If reports are to be believed, we’re about to sign players three and four of the window. They have something in common. Neither is over the age of 20. That fits with the two players we’ve signed thus far. Three out of four of these footballers will have arrived at us on free transfers. None has played more than a handful of games in the senior ranks.
Brandon Soppy, who we’re looking at for the right back role, is also 19.
We are linked with two centre backs who are in their early 20’s.
Our apparent signing target up front is Hibs striker Kevin Nisbett. He is 24.
That makes him a veteran amongst this lot.
Similarly, we’ve also apparently made offers for Aaron Hickey.
He’s 19 too, but like Liel Abada he’s put a lot into the early years of his career, including securing a move to Italy and becoming a first team regular there.
You cannot say he’s not proved himself.
Carl Starfelt, the Swedish centre back we’re looking at, is probably the oldest player of the bunch; he’s just 26, but those extra years are crucial because he’s got more experience than probably all the rest of these guys put together, Nisbett excepted who’s now a full international and has proved it at every level of his development so far.
The focus on youth is understandable, in a sense.
We have a manager here who’s best work has been done with young footballers, and with that proven record of playing and developing them he’s clearly a better bet than Lennon would ever have been, and more akin to Rodgers in some respects.
At least three of these lads – the English players, Shaw, Urhoghide and Lawal – are physically imposing; no more of this getting bullied by opposing teams.
Youth means fitness as well. None of these guys is going to be exhausted running for 90 minutes. That’s clearly been a factor. Equally important is that all have impressed those in the game who’ve seen them.
Lawal, should we get the deal done, might well be the best bit of business of the lot of them. He is said to be a monster talent and Watford’s fans are gutted at the idea that they might lose him for a modest development fee.
Nevertheless, this team also needs experience.
We’ve lost Scott Brown, which is a huge blow in and of itself. We’ve lost Elyounoussi, a full international.
We’re about to see Quadruple Treble players Ajer, Edouard and Christie leave the club … these guys who’ve been over the course, seen it, done it and won it. As good as our young players might prove to be, there needs to be a core group of old heads at the club to steer them through difficult times.
There are old heads at the club of course, in spite of the last year. Callum might be stepping up to be captain, and he earned that right and that responsibility. He and Forrest are the heart and soul of Celtic at the moment, and a lot of people will be looking to them inside and outside of the squad itself. But they, too, need a little help.
One signing target – Aaron Mooy – offers us the level of experience, at club and international level, that we need. But talk on that one has cooled. Chatter about going for Baldock of Sheffield Utd seemed unlikely to me at best, considering their asking price.
The one area where experience would be most welcome is at the back.
You look at the Italian team which just won the Euros and you see two central defenders in their 30’s, utilising every bit of what they’ve learned in the game to awesome effect.
I thought they were magnificent, and a stark contrast to the youth and relative inexperience of the players they were facing.
It shone through. They were composed, solid and focussed. True winners.
Don’t underestimate what they did across the city in bringing back Davis and McGregor and signing players like Arfield and Roofe.
We might have mocked it at the time, but their strategy turned out to be spot on, and although Lundstram isn’t the best player in the world he adds that experience as well.
For once they are slightly ahead of the curve.
Slightly. They are still yet to post a major profit on any footballer they’ve signed.
But we seem overly focussed on the idea of players with a re-sale value later on.
I sometimes wonder if we’re running a sort of footballing puppy farm here, and if the directors truly understand that the purpose of this “business” is to win football games and not post profits.
We can fill the squad with youth prospects on small salaries and hope one nets us a mammoth fee down the line or we can wise up and realise that the business exists to support the football club and not the other way around. When this club decides its serious about being back on top there will be nothing Ibrox can do to prevent that.
We need to find a balance between what we’re doing and what other successful clubs do.
We need to marry experience with youth and blend them together, and we need to stop looking at every single signing as if its only purpose is to make us a profit.