Earlier this week I finished watching The Last Dance, a ten part documentary on Netflix. It centred around the successful Chicago Bulls NBA team of the 90’s that coveted great success.
Not only was this a brilliant sports documentary, it also featured an amazing team including Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and head coach Phil Jackson – all NBA Hall of Famers. It was a real insight into the game and the many layers that go into running a sports team and the politics within the business.
As the title suggests, it focuses on the final season of this great team, but also detailing the years before, that brought them to this “last dance”, as it was titled by coach Jackson. Whilst successful, this team also had its moments of drama, failure and disruption.
Upon their second three-peat, head coach, Phil Jackson and the majority of their stars were either traded or not re-signed after winning their sixth championship. It was the end of an era that even I, not a basketball fan at all, but followed Channel 4’s coverage of the Bulls in the 90’s, was disappointed to see come to an end.
Jordan iterated that had he and others been asked to go one more season they would have done it. The general manager of that time had other ideas though and was a divisive figure in a successful team.
That was the end of the journey for Chicago’s success. After two decades, similar feats have yet to be seen.
When Martin O’Neill’s team of the early 2000’s broke up it, began with our very own Jordan – Henrik Larsson. In Martin’s final season, others team members would soon follow as Gordon Strachan began to mould his own team.
Initially, it was not a smooth transition as the club moved on a large proportion of O’Neills well salaried squad. Eventually, success would soon follow in Strachan’s first season though.
Previous transitions at Celtic coupled with the story of the Bulls, got me thinking about this current record breaking Celtic squad. For many, next season could be their last dance.
With the 2019/2020 season officially over, Celtic declared Champions, though the Scottish Cup yet to be decided, Neil Lennon is planning for the future. Now in his second spell as manager, he has already made it known that he wants to keep THIS squad together for the march towards 10IAR.
Some of the current team are at the end of their loan deals from English Premier League clubs and some Celtic owned players are out of contract too. There are also players entering the final year of their contracts with the 9IAR champions.
Rather than make wholesale changes now, particularly in the middle of a global pandemic, the focus is about keeping momentum and togetherness. It is therefore likely that Celtic will do their utmost to retain the shape of this squad.
Lennon has already made it known to the media that the club will speak to the representatives of Jonny Hayes and Craig Gordon about extending their stay. He has also stated his wish to retain the services of Fraser Forster and Mohamed Elyounoussi, though in the current financial climate that may only be further loan deals.
Personally, I think the club should push the boat out for Forster. He loves Celtic, knows the team and has years left in the game.
Celtic do have a ceiling on wages and that won’t be broken, but there doesn’t appear to be a future for Forster in Southampton. Unless another club valued his services like we do there is only one sensible choice for The Wall and it is a marriage made in Paradise.
If Celtic only sign one player this summer I would want it to be Fraser. At the same time, I don’t want to see anyone leave.
I can understand the insistence on retaining this group when in the hunt for more glory. 10IAR would break all current records, but I also expect to see this group break up in the summer of 2021.
I think that is inevitable. Some will stay for sure and possibly even finish their career at Celtic, but this squad will evolve into the next generation soon enough.
The Last Dance was a documentary about the success and ending of a great team. It will be the end of an era in some respects for Celtic next season, but I’ve come to recognise that we also have a bright future.
A future which appears to have been ta blueprint beginning last summer. How we evolve from this era to the next is already underway.
We have some really good young players both in the squad and on the periphery of the first team. This emerging talent, some of which are already seeing their contracts extended, will form, in part, the next generation at Celtic.
We continue to source equally good young potential out with the club to compliment and strengthen what we already have. This approach gives me great hope for the future.
In a market which we cannot compete financially, our alternative approach of procuring and eventually moving on has worked well. It is a market we play well and allows us to grow and succeed both at home and in Europe.
This is how we can continue to build upon our success and work within our means. At the core of every young generation you must also have experience though.
Whether that means generating our own leaders or drafting them in is dependent on retention of what we already have. Scott Brown has been at the club for thirteen seasons and this is set to be his last.
He has been a fabulous character and leader. Is Callum McGregor the man to take over?
Who knows? That will depend on his own intentions next summer.
Beyond next season I would still expect to have Neil Lennon at the helm. His return as a much more mature leader, coupled with Celtic’s focus on upgrading training behind the scenes has been greatly beneficial to first team success.
We will see some changes and introductions this coming season amidst our current record breakers for sure. When we finally embark upon this next journey, it will be the last dance for some, but there is an equally bright future beyond.