Ibrox Has Gambled By Not Spending For Once. They Will Regret It.

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There is a truism about poker that a new player with a poor grasp of strategy will play strong when his hand is weak and will wish to appear weak when their hand is strong. There is a truism of chess that a really good player will sometimes start poorly against a new player because he or she will be looking for a strategy where none exist.

Whatever is going on at Ibrox, they aren’t spending when we expected them to spend. Which is now that they have money in the bank and the ability to do it. When they were skint they were begging borrowing and stealing it in order to do so, and we marvelled at that. We are entitled to be a little bit surprised at their decision to slam on the brakes.

You would be forgiven for thinking that there is no strategy to speak of here, that this is a club which continues to make it up as they go along, but you would be wrong. Whatever is going on here, for once there is some rationale to it.

There are two things, I think, which have to come into play and the first of them is UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations. It would be truly ironic if the end of the rules we always thought would keep them in check, and the implementation of others which don’t seem anywhere near as harsh, was what finally brought them to heel. It’s part of it, for sure.

But there are other elements here, and I’ll get to them in a later piece. Regardless of both, the decision not to spend is a gamble every bit as big as the old chestnut about speculating to accumulate and running up debts.

What is money for in football if not to make your team bigger, better and stronger? There are clubs all over Europe who spend it recklessly, and the state some of them are in places those clubs in real existential peril. There are others which take prudence to an extreme and run on a for-profit basis like they are in any other business … their shareholders must be happy but the real stakeholders, the ones in the stands, know they will struggle to win things.

Ibrox has never behaved like the latter, because that entails its own risks especially at a club where the fans are used to winning things. At any club that would be chancy. At Ibrox it seems like a real walk on the high-wire. At a time when fans are spending big money on match tickets when there are lots of other priorities, offending the fan base seems nuts.

This year’s money is in the bank. That’s important to know, and critical to a proper understanding of what this is. They made sure they had the Champions League money before the window shut; that, too, is important to understand. Fans have given up their hostages.

But a bad season – and this could be a very bad one considering how we are playing – offers fresh hostages down the line. And if the cost of living crisis has worsened by this time next year you might not find as many people sitting in their stands.

Their “official media partners” are raging about their failure to sign a player after qualifying for the Champions League Groups. The news that Tom Lawrence is out injured – and possibly for many weeks – which was known on their forums for days but has only now been confirmed – strengthens their fury and lends weight to the anger.

You don’t have to be a seasoned Football Manager player to see several problems with the squad, which their fans fully expected them to address. They have no real backup for Colak, because Morelos is not popular in the dressing room and cannot be relied on. They have no real quality on the right of midfield (or on the left you could argue). Most crucially, they lost a key central midfield player in Aribo and did not properly replace him.

And incredibly, they are betting on Tavernier staying fit because they have no cover whatsoever in his position. If he gets injured it could all fall apart. Aside from that, a lot of their fans are not at all convinced by their central defence … or their keepers.

But it’s their midfield that looks particularly uninspiring. Three of them are in their 30’s with a year left on their deals. Kamara was halfway out the door yesterday before they pulled him back. I think that had he left their midfield problems would have been particularly acute; still it’s a lot of games to expect to Arfield, Davis and Jack to anchor regardless.

Read their forums and you find a strange thing; people who think their squad is better than ours but wonder how it will cope with the rigours of European football and the domestic calendar, at a time when every Celtic fan site professes us ready for both.

They are right to worry just as we’re right to believe.

They are confident they can spend in January … which they can. A lot of them are rightly concerned that they might not be in the title race by then.

I think we all expected them to try and pull a rabbit out of the hat. I wrote that in a piece earlier in the week. We had pushed the boat out for Ange; how could they not do the same for their own manager? And yet they didn’t, when they are most able.

It is a momentous risk, and I think even if they’d pulled something big off they would still have been vulnerable, they would still have been behind us, they would still have lost the league. But their failure to do it is critical and it will cost them.

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  • Jimmy R says:

    We had a clear out of over a dozen lads who never got up to standard. Good luck to them in the next phase of their careers. We appear to have replaced them with quality AND potential. (Haksabanovic’s cameo looked promising.) Across the city, they have taken a few punts on young guys with promise and potential – not really a good recipe for Champions league rigours. Their lack of spending post CL qualification suggests that financially things are worse than we imagined. Either that or they are saving up to pay the leccy bill.

  • SSMPM says:

    Most huns I am unfortunate to come into contact with, thankfully that’s not many, seem content with the incomings and outgoings, mibbies would have liked another one in but as Kamara is staying are content and aye believe that their squad/team is as good if not better than ours. Further still they believe, and I believe they believe, that their style of football, their “European style”, is apparently better suited to playing us than our game is to playing them.
    Their defence and midfield is apparently stronger and better equipped than ours and its that mainly that makes them believe they’ll weather our swarming offensive game, breaking up play and from that foundation of strength be able to comfortably score. Now they’re either hiding behind the mask blaggers or they genuinely are daft enough to believe their own propaganda.
    As a footnote I don’t think all of that money has been banked rather a whole load of loans are being repaid from their sizeable income over the last year

  • Steven R says:

    They are about to be made to pay for their hubris, and sense of entitlement – big-time!! And the best part of it is: UEFA has them under the microscope!!

    If it all goes wrong – again!! – the SFA can, quite literally, do SFA about it!!

    I wonder if, should the inevitable happen, they will still claim to be “the same club, Timmy!!”?

  • Kevin Stobbart says:

    No champions league money until next October for them, that’s the way uefa work to encourage faire play not that the sfa pull them up!

  • Garry Cowan says:

    I think their lack of spending is solely down to finance..I’m absolutely shocked that not one of them has sussed that out yet

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