When Celtic announced on the 28th May that Eddie Howe would NOT be joining the club “for reasons outwith both his and Celtic’s control” many of us were already fearing the worst about the 2021/22 season, given the enormous to-do list that faced the club at that time.
By then of course the club had already failed (spectacularly) to secure our tenth league title in a row. As a result Neil Lennon had left the club under a storm of criticism some months prior. Club captain and icon Scott Brown had declined a new deal to take up a player/coach role in the north-east at Aberdeen. Key players such as Kristoffer Ajer, Odsonne Edouard and Ryan Christie were entering the final years of their contracts. Four other players would be returning to their loan clubs.
In addition the team were still playing to empty stadiums – with the club thus receiving vastly reduced matchday income – due to the ongoing covid pandemic.
Celtic did not have their troubles to seek.
NEW CEO DOMINIC McKAY TAKES UP HIS ROLE
Though he ultimately began his employment at Celtic earlier than planned in mid-April, incoming CEO Dominic McKay only officially took over from Peter Lawwell – a man who himself had been in the top job for 18 years – on 1st July.
His first unenviable task in office therefore was to carry the can for the failings of others before him, and to drop the bombshell to the supporters that despite a lengthy courtship, the highly anticipated appointment of ex-Bournemouth man Howe would not now be taking place.
An announcement met with devastation in some quarters. We were effectively back at square one.
On the very same day as that statement was made the name Ange Postecoglou started to appear in media reports, resulting in a flurry of frantic google searches as the Celtic support as well as the mainstream media here in Scotland scrambled about to find as much information as they could about this “unknown Australian”.
It was then confirmed on 10th June that Postecoglou was indeed to be the man to take Celtic into a new era, with McKay later confirming at the Fan Media Press Conference (@ 30mins 34 secs) that Ange was “100% my man”.
A brave move by the new CEO, or a foolish one?
Let’s fast forward approximately 12 weeks to today to take a closer look.
ANGE POSTECOGLOU AND THE CELTIC SUPPORT
Firstly, the Celtic fans don’t like Ange Postecoglou.
They love him!
As a coach, as a leader, as a man he is the perfect fit to lead Celtic Football Club. The fans have bought into him from the first time he spoke with a green and white club issue tie on and they’ll back him all the way whilst he represents this club.
He plays a brand of football not seen at Celtic Park for some time, and though his system will take a bit of time to bed in and we’ll experience some bumps in the road along the way, it’s been incredibly exciting for the fans to witness even in these early stages of Ange’s time here.
So the fans back Ange wholeheartedly, but have McKay and the board followed suit?
With the transfer window now officially closed until January (more on that later!) let’s take a look at how the club have performed in the market.
Liel Abada (£3.5M from Macabbi Petah Tikva) was first in the door on the 14th July with the 19 year old already impressing with 4 goals and 3 assists across his first 9 games for the club.
The signing of Abada was followed just two days later by Japanese international striker Kyogo Furuhashi (£4.6M from Vissel Kobe). Like Ange, we didn’t know a thing about him. Like Ange he’s going to be a hero for this club.
In the same week we also confirmed Swedish international centre-half Carl Starfelt (£4.5M from Rubin Kazan) and whilst it’s fair to say he’s had an indifferent start to life at Celtic he’ll be given ample time to find his feet and to develop under the watchful eye of the management here.
Next up was a double swoop with experienced internationalists Joe Hart (£1m from Tottenham Hotspur) and James McCarthy (freedom of contract) arriving.
Croatian international right back Josip Juranovic (£2.6M from Legia Warsaw) was next in and made a strong debut at Ibrox in an unfavoured left back position. We’ll see the best of him in his natural right hand side once he returns from international duty.
Liam Scales put pen to paper on Friday (Approximately £500k from Shamrock Rovers) and the 23 year old will be looking to compete with Greg Taylor and potentially the centre halves of the left side of our defence.
Deadline day can often pass by without much activity. This wasn’t the case for us on Tuesday.
First up was Georgios Giakoumakis – the man who finished top scorer in the Eredivise last season with 26 goals (£2.6M from VVV Venlo) closely followed by highly rated Portuguese winger Felipe Jota (loan from Benfica with an option to buy).
And finally, just when we were about to switch off Sky Sports News it was confirmed that we’d also beaten the clock to sign USA internationalist Cameron Carton Vickers (loan from Spurs with an option to buy).
By our calculations that’s 10 first team ready players, most of whom are current internationalists, and for a net spend just short of £20M.
This is not insignificant for a club like Celtic in the midst of a pandemic.
So who went the other way, and how do we feel about it?
The first major departure was that of Kris Ajer to EPL newcomers Brentford (£13.5M rising to £17.5M). Signing in the summer of 2016 as a 17 year old he picked up numerous trophies during his time with the club, most notably scoring the winning penalty in the Scottish Cup victory over Hearts which secured an unprecedented Quadruple Treble. A good servant to the club who’ll go on to bigger things.
Ryan Christie, who bizarrely had a contract which expired in January 2022 (who signed off on that?) then made a deadline day exit, choosing Bournemouth (who have paid a reported £2.5m) of the Championship, rather than Burnley of the EPL. A talented player who had some big moments for us during his time.Then, the biggest news of the day.
Many fans will have a wide range of opinions on Odsonne Edouard and on the way his time at Celtic ultimately fizzled out. Make no mistake though, the enigmatic Frenchman was our best player, and he showed that on numerous occasions with some incredible goals. Some players and teams naturally reach a breaking point, and for Edouard and Celtic that was probably last summer. Despite being in the final year of his deal however Celtic look set to net £14M plus notable add-ons as part of his move to Crystal Palace – though his previous club PSG will also receive around £2.5M of this fee due to a sell-on clause.
Some will ask Odsonne why he left a club the size of Celtic for a club like Crystal Palace. Odsonne will reply with 70,000 good reasons per week. That’s modern football.
Quick Ones: Jack Hendry to Oostende (£1.3M), Vakoun Issouf Bayo to KAA Gent (£1.4M), Marian Shved to KV Mechelen (£1M) and Olivier Ntcham (Released) also moved on in this window. Outwith the undoubted isappointment of Ntcham’s decline there’ll be no tears shed (Shved?) over the others. Leigh Griffiths’ time at the club is also now effectively offer after he completed a season long loan move to former club Dundee.
Some quick maths tells us these outgoings represent an income of around £32M.
Whilst we’re discussing this transfer window in isolation it shouldn’t be dismissed that in this calendar year we also received £11.5M for Jeremie Frimpong in January, £3.5M for Patryk Klimala from New York Red Bulls a few months later, and £800k for Hatem Abd Elhamed who returned Hapoel Be’er Sheva. Total fees of almost £16M).
A notable caveat when discussing all transfer fees (paying out and receiving) is that these are rarely, if ever, paid out in full by any club. The norm would be a a sizeable amount up front followed by payments then being made in agreed instalments. To this point Celtic aren’t therefore sitting with a lump sum of circa £12M in their bank account following our activity this window.
THE REPORT CARD
Some fans maintain that due to our net positive position (£32M in fees received, £20M in fees paid equals +£12M) that the Celtic board have “done it on the cheap”, “let Ange down”, “sold the fans short” and so on.
I completely disagree with this.
At a time of global crisis where Celtic, like many sizeable businesses, have suffered from losses totalling multiple millions due to the pandemic, a spend of this nature represents complete confidence in Ange Posteoglou by Dominic McKay and his board.
Yes we all wanted another central midfielder in (and maybe a left back, and maybe a striker, and maybe a back-up goalie) but that can be the nature of transfer windows.
Whoever we bring in we’ll always want one more (we as Celtic fans are not unique in this) but in the harsh light of day to bring in ten players in one window (12 if we include Liam Shaw and Osaze Urhoghide who arrive on pre-contracts from Sheffield Wednesday) is an incredible show of faith in our new manager.
THE CULTURE AND THE VISION
As a leader the challenge is now with Ange to mould this new group of talented individuals into a team that will fight all the way to help us reclaim our Scottish League title and to compete on the European front.
He’ll have sold them on the vision and where he sees the club going and it’s now up to him and the players to put in the hard yards that will get us there.
Culture and team spirit aren’t an overnight fix and we know from the experiences of last season that things at Celtic were far from good in that department. In the way that we have seen Ange bond with his players so far however (seen here with his new captain Callum McGregor) the signs are there that the players too have signed up for the journey and will follow wherever Ange leads.
Given where we – and McKay – found ourselves that disappointing afternoon on 28th May I think we’ve come a remarkably long way in a relatively short space of time, and from what we’ve seen during these early weeks of Ange’s reign, things are only going to get better.
Stage One – Complete!