As John McGinn’s interview with Graham Hunter reminds us of a recent one who got away, and James McCarthy – hanging on for news on a new contract from Crystal Palace and the inevitable links with Celtic that accompany the wait – it also rekindles thoughts of the Celtic supporting Hamilton Accies midfield standout who also slipped the Celtic net more than a decade ago.
It is therefore worth remembering as Celtic head into one of the biggest squad rebuilds in a generation and we are linked with Croatia’s hot new defensive breakout star or the 25-goal striker pulling up trees in the Swiss top flight, closer to home there may be players Celtic should be keeping more than a watchful eye on. Players we’ve actually been able to see play lately rather than be dependent on outdated scouting reports or video analysis. Eyes of scouts watching potential targets play in the flesh has to be the last piece of any transfer consideration. I must admit with players being targeted this year to having concerns we will have to trust video footage when we make decisions as a genuine concern.
There is a tendency at Celtic as well as amongst some of our support to somewhat underestimate the potential of young talent on our own doorstep, yet it is something we should be paying attention to as David Turnbull has recently evidenced.
Financial constrictions at many top flight Scottish clubs have forced them down the route of small first team squads supplemented by graduates from their youth academies. For many it can mean by a young age many have had a great deal of footballing exposure, experience and with many of the rough edges already smoothed out may well be ready to make the next step up. Losing players from Scotland from under our noses is something Celtic need to avoid and if history has shown us anything pausing too long can mean missing out on fine footballing talent.
With Celtic likely to be having to replace a number of first team stars in almost every area of the pitch, as well as some players who will be required to supplement the group by way of squad support, Celtic also have to factor in a huge Covid financial impact on the end of year accounts.
As such shopping in our local market may not only be beneficial to the club in terms of targeting talented players well versed in out footballing environment, it may also mean whilst other Scottish clubs feel a similar financial pinch, that the time may be now to take advantage of many of our clubs having to consider player sales to offset their own pandemic impacted finances this summer and find themselves over a financial barrel somewhat when it comes to accepting offers.
Take Hibs Chairman Ron Gordon, who recently admitted although not a selling club, recent financial losses may mean the books have to be balanced by a sale or two when he said (as reported by STV):
“That could be a possibility – to be honest it wouldn’t surprise me.
“We are thinking about those possibilities and planning accordingly.
“I don’t anticipate more than one [player]– perhaps at the outside two – but I think one could have the opportunity to move this summer.”
For Celtic that should mean ears are immediately pricking. Hibs are looking like finishing as the best of the rest this season and deservedly so, they have a good coach in Jack Ross. A manager with a fine footballing philosophy and players Ross has brought on leaps and bounds in his short-time as boss at Easter Road.
Hibs already knocked back reported seven figure bids from the Championship in England for central defender Ryan Porteous and the impressive Scotland squad striker Kevin Nisbet, signed only last season from Championship side Dunfermline. Whilst perhaps the one with the most potential of the bunch comes in the shape of young Josh Doig an 18-year-old full back who has attracted reported interest from the English top flight including Manchester City.
I’m not for a minute thinking Celtic could fill every position they need to from the Scottish Premiership nor am I advocating Celtic flex their financial muscles and steal Hibs best three players. However, it is worth considering Gordon’s words will be echoed across other Scottish boardrooms as we head to the opening of an important transfer window and a constricted transfer market that so far has seen limited movement between clubs.
If that initial hesitancy from England remains, Celtic are in no position to match it. Our need for suitably talented players to rebuild a squad is criminally acute. As soon as any manager comes in recruitment will need to start almost immediately and where better to start than our own backyard and learn some lessons from missing out on the likes of McCarthy and McGinn.
If Celtic box clever in a Scottish market alongside targeting players down south currently out of contract, with some clubs as well as they players themselves holding of committing to new contracts, then Celtic’s rebuild may not have to be as expensive as the Board may believe.
There will of course have to be significant outlay in key positions, however Celtic even at a conservative estimate will need a double figure intake on top team personnel this summer. If some of that can be achieved by moving quickly and decisively in a Scottish market we know well, we may well be able to boost the finances available for key positions such as central defenders and strikers.
Those three Hibernian players are indicative of a decent amount of talented players plying their trade in Scotland and we’ll look at some of those over the next few days, as well as some talented players out of contract in England’s Championship and Premier League who could certainly improve on what Celtic have and wouldn’t cost a transfer fee.
Of course, any moves will need a manager in place, though I’m not sure that has always been a consideration in recent years. Thankfully however the architect of the John McGinn decision will be more involved with booking retirement cruises rather than transfer dealings, as a whole other kind of Saga becomes a more pressing concern for Peter Lawwell.