Time to back title chasing Alonso, Lisa Robertson returns to Celtic

It is now five out the door and only two through it for Fran Alonso’s Celtic, as they gear up for a season that simply must result in a title challenge after a disappointing league campaign fizzled out all to early last time out.

Celtic have shown on any given day they are a match for the best sides in Scotland in one off cup ties, but a worrying habit of dropping points against what amounts to be part-time opponents, as well as a frustrating inability to consistently emerge with wins in league encounters against theRangers and Glasgow City last season, is something the Celtic head coach will surely be looking to remedy in the months ahead.

One immediate solution of course is today’s most welcome news that Lisa Robertson, our player of the year in the season before last, is back at Celtic after the club allowed her to go on a season long loan to Birmingham City probably a decision taken due to unfortunate personal circumstances prevailing in Lisa’s life at the time.

The Scotland International is back now and that’s the midfield general role well and truly sorted.

So far Cheyenne Shorts has announced her departure, and her new club Portland Timbers, back in the USA, Chloe Warrington has been released then immediately signed by City rivals Glasgow City, Rebecca McAllister has signed for Hearts after a successful loan spell with the Edinburgh club last season, and the surprising release of the raw but promising Maria Olafsdottir-Gros has seen the young winger headed home to Iceland.

The two most recent exits have consisted of Scottish Cup winning goalscorer Izzy Atkinson and her Irish international teammate Tyler Toland.

Whilst Atkinson and Toland have yet to announce their new destination for next season, Toland has been heavily linked with a move to Spanish side Levante, a team Celtic saw at close quarters in Champions League action last season, and an impressive outfit they certainly were. If Toland has such an opportunity it is hard to stand in the former Manchester City player’s way.

Amy Gallacher has left Hibs to join Celtic  MAGO / Sports Press Photo

So far Celtic have secured experienced talent in the shape of Amy Gallacher, an attacker who will certainly prove to be an astute piece of business on the part of Alonso, should she perform as well as she did in a Hibs shirt, and Lucy Ashworth-Clifford, a 21-year-old left sided player, who has played predominately as a winger for her former club Lewes, but who may well have the defensive attributes in her locker to ensure Celtic’s long needed balance at left-wing-back has been now addressed.

What is clear however, is that those leaving the club far outweigh those who have been confirmed as signing on at Celtic. That will no doubt be addressed in the coming weeks, and it will hopefully mean the five exits we have seen so far has been a clearing of the decks ahead of new acquisitions. Such signings this time around we can only hope will be suitably funded by the club.

In Fran Alonso Celtic have an exceptional coach, and whilst he may face accusations on The Celtic Star and The Cynic of extensive tinkering at times with his starting line-up and the positions he asks his players to play, it should be noted that his rivals in the championship race both had a higher budget and bigger squads with which to work from than the Celtic boss had. As such to finish third in a three-horse race was pretty much par for the course last season for Celtic.

Yet those holding the purse strings only need to look to the two domestic trophies sitting in the Parkhead trophy room to see the man they have in charge is an elite performer, and it’s time now to ensure he’s supplied with a players of similar expertise and experience to ensure he can mount a credible title challenge in the upcoming season.

Make no mistake this is a crucial season ahead for those who set the budget and the targets for Fran Alonso. And whilst Alonso has proven he’s more than capable of aspiring to the demands of a club like Celtic, he’s so far been let down with a budget far from comparable with our title rivals.

Celtic chief executive Michael Nicholson (centre) Photo: Jeff Holmes

That now has to change, as no side representing Celtic at any level can be permitted to go three seasons without a league win, but crucially when only three sides are of a professional quality that becomes even more of an issue. Michael Nicholson went further than The Green Brigade by extending his own football attending season to be at the Scottish Cup Final at the end of May. And had the Celtic ultras come along they would have certainly enjoyed one of the most dramatic cup final wins in Celtic’s history and both the North Curve supporters and the Celtic Board would have been in full agreement that Celtic need much more of this from Fran Alonso’s side.

That means support, financially from the board and getting behind the team from the wider Celtic support, and not just the Green Brigade.

Fran Alonso has earned his stripes as a Celtic Head Coach, and then some. Now he deserves the backing to take Celtic to the next level, and that means winning the league and qualifying for the Champions League as title winners.

Over the next few weeks, we will see for ourselves just how big the Women’s game is as a worldwide spectacle. 500,00 tickets have been sold already for the European Championship in England and tonight a capacity Old Trafford will host England’s opening tie with Austria.

The women’s game is booming across the continent and with the right investment and vision, Celtic, with the size of club we are, is in a position to ensure we are front and centre as the game grows in Scotland. It’s certainly not going away and the idea that we’re going to allow theRangers to begin a period of dominance due to the lack of relative small sums of investment.

If we are serious about just how far Celtic FC Women can grow, we can make a statement of intent this summer by supplying Fran Alonso with the sort of experienced and talented players he needs to complement a team who are already domestic cup double winners.

Who arrives at the club this summer, after the clearing of the decks of in the main peripheral performers for Celtic last season, will evidence just how serious Celtic are about mounting a title challenge this time around.

That investment may also be crucial in ensuring Fran Alonso, a coach who will surely have his admirers, can have his ambitions as a coach met by Celtic, rather than being tempted elsewhere.

Alonso has performed a minor miracle delivering the League cup for the first time in a decade and the Scottish Cup for the first time in Celtic history. He will want to win the SWPL1 title this season and thereafter compete competently in the Champions League. Fran wants it,  Michael Nicholson’s appetite hopefully is also there as it the enthusiasm from the Celtic support, most of whom will have watched the Scottish Cup Final from Tynecastle and wished they were there.

Niall J

About Author

As a Bellshill Bhoy I was taken to my first Celtic game in the summer of 1987. It was Billy McNeill’s return to Celtic Park as manager and Celtic lost 5-1 to Arsenal . I thought I was a jinx, I think my Grandfather might have thought the same. It was the finest gift anyone ever gave me when he walked me through Parkhead's gates.

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