One of the advantages to having so many home-grown players in the Celtic squad is that it affects our European registration. At the time of writing, if you include Mikey Johnston, we’re there and quite comfortably. Right now these are our home-grown players. Let’s start with those also counting as footballers produced by the club:
Stephen Welsh, Callum McGregor, Tony Ralston, James Forrest and Mikey are all players we developed so count as both Scottish produced and home produced. We are, as you know, required to have a minimum of eight players produced in Scotland of whom four have to be footballers who your own club brought through the academy.
The players who count towards being Scottish produced but aren’t produced by Celtic are Scott Bain, Grey Taylor, James McCarthy and David Turnbull. That’s four more on top of the five for a grand total of nine. But there are issues with that nine.
Forrest is now in his 30’s and closer to the end of his career than the start. Bain isn’t going to be good enough to play for the first team squad. McCarthy is pretty much done at Celtic Park, one of the true flops since Ange came in.
To get rid of Welsh now weakens us in two areas, not one. There is a way to plug the holes, of course, but that means using players from the B team. Which is passable and will give you a full complement of 17 non Scots in a 25 man Champions League squad … but that’s where the real trouble comes in. Because they you’ve got 17 places for the rest of the Celtic team.
Hart and Siegrist are two right away, leaving you 15 for the rest of the team. Johnston and Bernabei leaves you 13. Starfelt, Carter Vickers, Kobayashi and perhaps Jenz (Jenz has to be in there, or someone else has to be, if Welsh goes) leaves you 9. Kyogo, Giakoumakis (or A.N. Other) leaves you seven. O’Riley, Haksabanovic, Hatate, Jota, Maeda, Abada and Iwata would, you’d presume, make up the rest of the 25 man team.
Where does that leave any new signings in the summer? Or some of the guys on that list? The more you look at this thorny little issue the more obvious it becomes that we are going to need to sign at least – at least – one Scottish international soon, someone good enough to play consistently in this squad and grow into a key member of it.
Either that or we’re going to have to promote someone from the youth academy who steps up and does the job. The European squad size issue is one that’s been bothering me for a while, and we’re pushing right on the limits of what we can get away with here.
I know that this is, in part, what’s driving the cull of the squad. We could free up places by cutting Siegrist and bringing a couple of Under 21 keepers into the side but that’s not an ideal solution as should be plainly obvious.
I know people at Celtic are giving this a lot of long, hard thought … and one of the things they’ll be thinking about is whether there are any home-grown Scottish players out there who would fit the bill and come in and do a job for us.
I’ll tell you this; there are none, not a single one, currently playing in the SPL. I cannot think of a single standout footballer on the level of a McGinn or a Turnbull or an Armstrong or Christie who you can look at and say “he will do a job for us, or is capable of growing into it.” Nobody leaps off the page at you, nobody gives you that confidence.
Which is another thing the club will be thinking about. This is a problem, and sooner or later we’re going to have to grasp the nettle and come up with an answer.