Frugal Celtic, a club reluctant to evolve

Celtic’s reluctance to evolve…

Tony Watt scores the second goal watched by Barcelona player Javier Mascherano during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between Celtic and Barcelona at Celtic Park on November 7, 2012. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Eleven years ago, after a staggering group campaign which saw wins over Barcelona, Benfica and Spartak Moscow, Neil Lennon’s Celtic side reached the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League. Lennon and Celtic would inevitably bow out to Juventus 5-0 on aggregate, but reaching and sharing the stage among Europe’s elite clubs was an incredible achievement in itself, with the club failing to re-appear on such a stage in the 11 years that have passed.

The stars of Celtic’s run to the knockout stages of Europe’s premier competition would unsurprisingly be snapped up in the summer that followed, with key cogs in the wheel such as Victor Wanyama and Gary Hooper departing to the Premier League, with starting centre-half Kelvin Wilson also leaving to Nottingham Forest in the Championship for a combined total of £20.78 million.

07.11.2012 – Victor Wanyama, Lionel Messi, Jordi Alba and Andres Iniesta in action during the Champions League game between Celtic and Barcelona from Celtic Park.

The club’s financial report for 2013 was labelled a ‘five year record profit’ by Peter Lawwell, with the club’s ‘profit after tax’ far surpassing the previous half a decade’s accounts. An after-tax profit of £9.74 million was made that year, an incredible improvement on the £7.37 million loss in the year that preceded it.

Repeating the achievements of the 2012-13 season was always going to be a challenge, but the ambition from the hierarchy at the club to do so was just not there. Of the £20.23 million generated in player sales that summer, just £9.27 million (46%) of it was spent on incoming players. The highest Celtic spent on a player that window was none other than Virgil Van Dijk, picked up for a bargain £2.35 million.

The rest of Celtic’s summer business fell under that figure along with failing to match the success of Van Dijk, with Derk Boerrigter and Teemu Pukki brought in for £2.14 million each from Ajax and Schalke 04, striker Amido Balde was picked up from Vitoria de Guimaraes for £1.5 million and Nir Bitton was bought for £700k from FC Ashdod.

Domestically that season, Neil Lennon’s side were almost perfect in the league, losing just one game. But unsurprisingly, a lack of investment resulted in a lack of European progression, a tale of the past decade in many regards as Celtic finished bottom of their Champions League group.

A decade on from the club’s last appearance in the knockout rounds of the Champions League, 2023 saw one of the most memorable and successful seasons in the club’s history. A treble delivered in style through Ange-ball marked a brilliant year on and off the pitch, as Celtic recorded a record breaking £33.33 million profit after tax. Financial security along with a treble winning side to build upon, hopes were high heading into the 2023/24 season.

Similar to the 2012/13 season, success brought attention as Celtic raked in £29.81 million pounds in the summer transfer window, losing key starters such as Jota and Carl Starfelt along with manager Ange Postecoglou in the process.

With UEFA Champions League football guaranteed, along with a significant bank balance, increased investment was expected from fans as the club looked to build upon a promising campaign in Europe’s premier competition after a five year drought.

£19.14 million pounds was invested into the playing squad as eight players were brought in, with Maik Nawrocki’s £4.28 million transfer fee standing alone as the highest fee spent on a player in the window. Of the eight players brought in, just half exceeded the £2.35 million spent on Virgil Van Dijk in 2013. The fees spent on Hyun-Jun Yang, Marco Tilio, Hyeok-kyu Kwon and Tomoki Iwata are a throwback to another era, an era which Celtic have grown exponentially since.

Brendan Rodgers’ side remain top of the league with their fate lying in their own hands, with time still remaining for transfer business to be done.

However, the club’s consistent inability to build from a position of strength is prudent cautiousness or sheer negligence from a board seemingly out of touch with modern football, depending on how you look at it.

A lack of investment in both windows on first team ready signings rather than jam tomorrow (maybe) signings is baffling considering the importance of this season, which may be the final one where the winner in Scotland will qualify automatically for the Champions League and as such receive the lucrative prize money on offer.

Celtic may get away with it this season, but what does the future hold for a club so reluctant to evolve? That’s my worry.

James French


About Author


  1. Celtis have 31 players is first team squad. 10 out on loan, 25 in B squad. thats not counting the academy which has teams from U 18. Thats 66 players, In my opinion with no reserve :League, thats too many.

    • I agree that is too many players however most of the ‘fat’ at the edges of the squad we’ve paid anything from £700k to £2M for and that creates problems for us trying to shift them as no one in Scotland can afford to buy them or pay their wages in a loan deal.

      So the players end up stagnating and taking a wage when they can’t even play reserve football.

      The board then use the excuse of a bloated squad not to buy quality players.

  2. They once again are trying to help their pals from going bust. Lawwell and Co despite what is said arent Celtic men. If Sevco had our money they would blow us away. We refuse to blow them away.

    • They know that any outfit playing out of Ibrox is required for their continued financial success

  3. The same tired old excuses: “No one wants to sell their best players in January ” , “We’re held back by the league we play in”, and “Players don’t want to come and play in Scotland “.

    Every manager in the last twenty years has been held back by our Board. We post profits and the fritter it away kn a host of project players that fail and we can’t shift. When we do push the boat out the research seem woefully inadequate and we end up buying a forward who’s played a handful of games in eighteen months (Ajeti) or a goalie who lacked confidence.

    Celtic are still buying guys at £1.5M-£2M bracket. We were doing that ten years ago but as more and more clubs up their research teams it is more difficult to find the hidden gems.
    O’Riley is the main one from the domestic market and the Japanese boys were from an untapped market.
    Jota and CCV’s were bigger and better buys and it is that area we should be operating in.

    I see no reason why Celtic shouldn’t be able to buy two £6M players every summer but we will never do that because it puts pressure on the Chairman’s son to do his job properly.

    After the summer, the pressure was on the Board to deliver the players the manager wanted but as things drag to there inevitable conclusion frustration is growing amongst most of the fans.

    We are two bad results away from more angry scenes around the directors box.

  4. I’m so glad you clowns aren’t in charge of finances at the club!
    Evolve to where? Evolve to what end?
    You are so blinkered you should be horses!
    As long as finances in football are as imbalanced as they are, Celtic spending for the sake of it would only lead to the same fate as the now extinct club who used to play across the city and were replaced by the rangers!
    We do NOT want to go that route through chasing empty pots of gold at the end of rainbows! The old rangers died chasing the Lisbon Lions, and even with the help of the SFA/SPFL, Scottish government and judicial system, they still failed!
    As long as we spend enough to DO enough, we are doing our job!
    John A., as for your comment Lawwell and the board not being Celtic men, you talk so much nonsense! What do you call Celtic men? The idiots who fly Palestine flags every week?
    Lawwell and his board have made Celtic into one of the best run clubs in world football, and this is done because he IS a Celtic man.

    • We don’t want to end up like Rangers! As long as we do just about enough to stay a hair’s breadth ahead of NewCo, helping to save them long term, while simultaneously manufacturing a false sense of competitiveness within the league in order to scrape the bottom of the barrel for TV sponsorship. Lawwell, is that you pretending to be a man called Joe?

    • Johnny Bhoy CFC on

      Clown prince Joe, loves humiliation in Europe even at Celtic Park, but trying hard to impress the board.
      These so called idiots are supporting oppression to people being starved to death, you really need to give yourself a shake.

    • Happy clapper. Spend enough to do enough. Typical vague nonsense. This board run Celtic like Tesco’s. As long as the money is rolling in they care not a jot.
      Peter Lawell has had his time at Celtic park and he should have stayed retired. His frugal approach had its time then when Celtic needed that. He unfortunately is a one trick pony. The appointment of his own son to head of recruitment was pure nepotism. He has done nothing to deserve such a lofty position. Awarding themselves 60 % pay rises while shopping in the bargain basement for players is a disgrace.

  5. Brian McAllister on

    Jesus wept another one. Wait until business is concluded before these whining rambling badly composed blogs dragging Euro games from fucking years ago into the equation. The squad is TOO BIG. We need to offload and just bring a couple in and get the first 11 honed. We have outstanding players and holding onto them is just as important as going out shopping just coz you’ve got money in the bank. A left back would be good but not crucial before summer. Goalie can wait until end of season. The club are trying to bring a few quality players in. It’s very difficult to do so get a grip and get real.

    • Hi Brian,

      The article is in reference to our summer business, not the January transfer window. If we go and invest and bring in quality before the end of the month that’s brilliant, but the point still stands that the board over the past number of years have not shown enough ambition with the fees spent on players in the summer when you take into consideration our extremely healthy financial position.

  6. No ‘Celtic man’ would have behaved the way Lawwell has since 2012. He had the opportunity to make sure that no new club appeared over Ibrox way. If he had done his duty and fought the 5WA in a court of law, Ibrox Park would now be a car park. Or a supermarket. We had a free run at the CL every year. Instead, Lawwell & Co. prioritised the welfare of their Masonic pals on Edmiston Drive. Shame on them. Have any of those PLC parasites ever paid to watch Celtic in their lives? Have any of them ever paid for a meal at Celtic Park?

    I’ll end with this thought. During a cost of living crisis, these Ibrox living criminals decided to award themselves obscene bonuses. Shame on them. Andrew Kerrins must be so proud of what has become of his club.

    Hail Hail.