Ewan Murray likes nothing better than having digs at Celtic.
I have read dozens of his columns over the years and even when he’s praising us – because he has no other choice – there’s an undercurrent of spite in there. Today he’s writing about the Scotland team, and is at great pains to point out that of our club only Callum McGregor was there representing our side. And I have lamented that, but not much.
Once again, Murray wants to push the nonsensical line that our buying of foreigners leaves young Scottish players – and in particular our own youth footballers – behind.
And it’s nonsense as this site has pointed out over and over and over again.
If there was a core of players in the youth academy who were good enough to step up and into the first team, we wouldn’t be spending so much money on players from abroad.
Which club would? Are we insane? Do we just spend money for the sake of it?
On top of that, most people at Celtic Park can count and do basic math. They know what the European registration issues are as well as I do, and I’ve written about them a dozen times. It is imperative that we either produce talent good enough to fill out those numbers or buy the best available talent in the league. But who is that right now?
Where are the players who would substantially make our team better, or even rise to its standard? I don’t see them, and he doesn’t see them either. In the same article, he admits that there are teams in this league which you would almost expect to be filled with Scottish talent and they aren’t … so the blame certainly does not lie with Celtic not signing the best. It’s because the term “the best” is a loose one when you look around at the talent produced here.
Today we published our Champions League squad, and no fewer than three of our summer signings have to sit it out because of the 25 man registration rule; is Murray honestly telling us that our club would rather do that than have a higher quota of Scottish born players?
We’d have had to leave people out either way, but this places an additional burden on us and one that we would happily do without if we could … still the question stands; who is out there who would enhance the squad?
We, at least, were able to name a 25 man squad because we do have eight players at the moment who meet the requirements. The Ibrox club could only name a 22 man team, but they weren’t the focus of the piece although a recent piece which I discussed – by Graeme McGarry – pointed out that they would have benefited from signing a slew of Scottish players over the last two or three years, including Lewis Ferguson, Lawrence Shankland and others.
I think their inability to even name eight Scottish born players in their squad is a damning indictment of that club. Murray as usual would rather write about us. “Celtic have a tried and tested transfer strategy that has made them the finest team in the country, without either the desire or the ability to coax a stable of Scots.”
I agree with him on the ability bit. In part, and I find it disheartening that we’ve not got more top youth talent coming through.
What neither he nor anyone can do is point to a recent, high-profile mistake we’ve made, a young player we allowed to leave thinking he didn’t have it, only for that to be utterly disproved. Ben Doak is the only youth player we tried to hang onto, and failed to, who looks anything like good enough to have been a first team player here.
Quite how anyone can question our desire, on the other hand, is ridiculous and the reason I find it incredibly hard to take anything in his article seriously. And if he wants to complain about contributions to the national team, he names several members of the squad which played the other night who do all have recent history playing at Celtic Park; Tierney, Armstrong, Hendry, Christie. We went for John McGinn. We also tried for Aaron Hickey.
What’s more – and this is the critical bit which casts doubt on the whole piece – almost every player he names in the article, including those above, Scott McKenna, Kevin Nisbet, Kenny McLean, Ryan Porteous, Lyndon Dykes and Nathan Patterson, have all played in the SPFL and had offers to stay there but didn’t because English clubs could offer more money.
And this isn’t a new phenomenon. English clubs with their ability to pay more than our clubs have been taking players from Scotland, Celtic’s best academy graduates included, for longer than I’ve been alive. In my lifetime some of the most sublime of all Celtic’s talents have been snapped up by English clubs. So his piece comes off as a bit cringey, a bit “Scotsman ashamed of his nation”.
But as usual the main theme is that Celtic could be doing more.
If he wants to name a team in Scotland which has given more players, throughout the game in this country, professional careers he can go right ahead and give me his pick.
He won’t because he can’t. Our academy might not graduate first team players for Celtic with the regularity we’d like – although Welsh, McGregor, Forrest, Ralston and Johnstone is a decent return as all are active in the squad right now.
But there is no question that we give a dozen or so new recruits a career every single season … and that’s more than any other club in this land can claim for itself.