So ends the transfer window. And it shuts with a dull thud.
There are people who will try to tell you that it was a great success.
They must think you button up the back.
One of the signings is a short-term loan. Another was signed to replace somebody who left because he missed his girlfriend. It took us over a month to replace Jota and we don’t know how successful that endeavour has been.
We signed four central midfielders, including Iwata because we had a deal in place for that. One of our signings, we might see again sometime in January, when he’s been moved out on loan.
But for the record, we now have Iwata, McGregor, Turnbull, Bernado, O’Riley, Hatate, Holm and Kwon all competing for three central spots. None of them is the experienced, powerful, ball winner the manager wanted and who we clearly need.
We have a head of scouting who must know that’s the brief.
He’s had the whole world to look at, and he hasn’t found somebody.
So instead, we signed four somebodies.
And people look at the size of our squad and our wage bill and wonder how it ever got so outrageous and bloated and over the top. This would be one of the reasons … this and our obsession with wingers.
We have seven wingers. Amazing.
We signed three of them in this window. Three.
And even if we hadn’t signed one to replace one who was leaving, that’s still two more than we really need.
It would be different if they were both obvious upgrades … but they were punts. That the one we’ve seen looks not half bad is something that I don’t feel in the least inclined to give these people credit for.
Neither of these signings was necessary when there were far more important places to spend the money.
On the left there’s Johnston, Maeda and Palma. On the right there is Forrest, Abada, Yang and Tillio. And for all that, we have two recognised out-and-out strikers.
One is just back from being injured and the other needs a shoulder operation. Did we strengthen that area? Of course we didn’t folks, because Maeda, Palma and Abada can play centre forward in a crisis.
It doesn’t seem to have dawned on our “scouting department” that none of these players is a penalty box bruiser in the Champions League mould, and which every good Champions League side has.
The guy we know we did make an offer for up front is a Danish Under 21 who is 5’8.
If you think the pieces don’t all fit then the manager agrees with you.
We have signed three central defenders.
Two of them by necessity, and one to provide cover and competition.
It’s the one area of the pitch which, but for injuries, I feel we’ve done worthwhile work.
Because we sure as Hell haven’t done it anywhere else, but much of that has been forced on us by circumstances.
So we still don’t know if we’re better off for it.
Which brings me to problem area number one; our left back options are Taylor and Bernabei, neither of whom is remotely good enough for the Champions League, and that’s hardly news as every editorial in every newspaper, every fan site, every forum, and every talking head has highlighted this as a critical area over and over and over and over and over again.
It is frankly scandalous to send the manager into the Champions League with those options, when there’s so much unspent cash, and when he knows as we all know that they virtually assure that serious damage will be done to us.
The only area where I think the left side of defence will have competition for mistakes that cost us goals is with the keeper … and that’s another glaring hole which nobody has bothered to fill.
If we go out of Europe because Greg Taylor, Alesandro Bernabei and Joe Hart between them conspire to assure that outcome, I won’t blame them. I’ll blame Mark Lawwell.
I’ll hold him personally responsible for that, because he’s supposed to be an elite level scouting head and he had the whole world of football to scour for an entire summer and he can’t find a better option to back Taylor up or supplant him than the guy we’ve already got and who it’s obvious to all of us is as much a defender as I’m a brain surgeon?
He’s in the wrong job if that’s the case, he’s no more ready for the role he has at this club than Rocco Vata is to cover for Kyogo while he gets that shoulder op. But it helps to have friends in high places.
Even more so if one of them is your daddy.
Unfair? So what?
Who cares whether it’s fair?
I said in an earlier article that they created the perception that this club is run on nepotism and cronyism and when mistakes are made that’s what people are naturally going to say.
They created this situation and they could have avoided it easily, by simply giving the job to somebody else. You will never convince me that there is not someone out there who could have done this job just as well, or better, than the chairman’s son.
I cannot say this enough times; this is how companies get into trouble.
This is how countries make catastrophic decisions which collapse economies and even lead to wars.
A handful of people, isolated from any but their own opinions, deciding everything … and these people have been in those jobs for so long the idea that they have fresh thinking to bring to the table is manifestly ridiculous.
The thing about giving the job to your own kid is that he has to be perfect.
He can’t make mistakes; he doesn’t get any benefit of the doubt.
But this is a Lawwell transfer window, just like the dozen or so we saw in years gone by.
It’s so textbook, it’s so on the nose, right down to the pissed off manager, that if you wiped my brain of the last 12 months and I didn’t know who the chairman was and who our head of scouting was, and you told me about this transfer window, I’m 100% certain that I’d be able to tell you the names of the people in those two high profile jobs.
I wouldn’t even need to phone a friend.
We had a Champions League windfall. We sold Jota for a major sum. We sold Starfelt for a decent amount of money. We’re coming out of this with a starting eleven which is arguably weaker than it was at the end of last season, and we have a net profit.
To say this board has backed the manager is nothing but a barefaced lie.
They gave him the backing they thought he should have, not that which he and this team needed.
We haven’t even spent the transfer cash we brought in.
And those who say “Aaah but we kept our best players and some of them signed new deals”, I’m afraid that’s not going to cut it either because you’re asking that I praise these people simply because they didn’t further asset strip the side.
Brendan Rodgers, on the day he sat down in front of the fans, said he wanted pace and power.
He said two weeks ago we needed some experience.
They gave him a Benfica youth midfielder yesterday and you heard what he said about it, expressing his feeling precisely in pointing out that it’s another young player to “develop”.
They call this many things, but when you are so laser focussed on doing things in one specific way, even when it’s plainly leading to mistakes, that’s not a coherent plan, that’s a fetish, that’s no longer rational. They couldn’t just have given the guy one, just one, experienced footballer? And why not? Because it doesn’t tick the boxes on their wee checklist?
Are these children or grown men?
He’s the goddamn manager of this football club … and they’ve treated his opinions with nothing but contempt. They’ve heard his pleas and very publicly given him the finger.
They failed this guy, and there are no two ways about that and what makes it worse is that they plainly didn’t even try on his behalf.
They didn’t try on our behalf either.
The minute he said that they were making the transfer decisions I knew how this was going to end, and yesterday was a depressing walk through a very familiar landscape I hoped we’d never have to pass through again … a transfer window run by the bean-counters in accordance with “the strategy.”
It doesn’t serve the needs of the manager. It doesn’t serve the needs of the team.
It’s an ego trip for those who think the football department is their own personal plaything.
Well, they’ve got their share of my money for another season. They had the cheek to send out advertising for a new shirt yesterday and it doesn’t even matter that I like it, it’s a piss take and they can sod off.
I’ll wear the one I have until it comes back into style rather than give these people more money so they can stuff a mattress or heat a driveway or whatever the Hell else they’re going to do with it so they don’t have to give it to Brendan Rodgers.
Champions League money? They can get that from me when they take the competition even semi-seriously, and since they don’t then I’m not going to either. They’re getting nothing else.
That’s the only language they understand and they used to be able to hold over us the idea that if it wasn’t for our money they’d have to weaken the squad. Wow.
They’ve rendered that an empty threat since that’s what we now expect anyway.
Doubtless you will hear excuses for this window along the lines that players don’t want to come to Scotland, and how we can’t afford to pay big fees and how it’s difficult to do business in the summer (remember when they told us that about January transfers? Last January, and every January?) … it’s all bollocks, I’m afraid, that and this peculiar lunacy of leaving stuff to the final day when if you fail to fill any of the key positions you are essentially out of time.
Don’t let anyone kid you that this is somehow enforced on us, that this is the way we have to do things and that there’s no other option … this is a choice. This is deliberate.
This is how our club chooses to do this.
We haven’t been pushed into anything, we’re here because of conscious decisions made inside our own walls, to limit our spending to the point where we’re run for profit, to sell our best players the moment an acceptable offer comes in, to force every manager now to accept projects and development players and hope that their coaching can make something coherent out of what is all too often a mess of names and bodies in positions where we don’t need them.
When Brendan Rodgers sits there and tells you, himself, that the club has “a strategy”, well folks this would be what he’s talking about.
This strategy which leaves us short of a midfield enforcer, a left back, a backup striker and a decent goalkeeper, going into a Champions League Group where we would have a chance of getting at least third if we weren’t hamstrung by the policy, and this at the end of a window where we’re posting a transfer trading surplus in spite of bringing in ten players and which leaves us with six centre backs, seven wingers eight central midfielders and a manager who looks increasingly pissed off.