Imagine that we woke up tomorrow and found out that Reo Hatate was going to England.
I mean, we’ve already woke up this morning to find out that he’s almost certainly out of the Ibrox game. Which sort of makes the point of this article stronger, as I hope will be clear.
But let’s go with the scenario I outlined; say the club decided to sell him.
Furthermore, imagine we did nothing about that except count the money, stick it in the bank and then get through the rest of the transfer window. What would the practical consequences of that be, in terms of our ability to retain our title?
Without being blasé about it, I would stipulate that the consequences, in terms of our chances of doing that, would be somewhere between modest to non-existent.
With a central midfield which still boasts the talents of McGregor, O’Riley, Turnbull, Holm, Iwata and Kwon it would take a disaster of momentous proportions for us not to win the SPFL.
Don’t get me wrong; I am certainly not advocating that we punt him and bank the proceeds, because if he goes and we don’t replace him I will be extremely pissed off and will make that clear.
I am just trying to take a realists view here, in gaming out the worst possible scenario that could befall us, and I’m doing it because everywhere I turn there is a nearly hysterical over-reaction to the possibility that the window will close without his being at the club.
Could it happen that we get an offer for him and he wants to go?
Yes, it could easily happen and I’ve written about the conversation we, as a club, need to have with him to evaluate that risk.
But those who seem to believe it would represent some kind of Year Zero moment must have missed all the times prior to this that key players have left without Celtic crumbling and falling into ruin.
One of the great things about this Celtic team is that we’re not overly dependent on any one individual, and in a sense his injury comes at a good time for demonstrating that fact. For one thing, it opens the way for Holm to grab his chance and I’m already dying to see what he can offers us, because he looks like a cracker.
Only one departure – that of Kyogo – would significantly shake us up … but the difference is that we would certainly have to go out and buy an immediate replacement for him, and we probably have our target already in mind.
The departure of Hatate, however, would not, in my view, significantly upend our title chances, whether we replaced him or not, not that I think for even one second that he would be allowed to go without us going out and signing somebody to take his place. In the event Hatate does leave, there is no doubt that we would go out and buy a replacement.
I’m just saying that even if we didn’t, I do not believe that it would stop us from being able to beat the other teams in this league with enough regularity that someone else would be crowned champions.
I’ve seen transfer windows come and go, but I can’t remember one which is so stalked by irrational fear.
Every bleep on the rumour mill ticker bar is met with an outpouring of morbidity that Celtic’s time is passing, and that we are surely doomed if certain players leave us.
Even some of the pundits who are broadly sympathetic to our plight, including some who played here and know full well that the departure of big players doesn’t mean The End Of All Things have indulged in this and gotten themselves caught up in the funk.
I’ve been doing this a long time now, and supporting this club for even longer.
I have experienced every emotion associated with attachments to players.
I knew the day would come when Henrik Larsson would no longer be a Celtic striker for years before it happened, mentally fortified myself with that knowledge and still wasn’t ready for it.
And yet, a few months later when the season started, I was back watching the club and the pain of his departure – although not the reality of his absence – had already faded and gone. I found out something then which has stayed with me ever since; the loss you think you’ll feel, and the fear you expect to, are not even close to the reality of it.
Those things, when they come, are more like a whispered voice in a distant room … faded, indistinct.
I didn’t even feel numbness when guys like Dembele and Nakamura and all the heroes who came after Larsson went. I took a moment to wonder what the club would do and then got on with finding a new hero to cheer for.
I just refuse to worry about this stuff anymore.
I refuse to get caught up in it.
I said when Ange left at the end of the campaign that I had mentally unplugged from the idea that we should expect loyalty from any of these guys, and that I would no longer be surprised or angry or upset by anything that happened or any player who departed.
Even when Jota left, I felt more pissed off about his choice of destination than about his leaving the club.
Because we got far more for Jota than I ever thought he was worth, and still maintain that as long as we replace him, I’ll not have any concerns about where it leaves us. For the record, I think we could get by without signing a replacement for him too … but of course, we’re going to and in the next two weeks we’ll find out who that is.
Hatate is a fantastic footballer, and the most exciting midfielder we’ve had at the club since his Japanese counterpart Nakamura was here. I am loathe to see him leave, but I’ve mentally accepted that if it’s not this summer it will most likely be the next.
But I will not beat my chest and rend my garments and wail and gnash my teeth until they cart me out to Hidden Hills and throw me in a room with padded walls. Because we’ll cope.
I don’t just think we’ll be alright if he goes, I know we will be and I’m sure enough of it that I’d still lay heavy paper on us winning the title even if we didn’t immediately rush out and buy a very good footballer to take his place in the side.
This is a strong Celtic squad, as strong a one as I can remember, and there are still some players to come to make it better.
If he goes, he goes.
I will miss him but I will not mourn him, because I’m a Celtic fan first, and we’re not a one-man band.