Many Celtic fans feel that fresh ideas are required in the board room and that a new vision is needed for the club. That’s a distinct topic from this article, in which I’ll focus on the rebuild required in terms of the football staff, i.e. the players and management.
One thing that stands out to me is that Scott Robertson, Ewan Henderson, Ismaila Soro and David Turnbull give us the basis of good young central midfield options to work with moving forward. In addition to those players you could add Christopher Jullien, James Forrest and Jeremie Frimpong to keep at the club.
It is likely that Ajer, Edouard, Ntcham, Rogic, Laxalt, Duffy, Christie, Elyounoussi, Elhamed, Brown and possibly McGregor will depart in the summer. Aside from those, the jury is still out on Ajeti, Barkas, Welsh, Bitton (as a centre half), Hazard and Bain.
From what I have seen, I would conclude that Ralston and Klimala just don’t have the neccessary quality to play for Celtic. Whilst, Bolingoli, Shved, Bayo, Perez, Gutman and Hendry all look to have been poor signings who will move on. Although, Hendry has done well on loan in Belgium.
Mikey Johnston and Greg Taylor will be part of the club moving forward. The pair need to offer more, but may develop and should be given the chance to do so. I think Taylor is a decent squad player, but shouldn’t be our first choice left back. He is a good defender, but limited in his capabilities. In short, he’s a good option, but we should seek a better first choice left back. Meanwhile, Mikey Johnston needs to improve and get more consistent. Some games he looks great, and he’s scored some wonderful goals, but others such as last night he was anonymous. He is young and there is plenty of time to sort that.
We are yet to have a proper look at Luca Connell or Cameron Harper. The latter played just over an hour last night and was unimpressive, but it’d be a bit harsh to judge him on one game as a youngster coming in from the cold. Similarly, we have not seen Karamoko Dembele or Armstrong Oko-flex properly, though both are reportedly likely to leave the club.
Given the above, I think we only have a small core of young talent to develop with one or two more experienced players to take forward. A huge amount of changes are needed among the rest of the team to rebuild and to progress in Europe. I think that a club of our size should be more ambitious than looking domestically. We should aim to compete in the latter stages of the Europa League and qualify for the Champions League group stages. Getting access to that £30m pot and bringing some big names to town is what Celtic need. With some re-investment of that money, we should aim to take third spot and then push on in the Europa League.
Celtic haven’t won a European knockout tie since beating Barcelona in 2004. That is not good enough. Last season showed our European potential and that it can still be done, by beating Lazio home and away, and beating French Cup holders Rennes. We topped the group and then were given a very winnable tie against Copenhagen. Indeed, our budget dwarfs the Danish side. Had Celtic won then we would have had a glamour tie against Manchester United in the last 16. In other instances, if the draw was kinder, we could even advance to the quarter finals. It should not be beyond us.
Clubs like Salzburg, LASK, Copenhagen, the Rangers, APOEL Nicosia, Dynamo Kyiv, Dinamo Zagreb and AZ Alkmaar have all progressed beyond us in the Europa League recently, on a smaller wage and transfer budget than ourselves. Some have, and will, reach the quarter finals of the competition. If they can do it, so can we… especially with the advantage of the crowd at Celtic Park.
Midtjylland, Ferencvaros, Cluj and others have got themselves into the Champions League when we have failed as well. All are smaller sized clubs with less financial power.
I would like to see us build a young side, blended with a few of our experienced players, targeting European progression. It is the stage that Celtic belongs and the only way we take this club to the next level. Alongside the young stars and senior pros, we will need a huge overhaul of the rest. A lot of players need to depart and a huge amount of quality signings need to be brought in.
This is all well and good on paper, but we need a plan. We need a vision. We need ambition. Salzburg have a good scouting network and sign excellent young players, who were developed by Marco Rose into a strong European force. Ajax have a top class academy whereby they bring players through and enjoy a season or two of excellence in Europe before selling players on and starting again.
We need a plan of action now, instead of stumbling to old managers and not having a clear transfer or development policy. That was fine for many as domestic domination was the obsession going for ten in a row. To that end, we were successful until this season, and it didn’t take much to be ahead of the dreadful opposition (that’s not to take away from the truly incredible achievement of winning four consecutive trebles though). However, that’s come to an end and the club needs to look to Europe for the next step.
We missed the boat on young talents such as McGinn, Toney and Doughty. A clear vision for the club would ensure these things don’t happen again.
If we build a good young team, have an overhaul of playing staff, speculate to accumulate and get our business done in good time to prepare for the European qualifiers then we really can push on as a club. However, to make that transition successful, a new forward thinking manager is needed. We saw that with Brendan Rodgers. He revolutionised the club and it paid dividends with a full stadium, merchandise sales, unprecedented domestic success and qualification to the Champions League in two out of three seasons.
Perhaps a young and renowned coach such as Shaun Maloney or Damien Duff could return to enhance players, meanwhile an exciting manager such as Roberto Martinez, Eddie Howe, Marco Silva etc would be required.
That’s my thoughts after a shambolic season. Whether or not it happens remains to be seen.