I liked what Brendan Rodgers had to say yesterday, all of it. About our new players, about the transfer window, about our current squad, about our European goals. Amidst all of it, he had just one gripe; we have had to leave several key players out of the squad which we have registered for the Champions League. It’s a subject this site talks about a lot.
The issue, of course, is the eight home-grown players regulations, the ones which have had a particularly big effect on the club from Ibrox; they weren’t able to register a full compliment of 25 players because they don’t have enough domestic footballers. What a damning indictment of that club and its transfer policies that is.
Still, Rodgers was slightly miffed yesterday when discussing our own players and the guys he had to leave out of the squad. He is correct to point out something that clubs around Europe have highlighted recently and which one Belgian club is actually taking UEFA to court over; the way the Home Grown rule primarily benefits the bigger sides.
The reasons for his are simple enough; our population is tiny compared to those elsewhere, and thus we don’t have access to the depth of talent that a country like Germany or France or Spain or England does. The Belgians have the same problem, of course, and one of their sides wants to take this matter to court on the basis of restriction of trade.
I don’t know if I wish them well. I like the eight home grown players rule although it’s given us numerous headaches over the year. Rodgers himself doesn’t mind it as much as his comments would suggest; he made a point of talking up the need for a club like Celtic to have a strong core of players from our own country. I could not agree more.
He knows we have to bring more young players through, but we can’t make that happen just by wishing for it. The players have to be there in the first place, and this is where the size of Scotland is an issue, one that people like Ewan Murray apparently refuse to accept.
We registered our full quota, and every one of them is useful to the squad.
Four of them – McGregor, Ralston, Forrest and Welsh – would probably have been registered anyway. Two of our Scottish born players, but not developed by the club, Taylor and Turnbull, would have had a good chance too. But if Turnbull goes on freedom of contract, we’ve got an issue for next season. If Taylor is replaced as left back then we’ve got ourselves another one.
I would love it if we had six top class academy players in our squad, but we don’t.
There isn’t enough quality in the academy; there might not be enough quality in Scotland. It concerns me that there aren’t a core of good Scottish players in the league outside Celtic who you would say “Yeah, we should go out and get that guy.” But it doesn’t seem that long ago that the mainstays of the national team all played for our club; there was a spell there where we had Gordon, Tierney, Forrest, McGregor, Armstrong, Brown, Christie and Griffiths in the Scotland team all at the same time.
The best half dozen young talents I’ve watched in the last 15 or so years – Brown, Christie, Armstrong, McGinn, Griffiths and Turnbull – we went out and bought five out of six of them and so the idea that we would rather spend the money on foreigners is pretty ridiculous. We also bought plenty of others – a half dozen others off the top of my head; Jack Hendry, Greg Taylor, Scott Allan, Gary Mackay Steven, Craig Gordon and Lewis Morgan – with varying degrees of success.
But there aren’t nearly enough of them, and that’s a problem which isn’t going away. So I agree with Rodgers that this rule is unfair on us, but that we need a core of Scottish players anyway, as part of our club’s identity. If we could change things we would, and it would be the number of these players who are available rather than the alteration to the rules.