Some Of Wednesday’s Celtic Players Will Never Play Champions League Football Again.

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Football is a harsh business. All professional sport is.

Nick Hornby, in Fever Pitch, described it as one of those places where you just can’t hide. There are, as he pointed out, terrible painters making a living as professional artists and dreadful writers making a living churning out books and articles, and people who can’t carry a tune on Top Of The Pops because all that stuff is subjective, all of it is subject to interpretation.

In sports, you either make it or you don’t. You’re either good enough or you get found out. His chapter on Gus Caesar is one of the most searing things I’ve ever read because it’s terrifying in its implications for everyone who ever believed they had talent and then had to put that to the test. If you’re not as good as you think you’re in for a Hell of a comedown.

There’s an element of luck in sports though.

Look at our boy wonder Liam Scales.

When I wrote my article on him, the one about the Trial By Fire, prior to the Ibrox game, it was a hopeful piece about how it was a day when heroes would be made, and reputations grow. It was a day for someone to step up and if you could do it on that day you might just have what it takes … and he’s never looked back from that afternoon.

But except for an injury crisis so severe that he made that team in the first place, as a last ditch stop-gap, we still might not know what we had because he’d almost certainly have been off out on loan instead of playing centre back in six Champions League matches.

Prior to Ibrox that would have been unthinkable. It would actually have been vaguely terrifying. But he is one of the few success stories here, and his emergence that of a genuine talent who looks like he can do big things. Don’t be surprised if he’s in the same spot when next season’s Champions League campaign kicks off. That no longer sounds crazy.

It’s not guaranteed. Not by any manner of means. But it’s at least possible, it’s at least in the cards. There are some other people who played in that game for whom that is certainly not the case. That was their last Champions League at Celtic. For some of them that is their last Champions League game ever. They will never again play on that stage.

Let’s start from the back. Will Joe Hart ever again play at this level? Probably not, but what a career he has had and if this is his final appearance what a magnificent way to say goodbye to that stage. He had a great night, the sort that rolled back the years to how he was in his prime. All that’s happened to that guy is he’s got older; I wish we’d got him two or three years earlier than we did, because we’d be talking about him as a true great.

Alastair Johnston will almost certainly be the right back for next season. Barring a major turnaround or a major disaster he’ll be the man. He’s only going to get better at this level, and his fantastic pass to O’Riley to set us on the way to the winner is only one part of it. He needs to bulk up so he can hold the ball better, but he’s got the future by the short ones. Ralston looks like he’s still a squad player and I’m not terribly bothered either way about that.

The central defence is incredibly hard to call, but I suspect neither Scales nor Welsh nor Lagerbielke have played their last Champions League game for Celtic. They will all be around or thereabouts. I cannot be as sure about Cameron Carter Vickers and Nawrocki, because the big lad is injury prone and we might entertain bids for him if we think he’s a depreciating asset. I love the guy, but we have to be thinking about this. Nawrocki? Who knows?

At left back, I suspect this will not be Greg Taylor’s last Champions League night but quite possibly his last one as a starter, barring injuries. We will almost certainly be looking for an upgrade on that side of the pitch, putting aggression and physicality at the top of our list of requirements. As far as his current backup goes, Bernabei is gone for sure having never ever looked at any point like the long-term answer to this thorny problem. Young Frame will definitely have a future here, but it’s way too early to throw him in a starting full back. Let him grow into it, and he might just do it.

Callum McGregor, you can take that to the bank. He’ll be here. Matt O’Riley can be in this midfield as long as he likes, and only a massive, massive transfer bid will shift him. He’ll almost certainly be here and he’ll be even better than he is right now. Iwata … difficult. Hard to say. He’ll be in the squad so I’d say you’ll see him in a Champions League match next season. Bernardo … that’s up in the air. I don’t know about you guys but I’m not blown away. David Turnbull? Your guess is as good as mine. From maintaining any sort of Scottish connection we’d do well to get him on a new deal and he scores goals for us … I don’t know is the answer. Hatate, yeah, he’ll be at Parkhead. Holm? Ha! No idea. It’s the area where the need for the Real Deal is still the most pressing.

Palma. For sure. Definitely. Forrest … I think if he does play in the Champions League again it will be for a cameo and a swansong. Mikey Johnston? No chance at all, no chance whatsoever, of seeing him play Champions League football for Celtic and maybe not ever again. Maeda and Abada I have little doubt will be here and will be performing on that stage. Yang will have to improve, massively. Tilio? I think he’s up against it already and is a big, big doubt.

The same applies to both Kyogo and Oh. They’ll be retained although in what order our strikers will be rated as first picks, second picks and backup will depend greatly on who we sign and what quality they show from January onwards.

I don’t see ten players next summer. No chance. We just can’t, it’s wasteful and stupid. We certainly didn’t need anywhere near that in the summer just past. If we’re sensible we’ll get shot of a few people in January, send a bunch out on loan and over the course between May and August there will be more going out than coming in … and a stronger squad at the end.

If the manager gets his way, but we’ll believe that when we see it.

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  • John says:

    Spot on as usual james

    • Eldraco says:

      Lets win the league first come back to me then but let me say after listening to JK toeing the line…

      Tbh i even think we lose our asian boys.

  • Joe McLaughlin says:

    Why not try Scales at Left back and free up a central defender place. After all he played there very successfully at Aberdeen.

  • Pan says:

    It will be more of the same next year.
    This Board are not up to it. Money is their GOD.

  • Johnno says:

    Some very bold claims made there James.
    Do agree that the work for next seasons CL has to start now, and part of that process involves getting in the player’s to secure another double to be won yet this season?
    Don’t actually think we need anyone else to secure another double imo, but that doesn’t mean that the planning involved is allowed to stop either?
    When you look how a CL squad was constructed this season, in a 4231 which allowed for Turnbull to be back up to Hatate?
    A squad is assembled with 2 players for each position and allows for 3 Scottish homegrown players to help make up the 25, and hopefully enough within it for actual variations if needed?
    Also have to find the 8 homegrown players to fit into a system of play also, easier said than done, even now?
    So what actually is our best formation now to combat CL and SPFL at the same time?
    Personally believe that a squad needs to be formed upon a 343 basis, which allows for Taylor and ralston to potentially be available if we wanted or needed to go with a back 5 depending upon the game, especially away from home in CL.
    Bain remaining as the no 2 keeper?
    Hardly a promising prospect if injury or suspension prevents our no 1 keeper from playing?
    Have we even got potential replacements for Johnston and Turnbull currently, and if not, where are we going to find them, that actually offer ourselves more?
    Forrest is only making up numbers at this stage within his Celtic career, yet still remains needed all the same?
    Keeping hold of key players is always going to be an ongoing issue within the club, yet would like to think that’s in the planning for the long term?
    Or could it be just to help bump up any potential transfer fees?
    Every season its the same old story about the lack of planning for CL, which in turn has made a total lack of stability within the squad, especially with the amount of changes that takes place upon year after year within the 25 man squad?
    Hate to say it, but this is where the scum have been better than ourselves over the past number of seasons regarding stability within the overall squad for CL?
    This approach has to change upon our behalf in order to gain better success within the competition imo.
    Admittedly now the squad can be trimmed down with to many who wont really be considered for the remainder of this season, let alone next?
    Changes of a few that are currently struggling to even make the remainder of this season, and little signs of either making the improvements required for next season also?
    Even Rodgers himself, shouldn’t be allowed scott free either, as currently seems only interested in the ready-made player’s and showing little to no interest in the development process involved in trying to actually turn us into a respected CL team either imo?
    So overall I wouldn’t expect all the questions to be answered in January, but certainly expecting to see improvements within the planning process also?
    Would like to think that it might be going on in the background currently, even if unconvinced in what actual manner as of yet?

  • Donnybhoy says:

    Abada will want away after the Palestinian flags

    • James Forrest says:

      Scaremongering nonsense. We’ve had Palestinian flags at Celtic Park for the whole time he’s been at the club.

  • Pat says:

    This side will be overhauled in Jan and the Summer. Hart will be replaced, only if we can get the right man to replace him. Taylor is fine at LB, but we do need competition for him. How much would an upgrade cost? It’s not key. Midfield? We need an experienced quality player in there to help McGregor out. Similar to what Mooy gave us. Someone who can add a calmness and assurity. We Def need another goalscorer. Oh is to raw and.Kyogos performances have dropped off a cliff the last month.

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