Stephen McGowan at the Scottish Daily Mail was the go-to journalist for Peter Lawwell when the current Celtic Chairman was the long-time CEO at the club, leaving only after the shambles of a season when from the boardroom to the manager’s office they collectively over-thought the doomed 10IAR campaign after falling into the trap of believing their own marketing hype.
And for everyone calling for greater investment in the team in January and in the summer, remember that summer window of 2020 when the club boasted about the great business that had been done when the window closed.
McGowan is still well informed about matters at Celtic, have no doubt about that, unlike the previous generation of fan media blogs, he was never a puppet and has always been capable of independent thought and prepared to offer valid criticism when it’s needed.
After Celtic’s latest embarrassing Champions League campaign, McGowan outlined the painful truth for Celtic and told the Celtic board that they are failing in their remit with a player trading model that is not delivering thus resulting in another miserable showing on European football’s biggest stage.
Writing in Scottish Daily Mail, McGowan outlined the home truths concerning Celtic’s transfer dealings and the subsequent Champions League failings that are the inevitable outcome.
His article is titled “The legacy of the Lisbon Lions is being dismantled as Celtic continue to pursue a failing policy” and that in itself is damning before you read on.
“The painful truth for Celtic is that smaller clubs are doing a better job of trading players for huge sums and investing the profits in a better quality of player.
“Despite a record revenue of £119m, Scotland’s champions are likely to end the year in 58th position in the UEFA club coefficient table.
“In contrast, AZ Alkmaar have a revenue of just £30m and sit 32nd with a 400 per cent return on their investment over the last decade. LASK Linz raked in a fifth of the sums Celtic made and sit 47th. Sporting Lisbon brought in £108m in revenue, yet sit 23 places higher than the champions of Scotland.
“Celtic’s fiscal approach is rooted in conservatism. Directors are risk averse and, as their rivals across Glasgow have shown, there’s a lot to be said for that approach sometimes.
“While stockpiling money in the bank offers some insurance against failure to reach the group stage of the Champions League in future, spending less cash on players than they can afford makes that precise scenario more likely.
“It feels at times as if the ambitions extend no further than beating Rangers to the Premiership title, reaching the Champions League, taking a few hidings, banking the money and spending a modest percentage on project players lacking the experience, power or pace to change the record. Supporters spending a sizeable chunk of their annual wage on season tickets, club TV and merchandise want more.
“If the definition of insanity is doing the same things year after year and expecting a different outcome, it’s not just a new left-back, striker and goalkeeper Celtic need now. It’s a Harley Street consultation.”
Ange Postecoglou gave us hope last year after ultimately failing in the Champions League. The Australian spoke of his desire to succeed in the Champions League and there’s no doubt his determination was sincere.
His exit and the re-appointment of Brendan Rodgers seems to have resulted in a backward step as far a European progress was concerned, probably because Rodgers was managing the legacy of what happened in February 2019 when he left for Leicester City – not with the fans but with the board.
In recent weeks, including at the AGM, Rodgers has changed his tune from being happy with the player trading model, understanding it better this time and happy to work with the players that the club provide for him as a development coach to one where he is now upfront saying he is responsible for signings and he will make the final decision.
Maybe Brendan had to do that in order to get back to the club where he wants to remove the hurt he caused with that sudden exit – that was very much influenced player trading – and if so he’s played a blinder and now will have a say as he expects and demands quality.
Rodgers is a proud man, he will not be happy with the Champions League record that he’s now inherited larger due to his seasons in the tournament with Celtic and he’s now had plenty of time to assess the squad at his disposal.
The much praised recruitment team, now under Mark Lawwell, always had an input from Ange Postecoglou who certainly was the driving force in bringing the likes of Kyogo, Hatate and Maeda to the club. And if the strategy changes surely they can deliver a different type of player just as successfully as the bargain buy, project purchases that clearly won’t cut it at Champions League level?
And Brendan Rodgers needs a big say in this and he must get it right, if the funds are going to be released.
And while the multi-millions in Celtic’s bank account are impressive and incredible really for a well managed business operating in Scottish football, that money could easily be squandered.
Rodgers knows that he has players who aren’t going to be part of his plans so action must be taken to move them on. And as Jackie McNamara pointed out, as we reported earlier, Celtic need to grow our own first team players and for that to happen the best of the B team players need to be training with the first team and fighting for first team exposure.
Due to the sheer volume of players in the first team squad when Rodgers arrived, and remember he would have been required to give everyone a chance to show what they offered, the B team players that were training with Celtic at the end of last season, were sent back to the B Team. No room at the Lennoxtown Inn.
That has got to change if Celtic are going to be fielding Academy players in the Champions League in a few years from now.