Up in the air…

The transfer window is now shut thankfully! And with it, any player speculation for the remainder of the current season.

Nothing major or unexpected has occurred in January. With Eboue Kouassi the only player drafted in by Celtic, I was more pleased to see some players heading out.

Eoghan O’Connell (Walsall), Jamie McCart (Inverness), Theo Archibald (Albion Rovers), Joe Thomson (Queen of the South), Ryan Christie (Aberdeen), Aidan McIlduf (Queens Park), Kristofer Ajer (Kilmarnock) and Leonardo Fasan (Port Vale) have all gone out on loan until the end of the season. Aidan Nesbitt (Morton) has extended his loan spell, whilst Saidy Janko (Barnsley), Paul McMullan (Dunfermline) Colin McCabe (Stenhousemuir) and Jamie Lindsay (Morton) continue their season long loans.

Moving on is Irish youngster, Michael Duffy who has returned to Ireland to play for Dundalk. For those with Celtic contracts ending in the summer, it is almost certainly the end of their careers at the club as well.

Not going out on loan spells are Kris Commons, Nadir Ciftci or Efe Ambrose…or is he? Commons will leave in the summer when his contract expires and Ciftci still has two-and-a-half years left to run on his deal but he is almost certain to have that cancelled if he fails to find a suitor.

For Efe it looked as though the transfer window had slammed shut on his fingers. Apparently the deal is not yet dead though so we may be bidding farewell to him before the summer.

Even then, I’m sure the club will be sweeping up Efe’s debris long after he’s gone. He’ll be haunting people in the corridors of Celtic Park for years to come!

Slowly, but surely the squad size will be coming down because. This needed to happen, but in turn the quality needs to remain high.

With Moussa Dembele and Craig Gordon linked with Chelsea in the window, it was reassuring to hear they were both staying put. There’s nothing to say that, that might change in the summer, but for now they are both still Celtic players.

The lure of London, the Premier League, Antonio Conte’s aftershave and a lot of Sky Sports money must be hard to ignore. On planet Celtic though there is a treble at stake and dare I say it a chance to go the whole season unbeaten?

Something special is happening at Celtic right now. We’ve seen that in almost every game this season so far.

You’d be a fool not to want to be part of it if you are being given the chance. There are some who don’t feature in the long-term plans though.

For many of the squad, the season is just beginning as they earn their first minutes on the park under Rodgers. The pack will become tighter as the squad downsizes.

We’re not losing quality, just quantity. Some guys will come back and have another crack, some will remain gone forever.

The key thing here is that Rodgers has run the rule over this squad. He’s been patient, given many a chance and remained even-handed with his fitness policy.

He made it clear that Leigh Griffiths, although a talented player, isn’t doing it right in other areas to be considered his first choice striker. I get Brendan’s stance on this and we saw something similar with Ronny Deila, though it failed to obtain respect and support from some of the dressing room and supporters.

Deila imposed a similar regime of health, fitness and lifestyle but his tactics and squad selection would be his undoing. Most of the current squad endured that but it ironically has paved the way for Brendan Rodgers.

Griffiths was one of those players, Commons was another. Only one of them still has a shot at a Celtic career.

I feel for both guys having both served the club so well. It is obvious though that under modern management at a club like Celtic it is becoming a club standard to shape up or be shipped out.

Leigh has a chance and he did seem to take Deila’s advice, eventually earning his place after being out of the picture. Under Rodgers the bar has gone up again though.

Whatever Leigh isn’t doing right he needs to change. He is a fine player who has already shown what he can do on a Tunnock’s diet.

I hope he continues to work hard and demonstrates his willingness to comply. If he does he’ll be unstoppable and Rodgers will have a pleasant headache.

Right now though it seems to be Dembele all the way. Until the summer at least.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Progress, progress, progress…

Celtic haven’t reached the last sixteen of the Champions League on many occasions. Only two of Celtic’s three managers that have led the club into the group stage, have made it beyond this point in the competition.

Martin O’Neill was denied on each occasion. Ironically, he exit from the group stage in November 2001 when Celtic took on Juventus at Celtic Park.

Despite the eventual outcome, was a memorable match for the Celtic community. Not only because it was a deserved victory, but that it was revenge for being cheated in Turin.

Sadly, Rosenberg’s failure to win in Portugal meant UEFA Cup football for Celtic. This was just the beginning for the former Celtic manager though.

What O’Neill started back in 2001 was built upon by his successor. Gordon Strachan would take the club further and with what some might say less talented players.

There is no doubt that his team was cheaper. Strachan lost around fourteen of O’Neill’s players during the transition period and more were to follow.

The one key player he did retain was Neil Lennon. Not only was he key player for Strachan, but even after he left to play for Nottingham Forest, he returned to Celtic as a coach.

Now, after a forgettable period by Tony Mowbray, Lennon sits at the helm and is steering a team of his own making. The progress of O’Neill and Strachan has been unquestionably influential on Neil.

Having played for both managers in the Champions League, he knows what it is like to win and lose in these matches. Neil has taken that experience and applied it to his own crop of players.

What has been achieved this season so far is beyond the expectations of many. When Neil said “this is just the beginning” I don’t think any fan expected him to leap forward this quickly.

It’s easy to assume that this sort of progress is achievable for any manager but Lennon is still relatively new on the scene. His managerial career is only a few weeks short of three years and at that stage he began as an interim coach.

Lennon and his opponent this evening, Antonio Conte, have both lived and breathed their respective clubs. They were both dedicated captains on the park and this evening they will be ensuring there touchline role is every bit influential as their playing days.

I don’t believe Juventus will take anything for granted against Celtic tonight but they will be confident nonetheless. With Celtic playing at home though and coming through some tough matches enroute to the last sixteen, their own confidence should ensure that we are in for great match tonight.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie