Brendan Rodgers has a weaker Celtic squad than he did when the season ended, and whilst I have cautioned patience on this site that is running out as the clock inexorably ticks down towards more Champions League qualifiers.
Celtic has spent nothing this summer, a statement that sounds perverse when you consider that we’ve broken our transfer record to sign Odsonne Edouard, but it remains true nonetheless. The cash for Edouard we largely recouped from the Armstrong deal.
The rest we got from the Van Dijk settlement towards the end of last season.
Brendan has lost a handful of players.
None has yet been replaced.
McGinn would not strengthen us.
He would simply restore that part of the team to where it was before Armstrong left.
I watched an interview with Brendan prior to the game two days ago, where he spoke about the need for signing players. “The team needs strengthening,” he said, “and unfortunately it is going to cost money.”
Now, since every fan knows that already it didn’t take an Enigma code-breaker to know he was directing those comments at another audience.
Brendan’s frustration level is starting to climb.
I would suggest that today’s news that we’re “willing to wait” on John McGinn will not have helped that situation.
Celtic is not a club that enjoys spending money, as we all know.
We’ve had an historic issue with building from a position of strength. We prefer to stand still, because it’s cheaper. Successive Celtic managers have ended up having to “do more with less” and that’s inexcusable now that we’re sitting on a surplus and the club is better placed than it has been in years.
And whilst nobody is asking us to go out and match the Edouard deal again it is now verging on ridiculous that we have not improved this squad yet.
Every year, our club sends out scouts. They compile lists. Those lists are filtered down into a select group of players.
We know who is on that list already. We’re not making it up as we go along here, the list exists and we’ve got a fair idea of what all those who are on it are worth.
And yet we do this year in, year out.
The manager wants this guy.
He’s made it clear.
McGinn has been our shortlist since the day Brendan arrived. The reports today talk about “other options”; if we have them let’s move onto them if this deal isn’t going to come off, but let’s stop pissing the player about and pissing Hibs about and pretending we’ll go back for McGinn in January if we’ve already gone out and signed someone else.
Brendan’s not going to wait for January.
He wants Armstrong replaced now, because he can’t go out and “improve” the team until it’s back to full strength.
I said earlier this month that Celtic and Hibs were in a tricky situation here, especially us, because Petrie wants to use McGinn as a stick to beat us with, but that’s a non-issue now that Hibs have named a price and it’s not an unreasonable one.
Petrie is not screwing us just because he can, because in fact his own position is weak and he knows it.
Celtic can just wait.
We can sit on this and get the guy on freedom of contract in January.
But that’s not what Brendan Rodgers wants.
And so far our summer transfer business, Edouard aside, is making a series of low-ball offers for John McGinn and trying to sign a Liverpool youth player on loan.
To say it is highly unimpressive is an understatement. It stinks, in fact. It makes us look cheap. It makes us look ridiculous. It leaves Brendan, who has publicly called for the players he wants, looking like a fool and he won’t accept that for long.
This guy has pledged his loyalty to this club, but he is also a guy who fiercely guards his own reputation and he won’t carry the can if the people running the club refuse to back him properly and we crash out of the Champions League un-necessarily.
I’ll tell you, he’s not going to hang about if he thinks every summer is going to look like this, and all too often they do. Nobody expects him to get the money to assemble a whole team, but there are glaring issues that need to be sorted in this squad including at the back.
If he isn’t backed, he’ll walk and he’ll be quite right to.
And then our board is going to find itself under serious scrutiny for the first time in a long time.
We are supposed to be past this, past this parochial, small-club penny pinching.
The board may be willing to wait to save a few quid but Brendan Rodgers can’t be expected to do the same, because it’s his neck on the line if this gamble fails and if some other club comes in and signs McGinn in the meantime I think we’ll have lost an exceptional talent for no other reason – no other reason – than bolstering the balance sheet.
It’s the team-sheet Brendan wants to bolster.
In public he’ll not be overly critical, but behind the scenes he has to be climbing the walls.
The maths of this are simple; whatever Lawwell and his cronies think they are saving us in the here and now will be dwarfed by the size of the disaster should their gamble for the sake of a few quid cost us Champions League qualification. That’s a £40 million error in judgement, the sort people lose their jobs over.
The window’s been open for weeks. We’ve done nothing. We can’t even close a deal on our own doorstep, and instead have resorted to Sevco style unsettling tactics, based on a very big assumption, that McGinn is willing to see Hibs get nothing, and playing games through the media.
It is not who are supposed to be.
And you know what else? It is not what the manager wants.