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Celtic’s Academy Announcement Is Broadly Encouraging, But On Its Own It’s Not Enough.

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Adam Ashgar has officially been confirmed as our new head of Under 18’s.

It’s an outstanding appointment, and one which every fan should welcome. He’s a quality individual who, we all hope, will revolutionise our outdated and backward thinking at that level. In terms of developing youth there is no more important a role at the club.

Stephen McManus has been appointed head of the B side. I am not overly enthused by that appointment but to be honest, it’s less important to me because the B side is an utter disaster area anyway and has been dragging us down and it will continue to. We shouldn’t be near the Lowland League.

Our B team needs games against a better standard of opposition than that.

They are going to learn nothing playing against that sort of public park football.

In limiting ourselves to that environment – and whoever okayed that in the first place should be sacked in my view – a lot of potential is already being wasted. This experiment has been a colossal failure and on the day someone at Celtic Park puts a stop to it and finds a better solution a lot of people are going to ask why we didn’t do it sooner, ignoring the fact that a handful of us have said right from the start that this was a self-defeating plan.

It’s an issue. A big one. But if we can produce the right stuff at Under 18 level, if the thinking there changes, that will be a big step in the right direction.

There are still problems with the setup at Celtic. In any other field, the minimal results we’ve had in terms of players making it to the first team would see Chris McCart’s job threatened. The promotions of two ex-Celts, Stephen McManus and Darren O’Dea, continue to offer proof of a parochial, small-club attitude which remains unable to look beyond a narrow field of candidates.

What Celtic need is European thinking, and a European coaching setup, with a complete rethink in the way we rear players and the skills we emphasise.

We are spending huge sums on facilities. They are useless without a more continental approach to how we do things.

The complete failure to graduate more than a couple of players in the last two decades, when taken with the broader failures of other Scottish clubs to produce talents on the elite level, is obvious to anyone who looks at it.

But all these clubs, including ours, persist with internal appointments and continually hiring people from within the Scottish football landscape … all of it obviously worsening, as it is caught in the continued cycle of rinse and repeat.

Looking at the abject state of the game here is thoroughly depressing, and it’s not all Celtic’s fault of course.

To a certain extent we’re playing the hand we were dealt, and it’s a bad hand. It’s a stinking bad hand. We’re playing in the Lowland League in the first place because there’s no reserve league and there’s no reserve league because the “governing bodies” are weak and gutless and have allowed opt-outs and collapsed the system.

And what’s the result of that collapse? Look around you. The youth systems at every club in the top two divisions are desiccated. Have you ever seen such a dearth of natural, home-grown talent across the boards? Since the elimination of the reserve leagues the game here has gone decisively backwards. There is no SFA Centre of Excellence; the words “SFA” and “excellence” don’t belong in the same universe let alone the same sentence.

It is not our job nor our responsibility to fix everything that has gone wrong with the game here.

Maybe if we insisted on better football governance in Scotland rather than propping up the pygmies and charlatans currently running it our own club would be better off for it, but that’s a collective failure and it’s not just down to us to see the writing on the wall and act.

We can fix the problems in our own house and we do not even know where to start.

I applaud the appointment of Ashgar; he is a fantastic candidate who has worked for big clubs and made giant strides with them. He will bring real weight and gravitas to the role and to the whole setup and things will improve under him.

In terms of real progress, we’re miles off where we need to be, although this is a step forward.

But the Euros and the abject display of the national team, and the desolation you see when you look at the available domestic talent at other clubs are big red flashing warning signs not just that all is not well but that things are rapidly deteriorating.

We’re still hiring from the same shallow talent pool and looking for bricks and mortar solutions to a problem which is much, much deeper than that. Don’t get me wrong, the infrastructure spending is also a step in the right direction; it is exactly the right use for some of our surplus, and something that will enable us move forward very, very quickly when the general thinking changes and the right forward-thinking people are in charge of the academy setup.

A continental director of football operations, someone who can review every single aspect of the footballing department, working alongside the manager and those in the youth setup to knit the whole lot of it together into one single entity … that would be the true game-changer.

Celtic needs a root- and-branch transformation of the whole operation, and the establishment of a football division completely cut off from the rest, one which runs with its own mega-budget and outside the aegis of the bean-counters and the executive who, as good as they might be at certain of the commercial aspects of things, do not have anything like the knowledge or experience to chart an over-arching strategy to bring our football department up to the level where it needs to be.

Something’s got to give.

Something’s got to change, dramatically, at the executive level.

Non-football people should not be involved in any aspect of the football operation, and so you need someone who understands the game and the needs of that whole side of the business to come in and make sweeping changes, changes to the personnel, the thinking and the culture.

The current system is still all over the place, and in terms of development it is not just failing, it has failed and failed utterly.

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  • Brattbakk says:

    Why did other clubs opt out? There must be a way to have a reserve league for the top two divisions at least. Playing kids against lowland league opponents might develop them physically but that’s probably it. Playing in the reserves was also a great way for guys coming back from injury to get match fit.

  • JimBhoy says:

    We go thru the motions in this crappy reserve league.

    We should set up a proper affiliation with a lower team in England and use that for our top prospects, not just notionally as we do sometimes but a proper affiliation buying into the club. Give the young talent proper exposure, getting them away for a few days a week out of their comfort zone and their drinking buddies. The best will come to the top.

    It would add a maturity to the bhoys also, seeing more than the sights of Glasgow and Lanarkshire.

    • Joe McQuaid says:

      It has certainly worked for Leipzig and Salzburg and I think it’s a model that we should look at now that ownership rules have been eased. And would certainly give a better pathway than currently.

  • Francis Glasgow says:

    The shambles of Scottish coaching goes back further than the 0-0 merchants doing badges at Largs Andy Roxburgh Craig Brown and every other negative Coach in our Premier league who use the excuse that any point is a bonus to justify ten men in their own box and if we stay in this cycle what’s the point of an academy if we don’t our boys to the first team

  • Frank Connelly says:

    It currently sounds like the old junior league were some ex pro with a chip on his shoulder would half you in two in a tackle the lowland league. That said if clubs wont put up reserve teams then how do you progress. I constantly hear that when you go up against right players you learn so much. That clearly is not the case currently so amnot sure how an enhanced coach will make a difference. In my day it was about inner belief and hours of practice on the crap pitches you have constantly mentioned James. However when I drive by the new mega schools and look at what the facilities they have you wonder why nothing is coming through. our club as the pick of the crop in there hundreds and still nowt making it

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