Earlier this year, I was watching the excellent documentary An Alternative Reality, the one about how Football Manager has grown into a world class product who’s data is so extensive that it has actually become a tool for major clubs to use.
Amongst the many stories in that film was how Alex McLeish tried to sign Messi for the Govanites based on his son’s FM recommendation (oh yes and you thought Sky Sports scouting was bad) and how Paolo Nutini got to meet his Celtic heroes and fell out with one of the players for reasons he couldn’t put his finger on, only to realise, later, the guy had missed training in-game and he was holding it against the real person.
Amidst the barmy and hilarious nonsense, there was one moment of proper illumination; the makers went over to South Africa to talk to the game’s lead scout over there and he talked them through the process of what the game – and what real clubs – look for in a player.
They were watching a reserve match over there and the scout recommended one player in particular, speaking of him in glowing terms as a guy with a big future.
His name was Rivaldo Coetzee and seeing that and hearing the name gave me a start, because this time last year a deal to take him to Celtic collapsed at the very last moment, because we picked up something we didn’t like in the medical. As a consequence, we had no time to go out and find someone else.
It was a shocking indictment on how we do things.
I thought of that earlier today when I read an article on one of the other sites about how Coetzee hasn’t played for the club who signed him just weeks after we pulled out.
That deal was a real insight into our level of due diligence. We knew the player, we knew his potential – the very highest – and that he would be able to adapt to our style of play … we had every detail absolutely bang on except for one piece of the jigsaw; the medical itself.
The injury we found late in the day was a real one. It would have been a costly mistake to have gone through with the deal when we were in possession of such a medical report.
That deal showed us at our very best … and also our very worst. Because all the hard work prior to deals, all the study, all the scouting, goes to waste if, as we saw with John McGinn for example, the deal itself is allowed to drag on until the very last minute, where mistakes can happen.
Pulling out of the Coetzee deal left us with one almighty nightmare on our hands. The agreement to bring the player to our club should have been signed, sealed and Coetzee delivered to Parkhead well in advance of that day. The complications would still have been found, but they would have been found in advance and we’d have had an opportunity to sound out alternative targets.
And having did that then we’re making exactly the same mistakes and dragging out our transfer dealings to the very last day, where any complications will be costly.
And all of this is to say nothing for today’s staggering Dembele development.
I’m not writing another word on that subject until the situation is clarified one way or another save to say this; promises have been made on Dembele, to the manager and to the fans. To sell him at all during this window would have been unacceptable with the state of our transfer dealings thus far … to do it in the last days of the window, leaving us no time to adequately replace him would be a scandal.
This window has been a full-on shambles. The loss of a key player, which the club has absolutely guaranteed would not be permitted, would put the tin hat on it.