As I said in my earlier piece, the boss has made the critical decision not to release any of our players for international games this month and next if they are not needed for World Cup squads. This is the first time I can ever remember Celtic taking this stand.
The backlash has started already, at least if you read the papers. Or it seems like a backlash if you ignore the fact that both Steve Clarke of Scotland and Janne Andersson of Sweden are taking their frustrations out in FIFA and not on Celtic because we are far from the only club which has made this decision. The media wants a story, but there isn’t one.
Numerous clubs all over Europe have told the national coaches that their players will not be released for these games. Furthermore, this is not the first time they’ve done so; for many of the clubs in the top five leagues, this is standard practice for games which don’t involve competitive football. Celtic’s decision made headlines because it’s unusual for us.
Furthermore, it’s pretty clear that Ange would have had no problem releasing the players if we hadn’t already committed to the Australian tour. He wants the fans there to get the chance to see their team, and that’s why we’ve taken this unusual step.
The press has tried to turn this into a controversy. It’s far from that. Steve Clarke has expressed his disappointment, sure, and he’s suggested that this spell should fall under the FIFA call-up rules but he doesn’t have a leg to stand on and he knows it.
The Swedish manager made his own position clear, and nowhere in here is there any criticism of Celtic, just a general musing on how they are at the mercy of club bosses. As his statement makes clear, we are definitely not the only team to impose its will.
“It’s very strange from FIFA,” he said. “We have five players who are not allowed to leave their clubs for our friendlies. FIFA have decided that only countries that qualify for the World Cup have to release players. It is not punishment enough that we missed the World Cup? I cannot understand how they have thought this through because there is no logic in it at all. We are completely in the hands of the clubs.”
That’s a lot of self-pitying whingeing if you ask me.
First, it wasn’t “punishment” that they missed the World Cup, it was football. It was simply a consequence of not being good enough to get there and that’s not the fault of FIFA in any way. And the logic in it is surely obvious. The rule exists so that clubs can with-hold players unless their nations are playing competitive fixtures and they won’t be.
This is another example of the media trying to stir the soup. Ange’s decision puts Celtic first, but his position is by no means unique during this spell. We have done the right thing, but others have made a similar call.
These international friendlies are a waste of everyone’s time, and whilst a player could just as easily get injured in Australia as on duty for their country I would far rather – and so would the boss – that our fans would the primary consideration.
Clarke and others – mostly in the media – need to stop sulking and get on with it.