Late last night, I was going through the headlines prior to switching off and something caught my eye; it was an interview with Jeremie Frimpong in which he denied agitating for a move away from Celtic last season.
This is a critical claim, because the allegation came from the mouth of Neil Lennon himself and if it’s not true we are entitled to ask questions.
This is what Lennon said at the time, and it is plain and unambiguous.
“This has been in the background for the last six or seven weeks. The club have made strides to renegotiate with Jeremie and his representatives. That wasn’t the case and the player made it clear to me, to Nick and the board that he wanted to leave. I wouldn’t say he was unhappy, just ambitious maybe or he wanted to try something else to progress his career.”
He continued, “We’re obviously very disappointed, we did everything we could to try and entice the player to stay but he made it clear quite a while ago that his ambition was to leave.”
There’s not much dubiety about that, is there?
The club wanted him to stay, it tried to reason with him on the matter but he wanted to go.
There was nothing we could have done to make him change his mind and we know that because we tried to.
But yesterday, Frimpong had a different take on it and I find his comments interesting in light of what we know was happening at the time and what has happened since.
“It will be nice to return to a stadium where I have had success,” he said. “I was not looking to leave Celtic, when the chance came to join Leverkusen it was not something I was actively looking to do. I was happy with my teammates, happy with the fans. The Bundesliga is one of the top three leagues in Europe and when you get that chance it was impossible for me to say no. I didn’t know of their interest in me. It was a shock – but the chance to play for one of the best clubs in Germany was not something I could turn down.”
Notice that he says that took the chance when it was presented to him, but he has flatly denied that he agitated for a move. It seems, if you believe him, that the Leverkusen deal came out of the blue and when the club asked him if he was interested he said yes.
The Frimpong deal has always been a curiosity.
I always found it somewhat odd that we refused to let Christie, Edouard, Ajer and others leave when they obviously wanted to but that in six or seven weeks Frimpong basically ground us down until we acceded to his demands.
On top of that, it must have pissed off the other guys who wanted to go.
We did good business on Frimpong.
We let the guy go for a major eight figure fee when he cost us only a few hundred grand. Nobody can argue with the logic behind it.
It’s the dishonesty in the way the club chose to present the deal to us.
I have never believed we let Frimpong leave because he wanted to go when Lennon himself made it plain that we were basically holding other people hostage. Ajer was furious with us for us keeping him at Celtic Park beyond the end of last season, and you could see in Edouard’s demeanour that he wanted to be elsewhere.
The club could have played this one straight with us.
Frimpong was a surprise success and we were presented with a chance at a quick, and healthy, profit at a time when the club needed every penny that it could get because of the global health emergency. We were in a position where turning that kind of money down would have been lunacy.
If the club had simply said that to us we would have understood.
There would have been some grumping and moaning in a couple of quarters, but the majority of us would have got it.
But instead they blamed the player – Lennon blamed the player, doubtless instructed to do so by those above him at Celtic. Even then, it was transparently obvious that we sold him because we wanted the books to look a little better come the end of the campaign.
We didn’t replace him. In the same window we sold our only other consistent first team right back.
We brought in Kenny on loan, and that was part of the reason we faced such a difficult summer. But the logical way of looking at is that the transfer budget the manager had to work with would have been greatly reduced if not for the Frimpong sale.
So yes, I do believe the club could have been honest about this at the time and most of us would have gotten behind it, however reluctantly.
Instead they appear to have opted for a dishonest approach which sought to paint the player as a negative force and some kind of drag on us, absurd when you consider that others in the dressing room were far worse.
It should be clear that I don’t believe Frimpong is lying.
It makes perfect sense that the club would have considered the Leverkusen offer far too good to turn down and basically presented him with the chance to go and play at a higher level. If we had wanted to keep him we could simply have said no, and that would have been the end of it.
We signed Frimpong in September 2019, on a four-year deal.
He’s the one we could easily have rejected a bid for and still got a good fee later on. Yet he’s the one we decided we couldn’t hang onto, when there were three years of his deal still to run. In the meantime, we took momentous risks with Edouard, Ajer and Christie. It doesn’t add up at all.
This club needs to stop treating us like we’re fools.
Honesty here would have stung in the moment, but the board and the manager could have sold it to us as an act of necessity.
That they chose to go down the familiar route of dishonesty should be the real shock, but of course it isn’t because they routinely act as if we’re mugs and when you consider that they still expect us to believe that Dominic McKay walked away for “personal reasons” you see that they continue to do this, time and time again, on matters both great and small.
They apparently don’t realise that trust is the easiest thing to destroy and the hardest thing to build.
This is why so many fans don’t believe a word the club says.