With the season over and the new one beginning for Celtic before the World Cup will have even finished, Brendan Rodgers’ plans for next season have been under way for a while. He’s waved goodbye to half a dozen players or so already and next season he’ll be looking to establish a fresher lineup.
Jamie Lindsay and Sam Wardrop from the youth set up have moved on permanently. Other youth players Jamie McCart and Joe Thomson are both out of contract after fulfilling loan spells as well.
Loanees Charly Musonda, Patrick Roberts and Odsonne Edouard have returned to their parent clubs. Whilst Erik Sviatchenko made a permanent return to FC Midtjylland and the final year of Nadir Ciftci’s contract has been terminated.
However, we’ve had Scott Bain sign a permanent deal, Tom Rogic extend his stay and Lewis Morgan finally arrive. So what else does Brendan need to do with this squad this summer?
1. Craig GORDON – He’s proved himself to be our number one and benefited from being pushed by the presence of other keepers in the squad.
24. Dorus DE VRIES – I think it’s time he moved on. After two years at the club I’ve never been convinced by any of his performances.
29. Scott BAIN – Scott came in on loan and took his chance. His permanent deal will allow him to learn under Gordon and having already tasted first team experience and an international call up he is perfect backup.
65. Conor HAZARD – Conor spent the second half of the season on loan at Falkirk and earned his first cap for Northern Ireland as well. If de Vries goes we might need him to stick around rather than go out on loan again, but he would also benefit from some first team experience.
4. Jack HENDRY – I have to say I didn’t know much about the kid before he joined, but with spells at Partick Thistle, Wigan Athletic, Shrewsbury Town and MK Dons under his belt before joining from Dundee he could prove to be a worthwhile investment for the club.
5. Jozo SIMUNOVIC – Between injuries, an inability to play on certain surfaces and that on/off move to Torino I’m beginning to go off Jozo. At one point, I thought he was the answer to our defensive problems, but he’s brought his own set of problems with him. He’s only good if he’s fit and that hasn’t always been often enough so unless there is some way the coaching team can resolve these issues then perhaps it is time for him to move on.
12. Cristian GAMBOA – You never really know how a player is going to turn out until they arrive and I didn’t have any expectations of the Costa Rican defender to be honest. So to say I’ve been neither disappointed or impressed is as accurate as I can put it. In fact, I haven’t seen enough of the guy to even criticise him. The question is, why is he still here after two years having played so few matches? He’s made the Costa Rican World Cup squad though, something he’s been widely criticised for.
20. Dedryck BOYATA – The big man was brought in after his former Man City and Belgium counterpart, Jason Denayer, returned to his old club after successful loan with Celtic. We all thought we were getting a polished version of Denayer, but that soon looked to be way off. Now in his third season at Celtic it has been up and down for Dedryck. He has had some injuries and even improved under Brendan, but he has also had multiple defensive mishaps. The manager still rates him as his best defender at the club, but the jury is out that one. To be fair, he hasn’t had too bad a season overall, but at a time when Celtic need to be shoring up at the back, he has still caused errors. He’s made the Belgian World Cup squad somehow and will possibly even see game time. It will either convince Brendan to offer him a new deal or offload him to interested parties as he enters the final year of his current contract.
23. Mikael LUSTIG – Vice-captain and loving life at Celtic. He has had his moments to forget, but on his day he is an excellent contributor. With a year left on his contract, a decision will need to be made on whether to extend that. Lustig can be very useful and as long as a decent understudy is ready to step in, then I think he should stick around for 10-in-a-row.
33. Marvin COMPPER – Arrived in January, played once in March and hasn’t been seen since. At 32 he doesn’t need an introduction to football, but it looks as though Marvin’s Celtic career starts next season. Unless this has been a flawed transfer, then I’m prepared to accept this was a false start for the German defender.
35. Kristoffer AJER – I’ll be honest, I thought this kid could be another one to get overlooked and find himself heading back home. However, he may yet turn out to be the best player Ronny Deila ever signed, despite having never played for him. After a degree of patience and a short loan spell at Killie, he’s now pushed his converted midfield to defence role into Brendan Rogers’ plans. Whoever is available for central defence next season, Ajer is at the top of that list.
56. Anthony RALSTON – I was talking about an understudy for Lustig earlier. Well, this could be the guy. He’s only 19 years old, but he’s already made an impression on me, most notably when he went toe-to-toe with Neymar. His loan spells at Queens Park and Dundee United, as well as experience at international youth level have provided him with some decent game time. Next season I’d like to see him push himself into contention for that right back spot.
59. Calvin MILLER – Has played back-up to Kieran Tierney, but highly unlikely to displace Mr Celtic from what I’ve seen. So for me it’s either going to be a loan spell in his final year at the club or a transfer this summer because I can’t see a new deal unless he makes inroads next season.
63. Kieran TIERNEY – what else is there to say?
0. Lewis MORGAN – Morgan’s arrival at Celtic could well be just what Scott Sinclair needed – a boot up the arse. The former St Mirren player signed in January, but went back on-loan to the Paisley promotion seekers without ever really leaving. I’ve got a good feeling about this guy and think he’ll be one to watch. His former manager is sniffing around him now that he is in charge of Sunderland and in need of familiar and friendly faces down south.
6. Nir BITTON – I don’t have a lot that’s bad to say about the Israeli midfielder. His most recent matches for Celtic have been in defence though. Whether that is where Brendan sees his future or in the team at all, I have no idea. Our midfield is packed at the moment and needs trimming, but if that isn’t where he is being planned to be positioned any more then maybe he too will find himself on the defensive rota again.
8. Scott BROWN – Our captain, our leader. Will be interesting to see who fills his shoes in the next few years. Right now there is loads of mileage left in Broony. Plenty more to come.
11. Scott SINCLAIR – After a dream debut season came a pretty poor one and yet it was laced with enviable stats. Whatever the reason for Scotty’s dip in performance last season, I don’t expect him to repeat that next season. Brendan eventually came to his senses and dropped the Englishman and with Morgan now on board there will be competition for the left wing.
14. Stuart ARMSTRONG – Many thought the new deal/one year extension meant that we’d be selling Stuart this summer. There’s nothing to suggest that won’t happen, but I was more of the opinion that it kept options open for both parties. It’s obvious Celtic didn’t table the deal Armstrong wanted. Instead, it allowed both parties to return to the negotiating table at a later date. This hasn’t been as fruitful a season for the midfielder due to injury and form so next season he’ll need to push himself hard to get the contract he wants because in all honesty, I can’t see anyone offering him a bumper deal this summer.
15. Jonny HAYES – Just when it looked as though he was getting into his stride he got injured. Hayes was a tried and tested domestic player with Aberdeen, but hard to see how he would displace what we already had. Next season he is kind of back to square one, but he will be hoping to get back into the fold.
17. Ryan CHRISTIE – As good as he has been at Aberdeen, you have to wonder where this kid will fit into the current set up. I think he could be great for us, but who do you drop for him, particularly when you have so many others ahead of him? If players in his role do move on then he could be in with a chance but we’ll have to see what the summer brings.
18. Tom ROGIC – Now with a new deal, Celtic have secured the services of the Wizard of Aus long-term. I’m looking forward to more of his genius displays in the Hoops.
19. Scott ALLAN – I have no doubts that Scott Allan will be gone this summer. It’s clear he isn’t going to make the grade so his time is up.
21. Olivier NTCHAM – A class act, and one we’ll struggle to keep long-term. Right now though he is our player and I’m looking forward to seeing more of him next season.
26. Kundai BENYU – In his first season, Benyu spent the first half at Celtic and the second half out on loan at Oldham Athletic, but he’s only managed nine games all season. That hasn’t done him any favours at all so a season long loan would be his best bet this summer.
42. Callum MCGREGOR – Another brilliant season for Callum. A dynamite player who always answers the call. Another good season is expected from the versatile midfielder. A real talent.
49. James FORREST – What a season for James. He finally hit the heights and consistency we all knew he was capable of. If it wasn’t for Broony he could have been player of the year.
88. Eboue KOUASSI – It’s high time we started seeing more of this fella. Looks good when he has played, but is still young. I hope he gets a chance soon or he could find himself in need of a loan spell to get more game time.
9. Leigh GRIFFITHS – I was the first one to criticise the club when we signed him, but have happily been eating my words ever since. A key part of our strike force.
10. Moussa DEMBELE – A regular on the rumour mill for two seasons now. It’s almost like it was written into his contract. Rediscovered his first seasons form as this most recent season progressed. He’ll most likely still be here next season as well which is good news. It will take the right club and right money for both parties to separate.
So what does Brendan need to do this summer? Well the numbers are reducing already and still continuing, but what about recruitment?
That all depends on further movements. Brendan just needs to figure out his defensive setup.
It remains an issue for him. Particularly in European competition.
When the qualifiers start he’ll be turning to Ajer, Compper, Hendry, Ralston, Simunovic and Tierney at the back with Boyata, Gamboa and Lustig away at the World Cup. Will he be looking to cash in any of those guys now to secure someone new?
Whichever players Brendan doesn’t rate or want should go now for whatever cash we can bring in or free up. The same goes for central midfield.
Allan, Christie and Benyu have all been out on loan this season. Are they going to make it at the club?
We can’t get a third of our team on the park often enough as it is. Armstrong stands in the way of others and needs to decide what he wants as it could mean opportunities for guys like Christie or indeed any of the rumoured targets.
The media have mentioned John McGinn continually, but I honestly don’t think we need him. Even if Allan and Christie moved on we still wouldn’t be able to fit him into this team.
We have plenty of guys coming back from injury and through the ranks. I’d like to see more of Anthony Ralston and Mikey Johnston, the latter of which scored a solo wonder goal against England under-21’s at the Toulon Tournament last night.
We’ve already seen glimpses of Mikey since Brendan arrived and he’s already bagged his first club goal. We might see him emerge this season as he’s an exciting player.
One piece of business that is of the utmost importance is Odsonne Edouard. The Frenchman was a hit whilst on loan from PSG and a deal to sign him appears as though it may happen.
I think it showed just how much we need that rota of top quality strikers given the injuries we’ve had in that department. Playing without a striker is unthinkable so three should be the minimum.
There’s less than five weeks until the Champions League qualifying begins. Best get cracking!