Building From A Position Of Strength, Celtic’s Encouraging Summer Approach

Celtic have a wonderful history and have been extremely successful since the turn of the millennium, but it is often said that we fail to build from positions of strength.

Following the UEFA Cup Final in 2003, the Hoops added very little to that great squad in the summer, while Porto showed what could be done by pushing on and winning the Champions League. Could that have been us if we signed a top goalkeeper and centre half?

In 2012, when Rangers went bust and the league title was thus guaranteed for a few seasons (giving a free hit at the Champions League qualifiers every year), Celtic didn’t look to put a structure or team in place to become Champions League regulars of the future. In the eyes of many, we took a backseat and became happy to win the domestic title, continuing the journey towards what was hoped to be ‘ten in a row’. During that period, Neil Lennon resigned and the club undertook an experimental project in recruiting Ronny Deila as manager.

When Celtic pushed the boat out and brought in Brendan Rodgers, 60,000 fans returned to the stadium and an Invincible Treble followed. On the cusp of a treble treble, Rodgers left and Lennon was given the job on a temporary basis. However, at the end of the season or in the Hampden showers to be precise, Lennon was offered the job permanently. Again, many felt this was a moment when Celtic had gone from a position of strength with a top class manager to one who was not on the same level.

There has often been a tendency to sell players at the first sign of a profitable offer. This has been a financially successful model, albeit the players’ valuation usually triples overnight after leaving Scottish football. There have been very few occasions when we have kept hold of all of our best players and added further quality to the team, to build an even stronger side that is capable of European progression, before selling further down the line. Instead, we often end up trying to replace the stars we have lost.

Inevitably, players will have to be sold at times as this is an important part of the club’s model within the financial constraints of Scottish football, but it is a very nice rarity to see Celtic keeping hold of their top talents, and adding to them, so that the Bhoys have the best chance possible to push on. Players can still be sold after we have been able to enjoy the fruits of their labour for a couple of years, rather than never being able to explore how far the team can go. Of course that stance comes with risk as said players could lose form or suffer injuries, but guaranteed Champions League qualification has given Celtic a chance to ‘speculate to accumulate’ this term.

We are barely into July and the Hoops have spent over £17m! In doing so, we have cemented the successful team of last season by retaining the services of Carter-Vickers, Jota and Maeda; while we have also added depth to the goalkeeping and left back positions. And who’s to say we’re done yet?

Josip Juranovic looks like the only key player to be likely to move. However, the club are in a strong position with the player tied down until 2026 and only a huge transfer fee will be enough to prize the Croatian away.

This is a far cry from the likes of the 2015/16 season when we sold Van Dijk, having lost Forster, Hooper, Wanyama, and Ledley all (five) for a combined total of £40m in the previous two seasons. Indeed, the circa £40m Champions League money on offer has enabled us a rare opportunity to build from a position of strength before letting players depart. What a great luxury, which hopefully pays dividends with success beyond Scottish shores.

About Author

Hailing from an Irish background, I grew up in Bournemouth with the good fortune to begin watching Celtic during the Martin O'Neill era. Still living on the south coast, I have a season ticket at Paradise and also travel to European away matches when possible. I have written four Celtic books since the age of 19: Our Stories & Our Songs: The Celtic Support, Take Me To Your Paradise: A History Of Celtic-Related Incidents & Events, Walfrid & The Bould Bhoys: Celtic's Founding Fathers, First Season & Early Stars, and The Holy Grounds of Glasgow Celtic: A Guide To Celtic Landmarks & Sites Of Interest. These were/are sold in Waterstones and official Celtic FC stores, and are available on Amazon.

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