The January Transfer Window – a history of Celtic’s winter acquisitions.

The transfer windows brought an end to football clubs strengthening whenever it suited. Despite some opposition to it, the windows have remained in place for over fifteen years.

When the market is open there is limited time to do business, but there also are some exceptions. Some rules, allow players without a club to join a club between windows or emergency situations such as when a club has a goalkeeping crisis.

With January being the half way point for many European leagues it can be a crucial time to bed in players for the following season or assist you in your final assault of the current campaign. Here we look at some of Celtic’s January acquisitions since the transfer window was implemented in season 2002/2003.

January 2003

Martin O’Neill was the first Celtic manager to utilise the transfer windows imposed by FIFA. In January 2003 he had a goalkeeping problem with the unreliable availability of Rab Douglas and Magnus Hedman.

With a UEFA Cup campaign in full swing he drafted in Javier Sanchez Broto on loan until the end of the season from Livingston. The Spaniard provided much needed and very able backup, starting nine matches, but he returned to his homeland after both parties failed to agree terms.

In the same window Stanislav Varga came in on a free transfer from Sunderland. O’Neill was fond of imposing, goal scoring centre halves.

In the Slovakian international Varga he got just that. We wouldn’t see the best of that until the following seasons.

January 2004

Stephen Pearson was an up-and-coming prospect at Motherwell and Martin O’Neill wanted him on board. £350K was shelled out for the midfielder and had decent potential, but his career was always blighted by injury and inconsistent form with very few moments to marvel at.

O’Neill also brought in goalkeeper Dejan Milosevic from Perth Glory. He never played for the club and soon found himself back in Australia within a year.

January 2005

With the departure of Henrik Larsson in the summer of 2004, Celtic were going to find it hard to fill the Swede’s boots sufficiently. Martin O’Neill brought in Henri Camara on loan from Wolves only to have his year long loan terminated in January 2005.

Back to square one, O’Neill now had to find another replacement. Fortunately, Craig Bellamy was having a torrid time at Newcastle and Celtic took the player on loan until the end of the season.

He was an instant hit and it looked as though we’d found a suitable long term replacement for Henrik. The romance would not continue beyond that season though despite both parties recognising how good they were for each other.

Stephane Henchoz also came in during that window as defensive cover. He was a relatively risk free, free transfer, but Celtic did not renew their interest in Henchoz either, particularly with O’Neill departing in the summer.

January 2006

In the summer of 2005 Gordon Strachan replaced Martin O’Neill and presided over one of the largest clear outs at Celtic Park. Around ten first team players left that summer followed by a further four in January 2006.

Strachan had recruited a similar amount though on less wages. In January of that first season in charge, he recruited Mark Wilson for £500K from Dundee United.

Despite an injury laced beginning, he would find more regular game time the seasons ahead. He was an able right back who wore the jersey with a lot of pride.

Wilson’s arrival was overshadowed by the arrival of Dion Dublin and Roy Keane who had both arrived on free transfers. Both players were in the advent of their careers, but Strachan needed dressing room individuals in his side with so many influential players from the Martin O’Neill era having left.

Personally, I didn’t really think Keane was a necessary move for Celtic. The league was looking good for us without his services, but it was all too tempting for Dermot Desmond to have him at Celtic.

Neither Dublin or Keane would remain at the club beyond the end of that season. It was a brief encounter which I’m sure Celtic benefited from financially, if nothing else.

January 2007

Toward the end of 2006, Hearts’ then owner, Vladimir Romanov, had a player revolt on his hands. A few players, dubbed the Riccarton Three, took a press conference and confirmed the unrest in the dressing room.

It was effectively the end of those players’ careers at Tynecastle with Celtic benefiting of from the services of two of them. Paul Hartley joined for just over £1M and Steven Pressley had his contract terminated as ring leader and came on free transfer.

Both players were a key part of the Tynecastle crew and would now bring that experience to Celtic. They would also be joined by Jean-Joel Perrier-Doumbe on loan and Mark Brown on a free transfer.

All of these signings were necessary for Strachan as he off loaded the remainder of Martin O’Neill’s highly paid stars. The Scotsman was creating a team of his own now.

January 2008

Andreas Hinkel, Barry Robson, Ben Hutchison, Georgios Samaras and Koki Mizuno joined the growing ranks at Celtic. We know the winners and losers from that bunch, but this was a busy January for Celtic.

January 2009

In season 2008/2009, there was a dip in Celtic’s transfer dealings and was beginning to show within the team performances as well. Having won three titles on the bounce, Strachan had spent the last of the big cash in the summer.

Come January he was only able to recruit Milan Misun, Willo Flood, Niall McGinn and Dominic Cervi. The quality of previous January windows wasn’t quite there and the writing was on the wall for Gordon Strachan.

January 2010

With a new manager the helm, another season of huge comings and goings was under way. New manager Tony Mowbray was offloading a lot of players from the Strachan era.

This took place in the summer and winter transfer windows. However, it was perhaps the winter window that was the most active.

There was a mass exodus of players on loan and permanent deals particulary south of the border to Middlesborough. Mowbray was losing credibility among the support and fresh blood was needed.

He brought in Ki Sung- yueng, Jos Hooiveld, Morten Rasmussen, Thomas Rogne, Diomansy Kamara, Edson Braafheid and Paul Slane. There was also the significant signature of Robbie Keane on loan who would be the second Keane of Republican fame to sell shirts and put bums on seats for Celtic in the space of four years.

It was a deeply troubling time for Celtic whose investment in Mowbray was not bearing fruit. This window was a last roll of the dice, but within two months of the window closing, Mowbray was sacked.

January 2011

With the departure of Mowbray in March 2010, Celtic coach Neil Lennon took over on a temporary basis. By the end of that season, he was the only permanent choice for the job.

He recruited heavily in that summer as well as selling off a number of players to fund those moves. By the time January arrived he would only add two players to his squad.

Kris Commons and Freddie Ljungberg joined the ranks as Lennon tried to mount a challenge on Rangers. Commons was an instant hit, but Ljungberg failed to make a significant impact.

Prior to that, Lennon had procured the services of Olivier Kapo between both windows as he was without a club and even played a couple of games. However, he was gone by the time the window opened in January due to a contact dispute.

January 2012

After a relatively busy summer window, Lennon added four more players to his ranks in January 2012. Andre Blackman arrivsd prior to the window opening as he was without a club.

When the window did open Lennon added striker Pawel Brozek on loan, Ibrahim Rabiu as a young prospect and Mikael Lustig as an experienced international defender. It was far from a memorable window, but there was a shift in power in Scottish football and Lennon’s team was beginning to take shape.

January 2013

The summer window of 2012 was not as frivolous as previous summer windows for Neil Lennon. The winter window would not be much different either.

Despite winning the league the previous season and now qualifying for the last sixteen of the Champions League, only three players came on board in January. Rami Gershon and Viktor Noring arrived on loan whilst an unknown Australian talent in the form of Tom Rogic joined for less than £500K.

January 2014

In the summer of 2013 Lennon had brought on board half a dozen new recruits. Come January he would bring in three more signings.

Leigh Griffiths and Stefan Johansen would both make an immediate impact whilst youngster Holmbert Fridjonsson would never feature in the first team. This would be Lennon’s final transfer window before leaving the club in the summer.

January 2015

After taking over in 2014, Ronny Deila began a new era for Celtic. Not just on the park, but in areas such as diet and training as well.

It was going against the grain at Celtic, but a necessary step to meet modern football standards. To help make that happen, seven players were brought in, mainly on loan, whilst almost double that amount went out on loan or permanently.

Come January, Deila drafted in Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven from Dundee United. Mackay-Steven had the better start, but eventually Armstrong would become a star for the club, albeit briefly under different management.

January 2016

It was a busy summer for Celtic in 2015 as many players came and went. That trend continued with the acquisition of Carlton Cole in October 2015 who was without a club.

Come January, the club fattened up the ranks further with Erik Sviatchenko, Colin Kazim-Richards and Patrick Roberts. Neither Cole nor Kazim-Richards were worthy of the Hoops jersey, but they did find the net at least once in the limited game time they had.

Sviatchenko and Roberts were instant hits in the team and with the fans. Sadly, neither player are part of the current side despite their popularity.

January 2017

In the summer of 2016, Ronny Deila parted company with the club. After losing a penalty shoot out to Championship club, Rangers, the writing was on the wall for the likeable Norwegian coach.

Celtic appointed Brendan Rodgers who set about assessing the rather large squad he had inherited from the Lennon and Deila eras. He continued with the fitness regime Deila had try to implement but without the resistance his predecessor had received from the dressing room.

Half a dozen players joines that summer with a similar number departing. By the the time January had come Rodgers still had a large squad that was doing well.

So he recruited just one player in the shape of Eboue Kouassi. The Ivorian has never seen a run in the team, but this window was probably more active with Celtic players going out on loan.

January 2018

After a record breaking debut season, Rodgers began offloading some of the squad who were surplus to requirements. In turn, he freshened up the ranks with a few new faces.

As January approached, the revolving door was in operation with more players going out on loan. Rodgers also recruited Charly Musonda on loan from Chelsea, Jack Hendry and Marvin Compper came in to bolster the defence, Lewis Morgan arrived as a prospect from St Mirren and Scott Bain arrived on loan to help out in the summer goalkeeping department.

Despite this being amount of business for Rodgers, the return was less than expected. Musonda, despite providing an assist in a crucial win over Zenit St Petersburg, would find himself with limited appearances and his loan cancelled by the summer.

To date, Hendry has yet to hit the ground running at the club, Compper has played one forgettable game, Morgan was loaned back to St Mirren for six months and yet to be given a proper chance this season and Bain plays second fiddle to Craig Gordon.

And that brings us to January 2019 and the current season. The once inflated ranks of the Lennon and Deila era had been reduced significantly by last summer.

Half a dozen players were acquired in the summer with around the same heading out, but it was a far from satisfactory window for Celtic. With injuries, form and other omissions on the horizon, January 2019 was always going to be one of the most important for Brendan Rodgers.

Defence has been on the minds of most if not all of us for a while now, but it seems to be the opposite for the manager. He stated to the press that he didn’t believe he would strengthen central defence until the summer by which time of course we’ll be without Deryck Boyata and Filip Benkovic.

He hasn’t said as much with regards to the full back position and with Mikael Lustig, Cristian Gamboa and Emilio Izaguirre also gone in the summer we have a similar problem in that area. Given how slowly Celtic move in the transfer market and how early our competitive season begins thess days, doesn’t fill fans with confidence.

Celtic have enforced attacking options which to be fair has been underhanded all season. Odsonne Edouard has shouldered the responsibility thanks to the eleventh hour departure of Moussa Dembele in the summer and subsequent injuries and short term absence of Leigh Griffiths.

Brendan has also stated that business has not ceased for the club in this window yet, but for which positions is anyone’s guess. We’ve all read the rumours though we are none the wiser.

There are just under two weeks left of this window and we welcome Timothy Weah and Oliver Burke on loan whilst Vakoun Bayo joins on a permanent deal. Let’s see what else the club can do before the end of the month.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

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Media favour our rivals, but Celtic have more muscle in the market

As the winter break descended upon the Scottish Premiership, we were surrounded by positive headlines about our friends over at Ibrox. It was clear that a few people had gotten a little bit moist with the victory over Celtic.

Not only were the SMSM revelling in this first ever victory over Celtic. They followed that up, gushing with excitement, at the imminent signings of 34 and 36 year old players.

I’m not going to judge a player by their age. Celtic signed arguably one of their most gifted players in history at the tender age of 33.

The press weren’t particularly complimentary about that transfer. We also have our own batch of thirtysomething players currently playing their part in the squad.

That said, the drivel unleashed about Jermaine Defoe and Steven Davis has been nauseating. I actually think both players will do well at Ibrox, but let’s just put things in perspective.

This flock of praise for Steven Gerrard and the Ibrox club is good for them. I can see why a club, almost 7 years after their reincarnation, would be so excited by the signatures of two international Premier League players.

In particular, it’s big deal for their fans to see an old favourite return to Ibrox. The irony being he turned his back on them in 2012 when the 1872 club went to the wall, like most of the rats did on that sinking ship.

So I’ve acknowledged it’s good for Rangers. However, are we seriously making comparisons with Celtic?

SMSM will stop at nothing to make every single move a pissing contest. I mean give me a break. To suggest that Rangers have won some kind of battle in the transfer market (or title race hopes for that matter) is totally absurd and irrelevant.

The imbalanced and conveniently timed stories is typical of media bias in Scotland. Defoe and Davis officially joined long after the stories were released, a sense that neither the club nor the media could contain themselves and just wanted to get the stories out pronto.

It’s one upsmanship. Even Chris Sutton bought into it stating that the Ibrox signings made them favourites for the title.

Now I know Sutton likes to exercise his gob and is even occasionally right. Equally, he can be completely outlandish.

He made some comment that if it’d been Defoe to Celtic we’d have been erecting statues outside Celtic Park. Don’t get me wrong, I think Defoe is talented and still capable of doing a job.

If he was on Celtic’s radar I would have taken him. As a short term fix he could have been a good move in the absence of Leigh Griffiths but he wasn’t on our radar.

To suggest Celtic would be erecting statues of the English international is verbal diahorrea by Sutton. It’s a flippant comment by a guy who should know better, having been idolised as a player himself a by the entire Celtic support.

Even he knows you have to prove yourself to be worthy in the eyes of the our fans. Defoe has yet to prove himself in Scotland, so don’t get ahead of yourself, Chris.

Sutton has also been critical of the players Celtic have signed so far this month. It’s clear he wanted marquee transfers, but three players bursting with potential aged between 18 and 22 isn’t enough for the pundit it seems.

And yet, it’s good business so far for Celtic. We are hoping for more arrivals in the other areas of concern and Brendan Rodgers has underlined that intent.

It seems that Sutton has gotten caught up in the media circus that got a little bit excited at the prospect a title race. The fact is Celtic have been every bit as proactive in this window as their rivals and we are still doing business.

We can most likely expect a couple more signatures. Defensive recruitment is currently open.

There will be some departures on loan or on a permanent basis too. There’s been a number of stories about Lewis Morgan and Jack Hendry (both signed 12 months ago) going out for much needed game time.

Apparently being added to that list is Youssouf Mulumbu. He looked like a decent backup option last summer, but hasn’t made an impact.

Could he end up at Kilmarnock? Not a bad move for all parties.

No word on whether Marvin Compper will head off. He’s clearly never going to play for Celtic again unless the plague hits our back line.

Even then, it’s more likely that the returning Nir Bitton would get a game at centre half before the German. That tells you all you need to know.

And it may well come to that if Dedryck Boyata left in this window. There hasn’t been anything new about a proposed move in January, but he will most definitely leave for free at the end of the season along with a few other defenders.

So it is crucial Celtic get those positions filled now. That appears to be in the process, but we’ll need to see what comes to fruition in the next couple of weeks.

If Celtic get some defensive deals done it will be a good window over all. Let’s see how that pans out.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Celtic Surgery – Burke the first of many?

Having lost their final game of 2018 in such deplorable style, the January transfer window could not have arrived at a better time for Celtic. The challenge this season has been more realistic than any other in recent years because there has actually been one.

Many have dismissed the suggestion of a title race, some have said it is of Celtic’s own making. Both of those statements have their own degree of validity.

We’ve always been happy to use the phrase “title race” when you know you have two or more genuine challengers. Celtic and Rangers were always in the title race by default, but since the 1872 club’s demise, it has really just been about Celtic.

Even when Ronny Deila took charge, the title was pretty much always going to be Celtic’s. Aberdeen made some headway to interrupt that, but Celtic always came through.

This season has been a somewhat different story because Celtic had a shambolic summer transfer window, some want away rebels in the dressing room, a manager making statements to the press which had many of us wondering if he was still happy at the club and of course exiting the Champions League. What followed was a poor start to the domestic campaign which had only begun improve as we got nearer the end of the year.

Now you can agree with those that think this is of Celtic’s own making yet these are the kind of factors that can affect a title race. When Rangers 1872 were going for ten-in-a-row, their team was ageing and certain individuals were set to leave at the end of that season, including their manager.

Some of that, I would argue, helped Celtic win the title that season. Yes, we had drafted in some better talent and were looking good, but it went down to the wire.

I don’t agree with Archie Knox’s sentiments that Celtic are about to do the same as Rangers did in 1998. We have it within our means to ensure it doesn’t happen – they didnt’.

Rangers 2012, for all their faults, have put together a team who are playing as consistent as any other club in the top flight. We can pick holes in their stats just as we can in any other club in the Scottish Premiership, but the fact is they are where they are on merit just like Kilmarnock, Aberdeen, Hearts etc.

It doesn’t matter how a title race happens, you simply have one based upon the circumstances that occur. Celtic have struggled this season and the signs were already apparent last season.

Yet despite all of that, the club weren’t proactive enough. This season we have a smaller squad hindered further by absentees and the poor form of key players.

Celtic still have a game at hand and currently sit in 1st place with the same points as Rangers, but with a slightly better goal difference. At the same stage last season, Celtic were nine points ahead of Aberdeen (2nd) and eleven points ahead of Rangers (3rd).

That was pretty much how last season ended too with Aberdeen finishing nine points behind in 2nd place and that gap on 3rd placed Rangers widening slightly to twelve points. So how can you not say it is a title race this season?

Isn’t that what we want anyway? Celtic may have dropped the ball, but it doesn’t change the fact teams are breathing down our neck.

And there is more than just Rangers to think about. Everything but the kitchen sink is being thrown at Celtic right now in order to halt their domination.

Be it any of the other top six teams, match officials or dirty tricks on and off the park, Celtic have to show why they are Champions. And by doing that Brendan will have to reassemble his troops, get some backing from the board and come out fighting after the winter break.

The threat is real and Celtic have not strengthened from a position of strength. Not for the first time in our history either.

It has been reassuring that many of our key players have signed new deals this year but the fact is Brendan Rodgers has recycled this team about as much as he can. We need new blood now.

Today, the club have drafted in Oliver Burke on loan from West Brom. Other attacking players have been targeted, but this one is curious.

Burke is only 21 years old, capped five times as a full Scottish international and now made his fifth professional club move, this being his second loan spell. Having started out at Nottingham Forrest and a brief loan period at Bradford, he caught the eye of up-and-coming RB Leipzig who paid a lot of money for him.

After a year in the Bundesliga, West Brom decided to pay even more money for his services. He hasn’t played a lot of football this season so this will be a chance for him to prove himself.

His preferred role is as a right-winger, but he can also play on the left and as a forward. I’m guessing that it is his physicality that is of interest to Brendan Rodgers.

At 6 ft 2 inches he is not small so I wouldn’t be surprised if the manager plans to use him as a forward. I’m sure he’ll be a welcome addition to the team for the remainder of the season.

There will be further signatures in this window in the attacking department by the sounds of it, but Celtic must sort out their defence. They currently have twelve first team defenders, five of which are out of contract in the summer.

Of the seven that remain, one will never be seen in the first team again (Marvin Compper), one is out on loan currently and not a defender in my opinion (Calvin Miller) and one has taken on the Gary Gillespie role (Jozo Simunovic). That leaves the Brat Pack of Anthony Ralston, Jack Hendry, Kris Ajer and Kieran Tierney.

Now the latter four could end up forging a long-term partnership in the Celtic defence, but we lack depth and experience in this area right now. It is a huge area of concern for us, particularly in Europe.

Our midfield is actually not doing too badly so long as it is set up correctly. We lost this battle at Ibrox with the best set up not being utilised.

I don’t expect any midfielders to come in during this window, but I do expect defensive improvement as well as in attack. Let’s hope Oliver Burke is the first of many faces in January.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Meddling or Meandering?

What did we learn from Saturday’s defeat at Ibrox? Something and nothing.

We already knew our squad was smaller than it’s been in a long time, but it doesn’t lack quality. So what went wrong at Ibrox other than the result?

A case for the defence

Now you won’t hear me making excuses for the individual errors. There are one or two persistent offenders in our defence.

That said, when your midfield is malfunctioning, your defence has to deal with the onset issues. And if your midfield is still not responding, who do you feed the ball out to?

A lot of Celtic’s defensive errors came from poor passing. Simple passes at that and by all of the back four.

The defence were under constant pressure. The midfield did very little to ease that.

The home side pressed, kept a high line and closed down quickly. We’ve seen this before when Celtic have not been allowed time on the ball in Europe and even in sone domestic fixtures such aa Hearts, Hibs and Kilmarnock.

Brendan Rodgers doesn’t appear to have found an answer to this. He certainly doesn’t appear to have made any progress either.

Misplaced midfield

Brendan setup his midfield with possibly the strongest selection with one key omission. His best midfielder.

Scott Brown has had his critics over the years. He’s also had them this season.

His absence from the team suited the way the team were playing at the time. When he was reintroduced, the fans were displeased with his square ball antics.

Broony still has a place in the team, but not every game. He had poor game on Saturday, but so did Olivier Ntcham.

Ryan Christie did the best he could, but the one player missing from the middle of the park was Callum McGregor. Being stuck at left back was bizarre.

Not because he hasn’t played there before – he has. It was baffling because he is our best midfielder right now and he was repositioned.

Yes, someone needed to play left back, but did it have to be CalMac? No, I don’t think so, Brendan, and that’s on you.

Narrow

Celtic’s usual outlets are in the wide areas. Scott Sinclair and James Forrest were largely ineffective.

Forrest has been in good form since last season and been even better this season. Sinclair has enjoyed a hat trick recently but his performances have never matched his first season at the club.

Nothing went down the channels. Once more, our players were closed down quickly.

Firing blanks

Mikey Johnston was given the strikers role. A huge risk and a big ask in an important game.

I was buzzing about his goals recently, but would I have given him the lone strikers role at Ibrox? Not a chance.

If Mikey does all the right things, he can have a bright future at Celtic. Playing him up front was foolish of Brendan and put a tremendous amount of pressure on the player.

Bad day, bad choices and questions are being asked

There’s no hiding the fact that what Brendan Rodgers did at Ibrox was a managerial faux pas. Kieran Tierney was ruled out giving many the impression that the role would be filled by another suitable candidate.

In the previous four games, Emilio Izaguirre had played left back. It was the reason he was brought back in the summer

He was hooked during the games at Easter Road and Pittodrie and replaced by Jonny Hayes on each of those occasions. That led many to think that either could be a contender for the Ibrox game.

It turned out neither played. Instead he put our best midfielder in there throwing the shape of our midfield into disarray.

We knew we were losing Tom Rogic for international duty. We knew Kieran Tierney was probably going to be missing too.

Odsonne Edouard, though out injured briefly, had returned as a sub against Aberdeen. With all of these known factors, why did Brendan make such bizarre choices for such a big game?

Tierney must have had some level of fitness to have him on the bench. Certainly enough to displace the only other natural left back, Izaguirre.

To play McGregor in front of the three players to have filled that role is beyond comprehension. Or is it, as many of us believe, yet another message being sent to the board of directors with the transfer window here that money must be spent?

It’s a dangerous game to play. Decisions like that put you in close proximity to career suicide if it backfires.

And let’s face it, the only way this has any meaning is if you get your wish. Carte blanche in January.

Is that certified? No.

Was your team selection a wild gamble? Yes.

Even with Odsonne Edouard left on the bench, after coming off it against Aberdeen and scoring a goal, you have to wonder. Why didn’t he play from the start?

To rest him for future games? It’s the last game before the winter break and there are no games for three weeks!

Don’t tell me it would’ve been risky. This risky set up against a team on your heels was foolish.

If this wasn’t a message to the board then it is an alarming move for the Celtic manager. You’ve either misjudged your opponent or you’re past caring about your job.

I don’t know what the preferred choice would be. Brendan must shoulder the blame for this.

Can you imagine if Ronny Deila had made the same choices? He got the bullet just for losing on penalties to the same team.

The winners

Steven Gerrard will be jubilant at the result. As will the fans of the Ibrox club.

They are now level pegging with Celtic, albeit having played one more game. Some have dimissed this as being a title race and yet it is one.

Can you really dismiss the fact that the other teams in the league have made it so? Credit where it is due and to say otherwise is nothing short of sticking your head in the sand.

And perhaps that is where Brendan is going with this or trying to do. Show that the gap has narrowed.

I can’t take anything away from Rangers. They worked their socks off for the entire match.

Even if Celtic had scored an equaliser it would’ve been undeserved daylight robbery. The home side’s fully deserved their win on Saturday.

The question for Celtic is this. Was Brendan’s deliberate meddling too obvious that it puts his job in jeopardy or will the board accept the team needs strengthening now?

We’ll find out in January. That’s tomorrow.

Hail! Hail! and a Happy New Year!

Stevie Mac

Youth blossoms

Celtic bounced back from their double defeat by Salzburg and Hibs with a solid home victory over Motherwell last night. Three goals in the first half was enough to see off the visitors and there were some notable performances into the bargain.

Scott Brown made his 500th appearance for the Hoops in what could be his final season at the club. He joins an elite batch of players in Celtic’s history having already secured the most European appearances by a Celtic player.

Brendan Rodgers made one change for this match installing Anthony Ralston at right back. It is the young player’s first appearance of the season and also since September last year.

Since then, he has penned a new deal for the club and been out on loan at Dundee United. Last night he was given a chance and he took it with both hands.

He didn’t just show his defensive capabilities. We saw what he had to offer in the attacking sense too.

The first goal came from the defender after he’d been played in by Odsonne Edouard. It was a fine finish under a challenge and with an onrushing goalkeeper.

Prior to that, Ralston had got in a fine cross but there were no takers. The player did not waste his opportunity.

The next goal came from the penalty spot. As James Forrest sped into the box, Charles Dunne chopped him down with a poorly timed challenge.

Scott Sinclair converted the penalty with a well placed effort. Surprisingly, Dunne didnt’ even receive a booking for the offence.

I guess with Bobby Madden you just never know what way he is swinging in a match. He set out his stall by not taking any action on this one.

Sadly, Celtic lost Edouard to injury shortly before the interval and will be assessed in the coming days. With no other recognisable striker currently available, the transfer window cannot come quick enough for Celtic.

However, the French player’s replacement didn’t spurn his opportunity either. Like Ralston, Mikey Johnston stepped in and took his chance.

The young attacker received a short pass from Forrest, side-stepped a wall of Motherwell players and sent a looping effort over the keeper and into the net from the edge of the box. This was a real touch of class from Johnston.

He has had game time this season but recently found himself on the periphery in recent matches. With competition for places fierce, he has thrown his hat into the ring.

This was a game that was decided in the first half. The second produced further efforts from Celtic with no goals but over the entire game Motherwell did not produce a single shot on target.

Celtic now have a relatively straightforward home tie against Dundee on Saturday. The bottom side have managed to pick up four out of a possible twelve points this month including a draw at home to Rangers.

It hasn’t got them off the bottom of the table but they are level on points with St Mirren now. For Celtic, this should be a formality.

The likelihood of Odsonne Edouard making it will depend on the outcome of his injury. Even if he is fit, I doubt he would be risked against Dundee with two huge matches against Aberdeen on Boxing Day and Rangers just before New Year.

We could see the same team assembled this Saturday with Mikey Johnston thrown in again. I’d certainly like to see more of Ralston too as he has lost a year through injury and getting back to his best.

There is high expectations of a flurry in the transfer market by Celtic. It is also encouraging to see more talent looking hungry and taking their chances.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

We need new blood or there will be blood.

After the strange celebrations of Thursday night’s Europa League progression, Celtic travelled to Easter Road on Sunday to face Hibs. And for the third time this season, Celtic lost a league match in the aftermath of a European tie.

I didn’t catch Sunday’s game on this occasion, but there were a number of changes. Injuries or not, Celtic appear to have been beaten my a hungrier side.

And you know what, I’m not really going to complain. Because the way this season is turning out it is anything but dull in the Scottish Premiership.

Celtic walked that last two seasons. The first a formidable clean sweep, the second drab clean sweep.

The current campaign has seen a fantastic effort by a number of teams in the league. So much so that a mere 8 points separates 1st place from 8th place right now.

It is a phenomenal statistic to think that two-thirds of the league is still in the race. Yes, they may not all be there as the season wears on, but with the half way mark almost reached by every clubs,this is panning out to be a rare spectacle in Scotland.

The 2-0 win for Hibs on Sunday allowed them to close the gap at the top from 10 points to 8 points with Rangers back at the summit after their 1-0 win over Hamilton. Kilmarnock beat Dundee 3-1 to put them above Celtic.

St Johnstone lost ground after a home defeat by Motherwell whilst Aberdeen got a crucial away win at St Mirren. And after Livingston mauled Hearts 5-0 on Friday night, the Scottish Premiership looks very different.

Celtic have four games before the end of the year and the winter break. After that most Celtic fans are expecting a flurry in the transfer market.

A number of players are unavailable right now and there is potential risk that some may move on permanently or on loan come January. The weakened areas will need to be looked at now with a view to bolstering for now and in the future.

Brendan Rodgers stated that he has earmarked attack as his main area of focus having lost Moussa Dembele right a the end of the summer transfer window and Leigh Griffiths taking a break from the game in the last week. He will also need to think about defensive and midfield replacements though.

With Dedryck Boyata and Filip Benkovic both certain to leave, the central defence does not have any solidity beyond May or possibly even January if either were to leave then. And it doesn’t stop there because new contract offer or not, Mikael Lustig will need to be replaced at some point in the future.

So far Brendan has shown little faith in Cristian Gamboa or Anthony Ralston and has stuck by the vice-captain. The former is out of contract this summer and Ralston hasn’t featured despite signing a new contract a year ago.

Scott Brown is rumoured to be thinking over a move to Australia when his contract runs out. I personally thought he’d stick around for a couple more years but if there is any truth in the story then it would be a difficult offer to turn down.

That would leave a huge hole in this squad in terms of leadership, influence and experience. Who would replace Broony within the current squad?

Callum McGregor has been great, but is he the natural successor? Eboue Kouassi was said to be Broony’s replacement but we’ve seen very little of him.

We do have a healthy supply of midfielders right now. Some of which, like Kouassi, can barely get a game.

Yousouff Mulumbu is backup and Nir Bitton injured, but Celtic will need someone to fill the shoes of Broony. That may well emerge as the months continue to roll past or we may have to seek someone out.

Even in the goal keeping department, Celtic will need to think ahead. Craig Gordon has been a mainstay for nearly five years now, but he has one year left of his contract after this season.

There’s nothing to suggest that he cannot continue for a couple more years. At 35 he probably will but realistically, a long-term replacement has to be sought as he’ll be 37 by the time his contract runs out.

Scott Bain came in on loan and eventually signed a permanent deal in the summer. We would need to see him more regularly to know whether he is the long-term replacement for Gordon though.

Celtic have to be proactive in January and June. We’ve already seen the squad decimated, this season through injury, suspension and players moving on.

We will lose more players between now and the summer. We need to plan for the future and for the tough games that lie ahead.

This league will be hotly contested if the season so far is anything to go by. And today Celtic will also find discover their European fate.

The draws for the Champions and Europa League take place today. Whoever Celtic get will be a huge challenge.

Let’s hope the board are prepared to back the manager. We need new blood or there will be blood.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

A negative night, but the table doesn’t lie

The starting line-up was predictable, but the performance was ineffective. Salzburg outclassed Celtic in the first 45 minutes of last night’s crucial match at Celtic Park and even an improved second half performnace wasn’t enough to earn the point we were seeking.

However, as it turned out, Rosenborg did the unthinkable and stole their first point in this group in their final match. The outcome of that unlikely result allowed Celtic to progress despite suffering defeat in Glasgow.

Thats because we won three, lost three. Leipzig won two, drew one, lost two.

I’m not going to excuse anyone for last night’s poor effort. We should have changed tactics much sooner than we did as it clearly wasn’t working.

Salzburg enjoyed themselves so much, they looked like Barcelona. Wave after wave of attacking, free flowing football.

Nobody would have argued with our starting line-up. It has brought us recent success on the park.

It was evident early on though that it wasn’t going to work against Salzburg. So obvious, you knew we’d have a different shape at half time.

We should have instigated that change no later than the half hour mark. So why didn’t we do that?

We were hanging on by the skin of our teeth in the first half. How we didn’t concede is a miracle.

I think most of us were satisfied with the team Brendan put out and wouldn’t have disrupted that. As it turned out it yielded nothing.

When Brown and Olivier Ntcham entered the fray we looked a different team. But we were gutless on the left wing with Scott Sinclair and James Forrest never really got the service until the second half.

Kris Ajer had a terrible time at right back filling in for Mikael Lustig who went off with a head knock. I’m not even sure Cristian Gamboa would’ve been the answer either had he even been on the bench.

Kieran Tierney was getting rinsed in the first half and was even a culpable at the first goal. Overall I thought Jozo Simunovic and Filip Benkovic didn’t do too badly, but they had no protection and made some poor decisions under pressure.

Tom Rogic looked way off the boil, even when he did get the ball. Callum McGregor didn’t impose himself enough and Ryan Christie never saw much of the ball before eventuallygoing off injured.

I thought Odsonne Edouard did okay considering the pressure on the young striker. In fact he worked harder in the first half defensively than in an attacking sense.

Overall this was a game to forget. And yet Brendan Rodgers must learn from this.

It was a tactical error and he should hand changed things sooner. You could argue that had Craig Gordon, who was keeping us in it, not made a second half blunder we’d have got the draw.

The fact is we got it totally wrong and must learn from it and move on. We’re in the last 32 because we got more points than Leipzig and Rosenborg.

Many have focussed on the fact that ‘Rosenborg did us a favour’ and I’ll be sure to buy a pint for the first of their supporters I meet. However, if Rosenborg had got a draw in Trondheim against Leipzig earlier in the tournament and lost last night it would have been the same outcome with Celtic going through.

So I’m not going to start saying we got lucky. It’s about six games over a period of three months.

The permutations can vary. What Celtic must do now is invest in our squad.

We have to buy players to plug the gaps now and for the ones that will appear come the end of the season. There is also a need to inject further quality into this team.

If Lewis Morgan is to be the replacement for Sinclair then I want to see him now. Edouard will need support, especially with Leigh Griffiths on a sabbatical.

Our defence needs surgery particularly at right back. The centre of defence will be without Benkovic and probably even Dedryck Boyata by January or June.

We have the makings of a good team, but it requires an upgrade to progress. Success doesn’t come cheap, but we don’t have to break the bank either.

European football is secure for another two games. On Monday we will find out who we face in the Europa League draw.

Last night was in our hands and we blew it. Fate played its part and gave us a helping hand.

We won’t always get a rub of the green. We must make our own luck.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac