If, as looks increasingly likely, we’re set to lose a number of players for the Asian Cup you look for a silver lining. Whichever silver lining that you can get.
A possible one is this; if our plays go over to that tournament and impress people, the name Celtic will ring out like it never has before. That’s a pretty good outcome because it can grow the club commercially.
But yesterday, the Japan boss did what he’s been doing for a while. He left our players on the bench. Now, it did not adversely affect the team; far from it. They trounced Germany, who sacked their own national coach shortly after the game. But in fact, that simply makes our situation worse. Because he has to pick a squad, and our guys will certainly be in it.
Yet he does not – and it looks increasingly as if he will not – play them when it matters.
And what this means is that we’re losing these players to a team which might even be good enough to go all the way to the final … and we’re going to cop every negative possible from that outcome without deriving a single one of the benefits.
That tournament is a nightmare for us, and every time this guy selects our guys in his squad but does not play them in his side makes the nightmare worse. Every one of the risks attendant with sending the best players in your team to the other side of the world will be there; injuries, illnesses, exhaustion … and no upside if they don’t play.
With that tournament lasting weeks you do not want these guys sitting on the bench. You want them match-fit and playing games. You don’t want them playing too many of them, but just enough to make them seem important, even critical.
It looks as if our Koreans are going to be called up as well. They face just as difficult a struggle to get into the team, and they too are capable of going all the way to the final. There have to be people at Parkhead who take this seriously … there have to be. But no-one has spoken up about it, and there is no sign that they view this is a major issue.
There is the possibility that we can ask for postponements. We’d probably get one, and at a push we might even get two. We won’t get more than two, and the governing bodies have already made that clear. They aren’t prepared to cancel four or five games.
There are crucial fixtures in there, a Scottish Cup tie where we don’t yet know who we’re playing … you don’t have to be a doom monger to realise that this could go badly wrong, considering our front three will all be there, along with Yang and maybe even Tillio. What a nightmare if he turns out to be a star and he’s unavailable too?
I hate international breaks at the best of times.
International breaks where Celtic are playing and we lose key players … I hate that more. And whilst I am proud to see our players representing their nations, I do not want them doing it at a cost to Celtic. Worse is them being away and not even getting the time on the pitch which would put our club in the spotlight.
I am not looking forward to February at all. I am only glad its far enough on the horizon that we have time to come up with something. I’ll tell you, it’ll need to be something good.