Celtic Is In A Really Difficult Place With The Daniel Kelly Situation.

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One of the interesting things we saw happen at Celtic towards the tail end of last season was that Daniel Kelly made his way into the first team squad, played a number of games and looked very good. It is clear that the club has plans for him, and that Rodgers regards him as someone who is at least on the fringes of his main squad.

This was not a Rocco Vata type situation.

Kelly has impressed enough to be marked down as a true notable “one to watch” and the initial reports were that he was looking forward to signing a new deal – which was never the case with Vata, in spite of what some have said.

Earlier today I wrote about the notable failure of our academy to produce a “next level” talent since Kieran Tierney. It’s lamentable, and there is a major failure across the boards and not just at Celtic but with the parochial mentality of clubs all over Scotland.

When something isn’t working you change it up. We simply rotate through the same contacts book, all of whom are stuck in the same mind-set, all of whom are part of the Scottish football firmament and thus don’t have different ideas. Show me the ex-player we’ve brought in to the coaching system who has worked under a top-class continental coach, at a club where there’s a different mind-set and a different mentality? That’s part of the problem.

The Kennedy’s, McManus’s, O’Dea’s and Hayes’ of this world can only pass down the knowledge that they themselves have been taught. If they’ve never seen or done it any different, our youth players are not going to see and do it any different.

And that might explain, at least in part, the Daniel Kelly situation.

I have great sympathy with the club in the case of Daniel Kelly, but only up to a point. If he’s being honest with himself, he must wonder if he’s letting the best development years of his career pass him by. Not through lack of first team football, but by a lack of focus on the skills that might make him a true elite level player one day. On the lack of a modern coaching outlook. On the absence of any form of skills development once he hit the B team squad.

If he thinks he’ll get those skills going to Germany or somewhere on the continent, I can’t blame him one bit. This is the part of his career where he has to think two, three, five years in front of him. He will learn more in that handful of years in a more progressive, skills-based environment than he will ever learn here in Scotland slumming it in the Lowland League.

That’s our fault. We could fix that by bringing in coaching staff from abroad who would change the way we look at the world. But the bigger problem – that Lowland League roadblock – is still going to be savagely detrimental to the development process. The lack of a reserve league here in Scotland is an outright scandal which shouldn’t have been allowed.

But that’s where we’ve failed on the job. That key area.

In terms of the rest of it, I don’t know what else we can do.

If Kelly is considered a squad player, he needn’t worry any longer about the stifling elements of semi-professional football. If the boss has laid out a pathway for him, then that removes the concern. He’ll be training with the first team; he’ll get plenty of chances to prove his worth and this time next year he’ll have a dozen starts or more under his belt to look back on.

This is where things get difficult though.

As of right now, he’s effectively counting down the days until his contract is up, and this is a bad place for us to be. Because there are no good options here, and every one that we take is going to open us up to criticism and risk.

Here’s what we won’t do, and I totally understand why.

We will not pay this kid what we do not yet believe that he has proved that he is worth. If he and his agent want to be unrealistic about what that is, then he will probably go and whatever else the spin on that is – and I’ve already acknowledged that there will be other reasons – it will be at least in part about money. The larger part.

Celtic’s position on this is not at all unreasonable.

I don’t like the wage structure at the club.

I don’t think it properly rewards players at the top end and I think we place too much emphasis on letting players go when they reach their earnings limits under it. We could pay a greater portion of the playing squad more. If the squad was smaller, of higher quality, and there wasn’t so much churn in it, we could do that quite comfortably.

The system is designed in a way that explicitly incentivises players to seek moves when they reach a certain threshold, and this is not a bug it’s a feature. It’s built into “the strategy” because otherwise these guys might not move for big money and that’s what the bean-counters want them to do. We have a board that thinks the value of a footballer is measured only in what we could get for him on the transfer market. It’s been this way for years.

But where the system makes more sense is in that it’s based, as most club wage structures are, on a hierarchical level, and at the bottom of that level are the academy players. Those with promise get contracts commensurate with that promise.

But that’s the key word; promise.

Until that promise has been fulfilled and they are first team footballers, this club will not – and cannot and should not – pay them at that level. If we start doing that, we’re on the road to disaster. There’s a reason why we buy projects and pay them modest sums. There’s a reason nobody at Celtic is panicking over the wage bill in spite of the disastrous failures of almost all of our signings last summer; hardly any of them are on big money.

We shouldn’t have a policy which focusses on projects. But the pay structure we operate on when we do makes absolute sense. I mentioned this briefly the other day when I talked about Moneyball; Billy Beane and his people believed strongly in recruiting from colleges rather than doing what baseball has been doing since time immemorial and recruiting from high school. The development gap between a high school player and a college player is enormous and you can get a much better read on whether a player is on the verge of fulfilling his potential.

There is a similar gap in football between the youth academies and the first team. Smart clubs operate sensibly in terms of what they pay its players with potential. As I said in a lengthy piece the other day on young players leaving Celtic to chase cash, when have we been left with egg on our face by not giving these kids more money to stay? When have we lost out on a genuine contender? Someone capable of blooming into a Tierney?

The very act of chasing the money instead of working hard and developing properly, the “I want it all and I want it now” tendency suggests that there is a skewed sense of priorities here, perhaps even the kind that precludes future success, which in any field which requires discipline and focus and a relentless drive for excellence, is critical.

I understand how it could happen; we live in a material world and to a lot of young people the big car and the ability to have nice things right now is tempting and a lot of them can’t resist it. The pull of the money is everywhere, all around us, and one of the smartest things our club has done is to acknowledge that and not pander to it.

To be honest, I think those clubs which throw fortunes at kids barely old enough to shave are not just contributing to an aggressively destructive culture, but they are doing the individuals themselves no favours at all. There are going to be books and books and books devoted to the wreckage in years to come. You wait and see. The hyper-wage era is going to end in disaster. In US sports the revolving door of scandals and nightmare outcomes is a glimpse of our future.

We don’t know what Daniel Kelly is yet. He’s not yet an established first team footballer though and we can’t afford to pay him at that level until he is, until he’s proved it, until he has a body of work which is sufficient to justify that.

Which brings me to another problem, and this is another area where I have tremendous sympathy for the club. I believe that one of the reasons we didn’t play Rocco Vata, even during our worst injury crisis moments, is explicitly because it would have put him in the shop window for other clubs at the very moment we were trying, and failing, to get him to sign a new deal.

If we’re putting Daniel Kelly in the first team right now all we’re doing is putting a sign around his neck saying “make him a better offer than the one he’s turned down here.” But if we don’t have him in the first team this is going to be fodder for those who are going to say that we’re not offering him a pathway and that’s why he’s going to go.

We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

We’ve made a good contract offer. I’m sure that it is. It will be a lot of money for an 18 year old with limited first team football. If his people feel he’s undervalued then there’s not much Celtic can do, since that’s a gap we’re not going to bridge. Whatever they think he’s done to justify more, our club doesn’t agree. This is where a manager might step in and say “I think he’s worth more, and here are my plans for him”, but I suspect Rodgers agrees with the club.

And although I am disappointed in how this one looks as if it’s going to go, because like everyone else I want to see a good young player develop at Celtic and especially under this manager, so do I.

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  • Jim M says:

    If the wage structure for performance was applied to lawwells salary we’d save an absolute packet , never mind his bonuses for mediocrity.

  • James Garrity says:

    Rodgers should have enough experience to have a good idea about DK’s chances of making it.
    So, make him an offer on that basis, with BR’s input – within the current wage structure – and give him a deadline to sign, say end July.
    If he signs, great. If he doesn’t, he doesn’t play another minute in a Celtic jersey.

  • John M says:

    James, went to see my home team Tranent when I came home last season, once against Celtic. It was pitiful. Could not understand why Scottish Football allows this to happen. There is no development for young players, hence why our international team is mince.

  • Frank Connelly says:

    In the bad old James it was politics pure and simple. Players were good enough but could and were conveniently ignored and I could sight u personal times when it happened but this long before agents got involved. As I said in an earlier piece I can well imagine the reverse is the case were Celtic start out the pruning with a shed load of kids under review and as they drop the number down “agents” used to be mums and dads get involved and fill the potential kids head with nonsense and that the situation we find our club in now. IE money talks and they will jump ship when £s are waived. Hard to c how that is gonna change

  • Frank Connelly says:

    if you think am talking pants then ask why we have an England Spain final in the Euros? The decisions made were shocking. Money talks now and the Dutch in the final wouldnt cut it. Politics in my day back in 1970s and its even more so now.

  • Adam Thomas says:

    On a different note ,I was alerted to the fact you have to register your ground with uefa before the competition start(1 only)and you must play all your games in that tournament, so ibrox would be playing all. thier games away from home till January, could you confirm this .

    • Jay says:

      Regulations of the UEFA Champions League – Article 25

      The stadium announced at the beginning of the competition is considered as the home stadium of the respective club. It may be the ground of the home club or another ground in the same or another city within the territory of its association. Exceptionally, the UEFA administration may accept a stadium in the territory of another UEFA member association if no other suitable stadium is available in the home territory. In principle, stadiums are approved only if direct international flights and/or charter flights are able to land within an acceptable distance of the host city, in the country of the club concerned. All stadiums are subject to the approval of the UEFA administration.

      As of the league phase, a club must in principle play all its matches in the competition at one and the same stadium.

      Appears they could use Hampden for the qualifiers but if Ibrox wasn’t ready for the league stage of the competition then it appears they would have to play at Hampden but you can bet they’ll get a dispensation & allowed back in (although I’ll be kind of surprised if they get in depending on who they draw)

  • Brattbakk says:

    I’ve not seen much of him outside his first team chances but totally agree that it’s easy to see why these guys think their development will be better served elsewhere. I enjoyed the Queen’s Park game tonight, Murray, Kobayashi, Lawal and Turley looked good. Murray and Lawal looked good last preseason too so if they can’t kick on this season I expect they’ll assess their options.

  • Brattbakk says:

    Also, Seigrist! I thought he was gone?

  • Alex Nixon says:

    If he and his agent thinks the grass is greener elsewhere then bye bye Daniel follow the money forget your dreams

  • Joe McQuaid says:

    Mostly agree but I wouldn’t cut our nose off here. If good enough and needed then I would play him in first half of the season. Yes puts him in the shop window but also shows him there is a pathway.

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