Yesterday, before Celtic took the field, one of Scottish football’s foremost “commentators” had nothing else on his mind but taking shots at our club.
We decided to field almost a full-strength side against our Highland opponents, in a show of respect for them. But Tom English, of the “neutral” BBC, could not look past that.
He saw in it an opportunity. An opportunity to have a go at this club, because really, that’s the important thing for a man in his job, right? That’s how to promote the game in Scotland, by whining about something that could not have been less important; that we started the game without a single homegrown player in the first eleven.
Do you think English actually cares about this stuff?
Do you think he genuinely cares whether any team in the country fields homegrown players in the Scottish Cup? How does that make his life better? How does that change his enjoyment of a match which in spite of the vast gulf between the two teams actually turned out to be a very good game?
English doesn’t care at all. The romance of the occasion didn’t enter his thinking. He saw a chance to have a dig at Celtic and all other considerations were secondary to that.
As I’ve written in this blog before, the word chickenshit comes from the military; Paul Fussell, the American historian, in his famous book Wartime, nailed people like English when he wrote that, “Chickenshit is so called—instead of horse, bull or elephant shit—because it is small-minded and ignoble and takes the trivial seriously.”
And you will not get a better example of chickenshit, in all its meanings, than this. In a weekend where a footballer in Scotland was subjected to some of the sickest taunts in the recent history of our game, this is what this clown felt most animated about.
Buckie Thistle deserve every bit of praise they are getting for their display.
Their players more than did themselves credit. Celtic deserved credit too, though, for not contemptuously fielding a reserve side to play them, thus robbing every single one of their footballers the chance to say they went toe to toe with the very best players, in the best and biggest stadium, in the country. The beauty of that is obvious to even a jaded cynic like me.
English actually continued in this vein, arguing the toss with a guy who pointed out an incredible stat; only fourteen players produced by the clubs which fielded them started games for top flight clubs in this competition this weekend. Fourteen in total.
Celtic may not have fielded any at the start of the match, but no fewer than five Celtic academy graduates started games for other top flight teams. English is a bitter joke.
His argument, which he continued for way longer than those engaging with it should have bothered with, is that boring, discredited debate point that our club would rather spend millions of pounds every year than promote youth.
And how many times have I said it? That point is so ridiculous that it’s pointless even engaging with it. What football club which could fill its team with quality players from its own academy would ever bother to sign a footballer from elsewhere? If Celtic really has let top quality youth slip through its fingers, where are these guys?
One guy on Twitter raised Barry Hepburn, who left us to chase the dream at Bayern Munich. He struggled to get games at Queens Park. Would we have been better hanging onto him?
Who exactly should we have dropped from our team to play him, in a close title race?
What pisses me off about people like English and the stuff he’s peddling here is that the bullshit wafts off it and we’re supposed to pretend we don’t smell it. If we’d played the academy guys from the start yesterday, he’d have accused us of disrespect.
If we sold two or three first team players in the summer and replaced them with graduates from Lennoxtown, what do you think this guy would be writing? That we were depriving the manager of money, that we were lowering our ambitions, that Rodgers would not put up with it nor would fans pay to get behind it. Penny pinching. Risking the title.
And we know he would be writing this. Because he does write variations of those stories anyway, every time we don’t take some giant stride in Europe.
Are they saying then that we’ve not done enough to promote youth? No, it’s slagging us because we have Stephen Welsh at central defence, or Ralston at right back, or are playing Mikey Johnston when there is £70 million sitting in the bank.
The hypocrisy of this stuff reeks from a mile away, and although English stupidly tried to argue his point throughout the game, he was made to look like an absolute mug by a second half in which we put no fewer than five academy graduates onto the pitch at the same time, and nothing sums it up more beautifully than this tweet.
Afterwards he ranted about how some of these guys would be lucky to see the first team again. Three of them have been regular fixtures for years. Kelly is a highly rated prospect the club has big plans and high hopes for, and then there is Rocco Vata who according to the rumour factory might yet sign a new deal.
As I wrote last night, if he signs that deal, he is not doing it to return to the Lowland League, and so he will be a first team footballer. Which means four out of five of the guys who came on and who he suggested wouldn’t get a sniff will have proved that claim demonstrably false, like much else that flows from his pen.
There is a time and there is a place for bedding in the youth talents, and integrating them into the squad. Managers pay for rushing these things. They pay with their jobs. And a young player or players thrown into a title race before they are ready can have their entire careers derailed. One of his suggestions in his lengthy argument with Celtic fans was that the likes of Ben Doak should have been shouldering that burden. At sixteen years old.
That is not a reasoned argument. That is slabbering rubbish, and I am tired of people like this, who cannot maintain the least consistency in their arguments, having a pop at us over this issue. They either think we should be pushing the boat out with signings or they think we should be forgoing that to look internally at what we’ve got.
English also mentions Lennoxtown itself, and questions whether or not we’re getting value for money out of it. Kieran Tierney’s transfer fee and the years of service we’ve gotten out of Callum McGregor and James Forrest have probably paid for Lennoxtown several times over, and this is to say nothing for the dozens of players we’ve sent out into the wider game and made careers for … but I do agree that we don’t graduate enough of them into our side.
But how many clubs out there have actually had “golden generations”? I mean teams which graduate four or five of these guys at one time, all of them going on to be stalwarts? That only rarely happens at the super-clubs, the ones with fortunes to spend. When was the last Scottish club, any club here, which produced a golden generation? Decades ago.
And if he really wants a proper discussion about this, how about he start with the SFA and the SPFL and their utter failure to provide our reserve teams with a competition to play in?
Where is the Centre of Excellence our game was promised? Where are the youth reforms which were proposed in The McLeish Report? That’s over a decade ago and we’ve done damn all.
Earlier in the month I wrote an article about the poverty of domestic produced talent, not just at Celtic but at a level where we can even look now to other Scottish clubs for players as we have done historically.
The problem doesn’t stop and start at our door.
But none of that matters to this guy. He saw his chance to take a cheap shot and couldn’t help himself, and all he did is made himself look like a fool. As usual.