Why Celtic should strive for both stability and quality in a 25 man squad

This time of year, we find ourselves in the process of building a squad for the season ahead.

I think it’s fair to say, that the overall process involved for the past number of seasons, hasn’t been the most successful, regardless of the success gained and keeping our domestic dominance intact.

Yet for this season ahead, I believe that we need to be acting upon a far higher plain, if our goal includes an intention of becoming a better overall team at Champions League level, with that competition’s new format.

For such a requirement to be achieved, then our overall squad, has to be far better equipped, than in the last few seasons. This is especially highlighted, by the fact that Celtic hasn’t been able to field our strongest available 11, in the past 12 CL matches.

This shows how reliant we still remain upon certain individual players within our 25(+)man squad for the elite European competition. This hopefully will be our main objective during this window, in order to achieve that requirement that has been lacking in seasons past.

If anything has been learnt from last season, then it’s the requirements of getting a competitive 25 man squad in place for ourselves. I still believe that Brendan Rodgers main intentions upon his return was to gain more success at CL level, rather than just keeping the Scottish dominance intact.

Quite a simple formula really, when better success at CL level, nearly guarantees Scottish dominance anyway, especially when no other club in Scotland comes close to being able to compete at CL level, outside of ourselves.

One of our biggest issues has been, how do we fill our 8 homegrown quota of players, and still keeping the balance correct within our squad, in terms of how it should be built?

I actually think Rodgers is finally starting to address this issue within our club, that has remained idle for so long. Currently we are at six players in Calmac, Ralston, Taylor, Welsh, Forrest and now Lawal who will be making up our homegrown quota.

So who stands to get the potential other two positions available? We could look from within, with Bain, Monty, Murray or even Mikey Johnston in order to make up the numbers required.

Somehow don’t think that such a prospect would be in the thinking of Rodgers for next season however
Monty or Frame might come into the reckoning more so, if Taylor shouldn’t sign a new contract.

Dane Murray could be a potential replacement for Newrocki, especially if his injury record fails to improve next season, and hardly started to positively either at present with an injury in the first quarter of an hour at Somerset Park against Ayr Utd on Friday night.

So I still believe Rodgers will be looking to fill those two positions available within our squad for next season, but what two players could he have in mind?

Scott McKenna still looks like an obvious choice, with a requirement for another left sided CB needed. Wages could be a massive stumbling block, yet as a free transfer, I can’t see why a decent signing on fee couldn’t be arranged to compensate the drop in wage demands, he could be looking for.

Even Tierney could be considered, but only on a loan arrangement, I would suggest.

No Scottish keepers or forward players springs to mind, to fulfill our requirements for either position. Which isn’t of much surprise either, especially as development of keepers and attacking players, still remains a problem for ourselves and within the wider Scottish game.

So the midfield areas, remains possibly our best areas to be trying to find another homegrown option.
We could look at Stuart Armstrong, but again possibly in the same situation as Scott McKenna, along with the age factor involved

I actually think Luke McGowan could be a decent option. Not claiming for a starting position at CL level, but certainly could potentially offer ourselves more in rotation terms within the Scottish Premiership.

Our midfield options are still fairly limited at present, it’s unclear as where Rodgers sees Holm and Kwon for next season, whether that’s at Celtic or out on loan.

It’s looking likely that Matt O’Riley will move on, and Daniel Kelly possibly choosing to take a similar route Rocco Vata opted for. Kelly is free to talk to clubs now and his current contract runs out at the end of the year.

So if Rodgers has seven midfield options in mind for next season, then we still remain woefully short within that area of the squad at present. Even moreso if O’Riley and Kelly look to move on also.

I am not saying Luke McGowan is a potential replacement for O’Riley, but could be a very useful addition to the Celtic squad all the same.

This O’Riley situation is similar to the sale of Jota last summer, and it stands to become a common theme within our club, beyond not only last summer, along with this summer, with potentially future summers ahead also. We have had a buy cheap and sell big policy in place for years now. Although it has generated great income into the club, it also leaves gapping holes within our squad also.

For example, if the likes of Jota or O’Riley are sold for the £25M plus bracket, we still are a long way away from spending anything close to upon a potential replacements to improve the squad.

To help combat a growing situation within our squad, then hopefully more stability can be created within it. Hopefully we can get an end to this massive turnaround between outgoing and incoming players, as way to big at present. Chances are that it won’t be totally completed over the summer, but we need to reduce this way of operating as a club starting as soon as possible.

Ultimately there’s nothing we can really do, if we can produce players who outgrow our wage structure, but we still need to be better prepared than we currently are in dealing with such a situation, when it arises.

That requires a better overall balance within our squad, with depth and quality in place.

We have been so overly reliant upon certain players, that needs to change within a squad game that is in operation within today’s game.

We haven’t really achieved this in numerous seasons, without strong enough competition being created for starting positions, and leaving ourselves exposed to injuries impacting the team, without being able to imply rotation of players properly by managing game time better.

So overall, I believe that not only should we be looking at players for next season, but contributing to forming more stability within our overall look of our squad beyond just next season.

Of course that would mean a far higher quality of player is required, instead of seeing if such project signings can actually develop into the standard we require. Last season in Rotterdam we found out that throwing project signings into Champions League matches is a bad idea.

We already have enough of the likes within our potential squad at present, along with those from the Celtic Academy.

Hopefully we don’t enter into the panic mode regarding potential signings, as the bigger picture is possibly just as important as the current situation we find ourselves in at present.


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About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor David Faulds has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email editor@thecelticstar.co.uk


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