Tonight, the Ibrox club gets ready to play its first game in Europe this season, and one of the talking points when they announced their European squad was how many first team capable players would miss out in it. The high profile omission of Ben Davies jumped out at you immediately, and the view around their club is that they want to move him on.
He was an expensive bit of business for them. But now as The Mooch goes full steam ahead with his 100 forwards system, expensive central defenders are considered surplus to requirements. But it’s a sign of how bloated their squad currently is, and they need to ship players out if they are going to realise their ambition of breaking even from this window. I wish them luck. They’re going to need it to clear any more of their deadwood out the door.
Yet the only reason this conversation isn’t really happening around Celtic yet is that we don’t have to worry about Champions League registrations for another month. But the issue is still live and current, and at the moment, although more players are probably incoming, we still have too many of them in and around the squad.
Most of our bloat is in players on modest contracts, signed for modest sums. Albian Ajeti is the notable exception to that, but there might be movement on him soon. James McCarthy cost us nothing except in wages … he will need to be moved on. There’s Ideguchi as well, who cost us a few quid and has contributed nothing to the cause. He is away on loan, and won’t be back until January next year. Still, it would be good to move him on.
Aside from that we have the likes of Welsh, Scales, Soro, Johnson, Bain and Siegrist. I don’t know, but I suspect we might need to add Haksabanovic onto that list eventually. I wonder if he’s going to get games for us. I wonder if we’re not better trying to punt him.
Kobayashi is another one, but I think we’ll keep him because the manager has accentuated the need for us to have “four players” competing for the two centre back slots, and unless he means Welsh or Scales then that’s who he’s talking about.
There are some issues with moving some of those guys on. Welsh, Johnston, McCarthy and Bain all count towards our domestic player figures. Bain I don’t think will go anywhere for the foreseeable although he’s second choice now and would be third if we do sign a keeper. Our current European squad needs eight Scottish players; Bain, Ralston, Welsh, Taylor, McCarthy, Forrest, McGregor, Johnston and Turnbull give us nine. But if you imagine that McCarthy is gone we’re down to eight … that’s enough, and particularly as five are club produced.
But that leaves seventeen players from the rest of the squad. Which is why we need to be very careful what we do now, and why we need to watch who else we sign.
This is a strong squad and that is all to the good, but this is where it becomes complicated. There is still a little fat to trim, even at Celtic Park.