I think I’ve had my rant over the way some people are determined to make a drama out of the summer business so far without really acknowledging the “so far” part of it. And yet, I do recognise that if the window closes, and it closes like this, we’ll have not have done enough, not even close to enough, to give us the best possible chance in the coming campaign.
That’s what matters here. The best possible chance.
That is the question that the board will be asked when the window closes and the composition of the squad is know; with all that money in the bank, have we given the manager the best hand we could, within the constraints of playing football here in Scotland?
Have we backed him to meet our alleged ambitions?
We know we’re not going to shock the world and make the Champions League elite tremble at coming to Celtic Park this season.
But we are going to go toe to toe with some of the best sides in football, and if we get the wrong draw, it’ll be some of the best sides ever assembled to play the sport. We don’t expect to beat them. But it would be nice to see some indication that the club is at least taking this prospect semi-seriously.
And I think we’ve probably done enough to make sure we’ll be equipped for the title race. But the idea that we’ve acted like a club with any level of ambition at all in Europe except the ambition just to be there is, at the moment, absolutely without merit because there’s no sign of that whatsoever, and I am as frustrated by that as anyone is.
Don’t get me wrong, this window has been far from disastrous.
We needed a new centre back and we have gone out and got one. We needed a replacement for Starfelt and we immediately went out and signed one. We have signed two central midfielders for the loss of one.
We prepared for the possible departure of Abada by signing two players for his side of the pitch, only to keep him and lose Jota instead … and yes, we need another striker and I think a goalkeeper as well. I don’t expect to get it all.
I don’t expect to get it all because there comes a point when you look at a sagging, bloated squad and wonder what in God’s name people were thinking. We can’t utilise 40 players without pissing off at least some of them, and the European squad is limited to 25 including the eight you produce in your own country. So too much beyond that is mad anyway.
But I’ve said all along that there are better players out there than literally every player in our squad, and within our budget, and I cannot, for the life of me, and with total honesty, claim that we have gone on out and got a single one of those players yet.
The bloated squad argument works up to a point. That point vanishes when you look at the likes of Hart and Bernabei and ask “Are these really the best we can do?” I know people will say Turnbull, Taylor and Ralston; I should not need to point out what all three of them have in common and why ripping them out of the squad is a non-starter for us at this moment in time.
Our academy has to do better. Scottish football is our biggest problem though, and it has to do better as well and that’s out of our hands.
The squad still has too many projects in it too.
I have defended that policy to an extent in reminding people that we’ve signed a lot of players cheaply without really knowing what we had and been pleasantly surprised, but as much as I like Iwata I don’t see where he fits in, and I don’t see how Kobayashi does more than warm the bench, and if Kwon isn’t going to get in the team or even come off the bench you have to wonder about him … this isn’t writing these guys off, by any manner of means, but it’s difficult to see their short term roles.
I am frustrated at the way some people seem determined to write this window off as a disaster, but I understand that part of it is seeing no obvious improvement. I think there will be an improvement, but that’s a supposition born of watching unexpected heroes emerge in recent years. The key word is “obvious.” We don’t have one single signing who is a clear upgrade on what’s already here, even in bare reputational terms, and I will be angry if the window closes without at least one.
The board has to understand that this growing sense that we’re going to watch a great anti-climax could easily turn into a real problem if that’s what they finally deliver. Fans have done their bit, as per usual, and we’ve brought a top manager back to the club … but it’s useless bringing him here unless the full scope of his ambitions are going to be explored and backed.
I trust the process. I think the answers we want will present themselves. They did in that crucial first Ange window, and as I reminded people yesterday it was on the last day of the summer window that we brought Jota, Carter Vickers and Giakoumakis to the club and their performances were crucial to the final title win and the double.
But I cannot say this enough; as satisfied as I am so far, so far is exactly what it means and the club needs to deliver here.
The worst thing would be to have spent an entire summer of build-up only to end on a damp squib, with more than £30 million banked from sales (so far), Champions League qualification guaranteed and Rodgers back in the building, to end it without the kind of signings that send a clear message that we’re not messing about would be an appalling failure of imagination, and that would start the talk about whether we’ve peaked, that we’re reverting to type and failing to build on strong foundations, and some of us have seen it all before.
It will be indefensible.
There are people at Celtic right now who coasted on past deeds before, and that turned out disastrously. Lawwell, in particular, is lucky to have had this second chance to get it right.
It’s time to deliver.