There was a grim inevitability to seeing, this week, a series of headlines bashing Celtic from one of our former players. Anyone feeling a little left out of the media spotlight knows what they have to do at a moment like this, when the club is riding high, when we’re all in a good mood and simply marking off days on the calendar towards a cup final and a treble.
Enter Andy Walker, who picked this week to open fire on the Celtic board over a lack of ambition to build for, and equip us for, Europe. It’s a frequent subject of debate amongst the fans, this, because there’s some historical truth to it … but Walker has picked the wrong time and the wrong argument. Because two key factors are different than they were.
First, let’s examine what the man actually said.
“I honestly don’t think Celtic are interested in signing £9-10million players to try and have a go in the Champions League. I think the money men at Celtic, they just don’t see the value in that. Celtic want to remain strong in Scotland and when I say Celtic, I mean the board … the fans talk about a serious investment to have a serious go in the Champions League – (the board) don’t see the value in that.”
It’s really quite a ridiculous statement, even at face value.
First, if we’re not the top dogs in Scotland then it really doesn’t matter what ambitions we have in Europe, does it?
So staying ahead of the pack, domestically, isn’t something they deserve to be pilloried for.
One Scottish club in the history of the game here has spent an eight figure sum on a player, and that was Tore Andre Flo at Rangers, an act of ego to prove the “tenner for fivers” point after we’d signed Chris Sutton.
It was an act of ego, not calm, strategic thought. It helped propel them to their death.
Celtic’s transfer record was around £8 million for Odsonne Edouard, and we paid that because he was a regular goal-scorer for the French Under 21’s and was supposed to make us a massive profit, and of course he actually did.
In short, there is a difference between a club which wants to sign £9-10 million players and one which is able to do so at the drop of a hat. How much does this joker think the SPFL television deal is worth for God’s sake? Celtic isn’t a position to fill our team with those kind of players, whether he recognises that fact or not.
And yet … we might be if certain things fall into place, and I’ll talk about that at the end. It further contradicts Walkers ridiculous rant.
Besides, imagine we did. Imagine we decided to push the boat out and give Ange £50 million to spend in the next window; more, in short, than he’s had in the first two campaigns combined. That money would lift us far and away from the rest of Scottish football, including the hapless side across the city. But make an impact in that billionaire’s playground?
What does the phrase “trying to have a go” even mean? Topping a Group? Getting to the quarter finals? Has he not noticed that, by and large, it’s the same eight teams who get to that stage nearly every year? We’re not exactly pushing on an open door.
See, that’s where our club stays grounded and doesn’t get carried away. You could spend those fortunes and still not make any tangible progress, if the Group Stage draw goes badly against you. And in that, the Celtic board is fully entitled to wonder just what the point of the exercise would be. It’s easy to sit in a studio and bump your gums about lack of ambition … but these people have a responsibility to ensure our club is financially robust.
On top of that, this board has given Ange Postecoglou an unprecedented level of financing. No manager in the history of Celtic has had cash even remotely comparable to what the has been allowed to spend in the course of his first two campaigns. So giving them stick for lacking either ambition or the willingness to back the boss just doesn’t stand.
This is typical of Walker, to find a nonsensical issue and run with it. We don’t know what the summer will hold for Celtic, but we do know that the boss has outlined his intentions very clearly in terms of the transfer plan he – and presumably the club – is following.
Ange has said, on the record, that his strategy is to buy the £2 million players and sell them so he can buy the £5 million players and to sell those so he can buy the £10 million players and up and up until we can spend seriously money – sustainably – and try to do big things. But Walker hasn’t just missed that but he’s misunderstood that it’s not all about spending money.
You have to marry that spending to a coherent philosophy, which Ange has done. And it’s a philosophy that Walker himself has publicly disagreed with and urged him to drop. We play on the front foot, regardless of the opposition; Walker wants that ditched in Europe. So he wants us to spend big and then play a Livingston style eleven behind the ball anyway when we play against the top teams … it’s obvious why he never went into management.
Let’s be honest, he’s not a great pundit either. He’s another raging mediocrity who successive Celtic managers have had a pop at over how unappreciated his “wisdom” is within the walls of the club. He, like several other ex-Celtic players believes that he can have it both ways. To slag the board, and he thinks, keep the fans onside whilst telling the world everything he thinks we’re doing wrong just to appease the rest of his audience, and his bosses of course.
This time he’s got his headlines, but God almighty he is woefully out of step here with the thinking of the vast majority of our fans. There is no virtue on spending crazy sums chasing the dream. Celtic has a plan and is following it. Celtic is pragmatic and grounded, and that’s why we’re where we are right now, with money in the bank and a lot to look forward to.
He just doesn’t get it. He never has and he never will.