With the World Cup now behind us, it is time to refocus on club football once more. Most teams are still in or just beginning pre-season training right now but tomorrow night that all ends for Celtic when they take on KR Reykjavik in Iceland.
Celtic have played four friendlies in Austria over the last week winning two and drawing two. You can’t read too much into the results but it has been a fast track learning curve for Ronny Deila to assess his squad of players.
When playing these ridiculously early qualifiers for the Champions League there is little time to prepare. For Deila, he’s had the additional challenge of getting to know his players quickly before putting them to work in European competition.
The Champions League is a vital part of Celtic’s season these days. It isn’t just the money of course, its the competition, the glamour and the chance to shine on a bigger stage.
For fans its an essential component to an entertaining season. In all fairness to the rest of the SPFL, without European football, it would be pretty dull as a Celtic supporter these days.
With no real threat to Celtic’s Championship crown, its not a case of ‘if’ but at ‘what stage’ they will win the league. Because of that, I think Celtic might be finally taking the correct approach to procuring talent.
Ronny Deila seems intent on nurturing youth and giving them a chance. I would like to think that Celtic will support Ronny in doing this and that together they will see this through.
The transfer market’s current state is not one that Celtic can compete in. Transfer fees are overinflated so that leaves Celtic in a position where their scouts must talent spot the unknowns that could potentially turn out to be gems.
That isn’t an easy task and still involves taking risks, though not necessarily expensive ones. Having said that, Celtic have and will continue to profit from these kind of moves which puts them in the position as a selling club.
This is the position Celtic find themselves in as a large club in a weak league but it is the state of Scottish game that is the issue here. The only way out of this hole is found in youth.
That is where hopefully Ronny will come in. Its not just about him though, its about all of Scottish football following the same blueprint from youth to senior level in club and international football.
Scotland for example have put out some decent youth sides over the last few decades. Sometimes I’ve found that half of a Scotland youth team is filled with Celtic youth players flourishing at that level.
They all play together and they develop an understanding but as these guys careers progress, they find themselves out of the picture at club level. Subsequently their international careers falter and this once lauded young group of players find themselves playing further down the leagues or out of football completely.
Now I’m not suggesting that every youth player has a bright career ahead of them or will make the grade. I just don’t think the transition from youth to senior level is supported enough.
This is an inherent problem in Scottish football that needs some serious attention. For a nation that used to produced some fine talent, we are sadly well behind the times.
When you look at the infrastructure that Germany have in place it is enviable. Its not all about money, more about support from the bottom to top ensuring that these players achieve their potential.
If Gordon Strachan stays in the Scotland set up for a good few years there is a chance that some success in development can be achieved. Strachan may not have got the vote from all Celtic fans but his insight into coaching, fitness and tactics is exactly the type of influence needed in the SFA.
Clubs will always want to delve into the transfer market but Scotland needs to show faith in youth otherwise what is the point? With Celtic being Scotland’s number one club for the foreseeable future they have a responsibility to set the example.
There is no instant fix or quick solution so it will take time. Now is the right time to begin and I hope to see great things under Ronny Deila.
Tomorrow night is about Celtic flying the flag for Scottish football. Let’s hope we will see that flag being held a little big higher for those young boys knocking on the door.
All we are saying, is give youth a chance.