When I look back on the “trial by fire” article I wrote before the Ibrox game, I am quite pleased that I predicted that Liam Scales could play his way into a future at Celtic Park by doing well in that match.
He did better than well. He passed that test with flying colours. If this was an actual trial by fire, he’d have danced across the ploughshare and his feet would have healed on the first day. “Not Guilty, my son, go forth and enjoy the rest of your life.”
The man of the match award was the shock nobody expected.
I thought he might do a job in that game but not an exceptional job. People can underestimate that as much as they want, but what he did that day was astonishing. He was seen as the ultimate weak link and he proved himself far better than that. He fit perfectly into the manager’s tactics, followed his instructions to perfection – watch the way he plays the offside trap; it’s masterful – and stood out a mile.
The manager must have been beyond impressed. The idea of Scales going out on loan was shelved. The idea of him leaving permanently seemed ridiculous. People keep asking me how I can judge a player on one game; I’m not though. Because he was excellent in pre-season as well, and towards the end of last season was immense for Aberdeen.
So much so that they wanted him on a permanent deal.
That’s off the table. He’s part of the club now, part of the squad, a valued footballer and one the manager is clearly very fond of. And that was always going to have consequences for somebody because, as was proved with that European squad, we have too many players on the books. This is why I am still extremely pissed off about the transfer window and why no pro-board stooge can possibly make the case that it was a huge success.
We signed ten players. We didn’t need ten players. We didn’t need three wingers and four central midfielders. It’s ludicrous. There was no way that we were going to register every single one of the new players. No way. Impossible.
We needed, at best, four signings, the right four signings, and replacements for anyone who left, and we could have spent good money for them … instead the board went for the projects again, in bulk, and that’s why two of the signings and one player from last year aren’t there.
It’s the guy from last year who didn’t make the squad which truly puts the writing on the wall. The boss is not convinced by Bernabei. He’s just not. He’s made it clear. And he made it clear before he cut him from the European squad and gave Scales his place.
Liam Scales earned that spot. Bernabei has had opportunities and has not done so. That guy is in his last three months at Celtic. I think he’s certain to leave on loan in January and we’ll never see him back again. To avoid that fate – and I very much doubt he even can – he would have to get into the team and be exceptional. Not just good, but exceptional.
And to get into the team, it would take Taylor and Scales both to be injured now, because Brendan could have left Scales out of the European squad and put Bernabei in there and nobody would even have blinked because the team needs two left backs. In dropping Bernabei from that squad we’d be down to one left back. Except that’s where the manager sees Scales.
Liam Scales is our backup left back. He has played his way into a first team place and I would be amazed if we saw Bernabei more than a handful of times. The manager will flatly deny this if he’s asked about it, because you never know what will happen and we might have to rely on him in certain games, but that’s the weakest area of the team and he has made a huge statement by leaving out a guy who is fit, and who cost us a lot of money.
That message cannot be misinterpreted. It’s obvious. It’s written in letters large enough to read from miles away without putting your glasses on. And it’s probably the right decision.
Whether Scales and Taylor remain numbers one and two in that position is debatable – I don’t think that pecking order will survive next summer if it gets that far – but for now it’s done.