There is just over a week to go in the Celtic transfer window, and that sound you hear is the sound of wheels grinding behind the scenes. But the closer we get to the actual moment the window shuts, the more polishing of the excuses is taking place. Every single one of those excuses has been uttered by board apologists before and before and before.
The most common of them, of course, is that January is a bad time to try and get business done. Funny, then, that the first Ange January window saw us bring in three players who immediately improved the team and who are stalwarts of it today. If this oft-repeated excuse actually has a core of truth in it then it’s all the more important that you get your business done in the summer, something we lamentably failed to do this time around.
This transfer window has been massively underwhelming, and the closer we get to the end of it the more a dark suspicion forms, and mine began to crystalise last week when Rodgers talked about how Kyogo’s being left out of the Japan team changed the club’s priorities, a statement I found profoundly disturbing.
He even suggested that it might be the right time to bring in some project signing … which sounds more like he has a Lawwell hand up his backside than that man speaking for himself.
Based on some of the stuff on the other blogs, I am not the only one who made the connection between those comments and the sudden stories about Rocco Vata being offered a deal, alongside his inclusion in the squad for Buckie Thistle at the weekend. If this is someone inside Celtic Park having a brainwave, it is one not shared by the manager.
He was adamant that Vata has a lot to do to prove himself. Some even interpreted that as a sort of nod and wink denial of the contract story. But the suspicion remains nonetheless that someone inside Celtic is pushing the idea of Vata as a solution to our backup striker problem, one which means we don’t have to spend any money in the next week.
If this is, in fact, the case that is being made behind the scenes then it requires that someone come out and explain it and defend it and put their name to it. If Rodgers accepts that, then he has to own it.
Because if he’s willing to tolerate stuff like that then he’s surrendered control of his destiny to those above him at the club and he’ll have to live with the consequences of that. He doesn’t get to pass the buck on a decision such as this.
In order to defend it, someone will have to explain a few things. First up, why now?
If Vata is good enough to be Kyogo’s backup, if there really isn’t anyone better out there than him, how come it has taken so long for him to crack the first team? And why wasn’t there a contract offer before now? How can a player who has been plying his trade in the Lowland League suddenly come to be seen as one capable of carrying a title race on his shoulders?
Look, I might be wrong about this. Of course. But I’m not the only one who thinks this might be under consideration at Celtic Park. Even as a short-term solution it is way, way short of what this club requires, and I can’t see any way that those above Rodgers could sell it to him or expect that he could sell it to the rest of us. It’s a non-starter.
It’s not just the absence of the signing everyone agreed was priority number one before Rodgers started to backtrack on that, it’s that there’s not even a credible whisper of one out there. Just a stony silence which cannot possibly reflect what’s happening behind the scenes, that and the usual “suggestions” that we should sign Shankland (we won’t) or get some EPL up and comer on loan … that’s the only scenario in which I’d prefer the Vata suggestion.
If we’re going to develop players, they damn well better be players we actually own.
Giakoumakis left Celtic a year ago. (So much for clubs not being able to sign quality in January; the Americans managed it well enough, at our expense). He has not been replaced. Our backup is a guy nobody is entirely convinced by, and even if we were he’s unavailable. Kyogo is nursing a shoulder injury which could give any day or not for years … it’s Russian Roulette.
We know what’s required here, and we’ve known for many, many months.
It stinks that this looks like going to the wire, it reeks of Lawwell and his slapdash way of doing things, of gambling our season on a game of wait-and-see instead of identifying gettable targets and moving early.
We know that some of the pro-board lobby will defend that, in the same way they’ll defend the summer business with the assertion that these guys will “come good” and grow into their roles, probably just in time to be inferior replacements for other prize assets sold off when the first decent offer for them comes in … we know how this works by now.
Right now, we look bang on course for a wholly unsatisfactory conclusion to the month. Knowing the people at the sharp end of it, and based on Rodgers’ own slippery remarks of late, I am going to be honest; I’m bracing myself for the worst.