It is a truism of football fans that we are all of us very limited in our thinking. We have such a narrow focus that we’re constantly being surprised by things that happen.
Take my reaction to Ange being hired as Celtic boss.
Even when I turned my analytic skills to that scenario I had no real frame of reference for how he might do, and because his hiring dovetailed so perfectly with what I saw as the “worst case scenario” which I had outlined on the Endless Celts podcast in the event Howe turned us down, I could not see past it being a disaster. At first anyway.
He turned me around quickly.
But that initial reaction was so intense and so completely wrong that it deserves to haunt me as long as I do this.
What a lot of people don’t realise is that I made what might have been an even greater error in judgement when I sarcastically, bitterly, asked a Twitter user who objected to my view on Ange if he would be equally satisfied with us signing J League players, an idea that seemed fit only for scorn. It shows how little I actually knew about that league.
But I don’t think my reaction is uncommon. Few of us have the kind of encyclopaedic awareness of the game that even the most basic member of a top class scouting team does.
When we look at the current Celtic team we see a team as good as many us have seen in a long, long time … and if you asked the average fan where it has to be improved they would probably give you a position or two.
But what’s the truth? Well, it’s actually obvious.
We can improve everywhere, and this is something our media never wants to acknowledge because it enjoys the idea that our club will collapse if Abada or Hatate or Kyogo or Jota or Carter Vickers goes. But the truth is, there are better players out there than all of these guys, and within our reach if we get good fees.
But this is also where the narrow focus of fans comes into play. We look at a player like Kyogo, the best striker at the club since Larsson and we cannot imagine how we can upgrade him within our budget. But we thought the same about Dembele, then Edouard and here we are. We may have another supreme footballer in Oh.
So when Ange talks about the plans being in place for the summer – which he did yesterday – you can understand that this means more even than it says on the surface. He’s actually been trying to mentally prepare us for a scenario in which we lose key players at a time when it might look like utter insanity to part with them … only to emerge stronger.
Because he knows what we don’t. He knows what the scouting department has been up to and what players we’ve identified and he knows that no matter how good the current crop is that we were shopping according to one criteria and that progress is about changing up and constant improvement. That’s the path we’re on.
So when the media wants to scare us with stories – as The Scotsman tried to today – about who might be going in the summer, they want us to think that the end of this squad would be the end of the world. But it isn’t necessarily so.
These players, as good as they are, aren’t the best we can get. They aren’t the best available. The next great Celtic team is still out there waiting to be assembled … and for all we know, this summer will see that process underway.
I intend to enjoy what we have in the meantime … but I no longer kid myself that I know as much about the global game as I once arrogantly assumed. I trust those whose information is better, those whose job it is to find the Next Big Thing.
We’ve gotten pretty good at it too.