“Celtic need to spend it better, more wisely,” Michael Stewart

It’s fair to assume that everyone involved at Celtic must acknowledge that this most recent UEFA Champions League group stages campaign has been deeply disappointing. When we played so well and dominated certain games last year under Ange Postecoglou, we all thought we would build on that showing and make a real fist of it with more quality added to the group.

Szachtar Donieck – Celtic Glasgow N/z Josip Juranovic, radosc, radosc po golu, radosc po bramce Foto Marcin Bulanda / PressFocus 2022.09.14 Warszawa Football UEFA Champions League Group F Season 2022/2023 Szachtar Donieck – Celtic Glasgow Josip Juranovic, Credit: Marcin Bulanda /PressFocus / NEWSPIX.PL Newspix.pl

We weren’t a million miles away from it – even against the mighty Real Madrid at Celtic Park – but it was always booking down to those fine margins at the elite level and taking our chances when they came along. After losing a cluster of highly talented and experienced individuals at the club, we needed to replace them first and foremost, but also add to that again to have any realistic chance of making the Last-16 of the competition.

The supporters automatically assumed it would have been a prerequisite for Brendan Rodgers’ return to the hallowed turf of Paradise that the Celtic heirarchy and recruitment team would back him to the hilt to deliver those quality additions not only in replacements but rather, additional elements that we seemed to be missing on the big stage the year before he returned. That was not the case in the summer transfer window and the Board reverted to type and instead bloated the squad with more novices to be coached up by the Irishman.

The proof has been well and truly in the pudding, as they say, and conventional wisdom usually gets it right more often than not. It would be a candid omission that it didn’t only get it right this time when it came to Celtic’s lack of quality recruitment, but that it laughed in our faces when we lined up with James Forrest and Mikey Johnston as wingers in a do-or-die match against Lazio in Rome in midweek.

Michael Stewart has been giving his reaction to the latest in a litany of failures on the continent for the Scottish Premiership Champions, and the Scot was bullish in his assessment of the situation. “Celtic need to spend it better, more wisely,” he said to BBC Sportsound. “When you look at the number of players they have, its too many. Brendan Rodgers has spoken about this, they need less but more quality. And it’s not about spending more money per se, it might well be. But with Rodgers at the helm, statistically it’s the worst Champions League manager over the last period of time? I don’t think he is. But the statistics would say the results haven’t been great.

“I’m very interested to see what happens at Celtic over the next 18 months, because I don’t see what has happened this season as being palatable for somebody like Rodgers. He wants and needs better. That’s where his reputation is on the line, they need more quality. You look at Europe, the quality and the finishing touch hasn’t been there. But they are not a million miles away, looking at all the games there’s been wee crucial moments that haven’t gone their way. A lack of quality or big decisions that haven’t gone their way.

He added: “If you tighten up on these things, add a little bit of extra quality, get your main players back in, I genuinely believe if Celtic with the group they had this campaign if that was to be replicated next season, with marginal differences, they would be competing to get out and in the knockout stages. I don’t think that’s fanciful. That’s a reality, and it is possible.”

Paul Gillespie

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About Author

I'm a Garngad Bhoy through and through. My first ever Celtic game was a friendly against Italian side Parma at Celtic Park, in 2002. Currently a student of English Literature and Education at the University of Strathclyde for my sins. Favourite game would be a toss up between beating Manchester United with that Naka freekick, or the game against the Oldco when Hesselink scored in the dying seconds. I'm still convinced Cal Mac is wasted playing that far back.

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