Lawwell were happy to pay an enhanced loan fee, and to guarantee Liverpool that Wilson would return a better footballer, but only if he was here on a longer contract than just one campaign.
We envisioned a deal like the initial Roberts loan; an eighteen-month deal with an option for six months more. In other words, a two-year agreement. My information is that we came very close to getting an agreement on precisely those terms.
But ultimately Liverpool wanted too much, including a recall option which would have meant a lot of uncertainty for us, with them having the ability to take the player back at any time of their choosing; that proved to be crucial, and the killing blow.
My sources on this are very, very good and it’s a story I absolutely believe to be true, offering a far better understanding of why Wilson isn’t coming to Parkhead than the one dimensional anti-Celtic shite that’s been run in the papers.
It’s obvious that no club in England would hold the Musonda loan deal collapse against us. It’s obvious that with the evidence of Van Dijk, Wanyama, Armstrong, Forster, Ki Sung Yeung, Tierney, Dembele and others that this nonsense about clubs having no faith in our ability to develop players is just a lie. It’s equally obvious that Liverpool see the benefits of their player getting experience not just in playing games but in winning trophies and playing in Europe. So everything you’ve read recently … none of it stands up to real scrutiny.
The point behind all of it has been to bolster this idea that Gerrard has some kind of inside track at Anfield, that there’s a “special relationship” between the Ibrox club and Liverpool, and that Celtic is losing its lustre south of the border.
What contemptible rubbish all of it is.
In fact, we maintain better contacts in England than Gerrard has, because his are all at one club whereas we can pick up the phone and get people in Manchester, London, Liverpool, Birmingham and elsewhere to take the call.
Sevco has Gerrard. And Mark Allen.
How good a combination that is remains to be seen, but there’s been no “game changer” signing thus far to make us lose sleep at night.