What did I say about perception versus reality? It does not matter what the truth is, it only matters what people believe. That is the essence of the term. That is why last night, even as we should have been relatively happy that the first bit of business of this window is just about done, Celtic cyberspace was instead convulsed by doubt and fear.
I think a lot of people need to calm down, if I’m being honest, and stow some of the nonsense they are slinging around. Khun is not being brought here to replace Liel Abada. The McGowan piece, which I said people should be scorning rather than panicking over, is purely coincidental. But I can easily understand why people might not believe that.
Two perceptions are clashing here. The first is that McGowan’s status as a spoon-fed Lawwell puppet precedes him. Which is why some people think his article was a softening up exercise to get us used to the idea that Abada will be gone before this window shuts. He is just the sort of useful idiot who might be steered towards a story like that.
Mark Wilson, another ex-footballer determined to prove that they make the worst possible pundits, weighed in with the other, comparing this signing to the Maryan Shved one. Perhaps he’s failed to recognise the difference; Maryan Shved was dropped on the manager just as he was dropped on the rest of us. Brendan Rodgers publicly scorned that signing. He is the guy making this one. See where the difference lies? See what the difference is?
The perception here is of a club with an incoherent transfer strategy, and that’s been created by past deeds under Lawwell and a chaotic summer. This is why I talked about this subject the other day; even when this board is doing right by the boss, they are going to find it very difficult to get a fair hearing, and being honest that’s their own damn fault.
They allowed this perception to take hold. Their own past deeds are being used against them, and their reputation for going behind the managers back has resulted in people seeing only what their own views on the board allow them to see. It’s not fair, but they do deserve it for feeding this perception instead of changing the narrative.
Another narrative, another perception, is that because he’s young he’s a project. But he isn’t, and I said that in the piece yesterday only to get people assure me that he is. Believe me, this player is being signed as a first team ready starter, and you will see him in the team on a regular basis. But because he’s young and relatively unknown people look at Celtic’s track record and assume that we’re taking another punt here.
And like I said, we have brought this on ourselves. This board has squandered any and all benefit of the doubt amongst large sections of our support. But give me a minute so that I can explain why I don’t believe that these views are justified this time.
Let’s start with Abada. I wrote about McGowan’s piece last night, so there’s no need to go over that again. The official word from Celtic, given not just to the bloggers but to the mainstream media, is that Rodgers sees Abada as a big player in the second half of the campaign and that Liel himself is happy here and has never, at any time, intimated that he wants a move.
As I said yesterday, Abada is a much stronger character than the likes of McGowan is giving him credit for. Celtic has looked after this lad and he appreciates the support and encouragement of everyone at the club … including the reception he got from the fans. And wait until he scores his next goal. He’s really going to feel the love from the troops.
As far as I’m concerned, that’s case closed. Abada is going nowhere in this window and unless there’s a ridiculous offer in the summer, I think he’ll be here for a couple of years yet. Rodgers wants to develop the current team into something special.
As to Wilson’ point about “stockpiling wingers”, it’s nonsense. He even went through the nonsensical contradictions in it himself by talking about how Forrest, Tilio and Mikey Johnston are probably not going to be at the club for a great deal longer. All true. All accurate. And if Forrest and Tilio aren’t going to be around much longer what does that leave?
It leaves us with five wingers, four of whom can play as strikers if the need arises; Abada, Palma, Kuhn and Maeda. But they will be our four first picks on the flanks. Yang is still too young and inexperienced and we’ve all watched him and we all know that. He’s the real backup player, those are the four we’ll rotate and who give us strength in depth.
Bear that phrase in mind; strength in depth. And bear in mind too that I wrote a piece some weeks ago looking at our wide options and concluding that we needed a better player wide right than Forrest and Yang. The managers sees what we do; we’ve been playing Maeda out of position for weeks because we don’t have real quality on that flank with Abada not fully fit. So now we do. Now we have five players in rotation for two spots.
We also have the option to play Palma as a number 10. Don’t rule that out. That puts another midfielder on the bench to give us options late in games. All this stuff comes to bear which is why a Champions League squad is 25 players and why an EPL squad is the same. The five substitutes rule gives us the opportunity to keep players fresh.
Two players for every position guys, and three reserves; one defender, one midfielder and one attacker. That’s what every club should be going for, and that’s what we’re going for here. It’s squad building 101 and Rodgers is now in charge of it.
Which brings us to Nicolas Kuhn himself, and the argument that he’s just another project player. But he isn’t. Ajax signed him as a project player, and then Bayern signed him because although he hadn’t cracked the Ajax side they thought he’d maybe crack theirs. Now, listen, there is absolutely no shame whatsoever in now getting into those teams … Rapid took a punt on him and he’s been there for 18 months and played regular football for them.
This guy is not a project. He’s been capped at every level except in the senior ranks for Germany. That and the moves to Ajax and Munich are a perfect pedigree. If we were signing him straight from their B side that would make him both a project and a punt, but we’re not, we’re signing him from the Rapid Vienna first team and they have no choice but to sell because they’ve gotten themselves into serious debt. But as I said, Rodgers wants this guy to play.
I read some comparisons the other day to Bolingoli because that’s where he signed him from; how pathetic that argument is. Just off the top of my head, we signed Tyler Blackett (yeah, remember him?) from Manchester Utd; does that mean that any player we sign from there in the future is bound to be a dud? Honest to God, who needs negative headline writers in the MSM when we have our fans talking this kind of rot about a player we’ve not even seen?
Hey, I know why I have faith in this signing. Because Brendan has to be all over it. If this is being done behind his back and against his wishes we’ll know soon enough and I would bet on public anger and private fury and wouldn’t be surprised if the whole season unravelled in the second half, but nobody at Celtic wants that so this has to be one he’s approved.
And looking back, I am confident than when the process serves the man in the dugout that it works better than when he’s given someone else’s players. I also know that looking at this guy he has a more impressive CV than most of the players we signed in the summer. The squad balance seems right to me. The deal is a good one and I hope we get it over the line.
One last thing; maybe the drum-beat has been missed, but over and over again in the past two weeks the message from people close to Celtic has been the same; we want a wide player, a striker and a left back. The left back deal will not be the guy we all thought it might be, and I suspect we’ll bring in someone on loan for that job.
But signing this guy does not mean that the pursuit of a striker has stalled or been ditched. Every source is saying the same; it has not. The search for a finisher who can not only backup Kyogo and Oh but challenge them both continues apace. We will soon find out how successful it has been, but I cannot stress enough the continuing importance of finding that player. Rodgers knows this too. Do not think that process ends the day this guy signs the contract.
This time the perception is not the reality. But one more time for the record; the Celtic board has sewn so much distrust that this is the inevitable thinking of a lot of the fans. They suspect and fear the worst, and they’ll continue to if that’s what Celtic serves up. The only way these guys get a fair hearing is when they start delivering the goods.
I personally think this is a decent start. Other people are going to need to be convinced. Only by continuing to back the manager and getting the big decisions right will people have their minds changed.
It’s doable. So, Celtic, get it done.