Çiftçi and McGeady?

I don’t know what I am more alarmed about. That Celtic have reportedly made a bid for Nadir Çiftçi or that Aiden McGeady is rumoured to be returning to Paradise.

Firsty, lets talk about Nadir Çiftçi. On the face of things it looks like a mediocre move for Celtic.

The Turkish striker has made a name for himself at Dundee United and in Scottish football, particularly against Celtic. I’d say he is a key player for McNamara’s team but is he really up to the job at Celtic or in Europe?

Well, lets go a wee bit deeper. At 23 years old, this is a young striker playing regular football in Scotland for the last two seasons.

Prior to his arrival in Scotland Çiftçi had spells with Portsmouth, Kayserispor and NAC Breda. He has also been capped at under-17 level by the Netherlands and under-19 level by Turkey, the latter being his actual place of birth.

Ironically, he was convinced to switch allegiances to Turkey by Guus Hiddink, a Dutchman. He was Turkey manager at the time and evidently liked what he saw.

In my total ignorance before today’s blog, I thought Çiftçi was an older player but that may just be the beard! That got me thinking – does Ronny see this guy with greater potential?

Well, it still sounds like another gamble, something Celtic have done a lot with strikers these last few years. However, he does have good experience playing in Scotland which is one less risk.

Does this guy have more to offer? Are Celtic going to raise the bid?

Elsewhere, rumours have begun to circulate about Aiden McGeady. He left Celtic five years ago for a whopping fee of £9.5M.

At the time I thought this was superb business by the club. Many saw it as Celtic cashing and I had no argument about that then or now.

For me McGeady was a one trick pony who had one amazing season at the club. Despite his flare, it rarely had an end product and his place in the team was always under scrutiny.

Crossing the ball was not his thing either despite it actually being his job on matchdays. In fact, I think his best position may have been playing off the front man but I didn’t see him given that role too often.

In the back of my mind, yes it would be interesting to see him play in the Hoops again. On the other hand, has he actually improved since leaving Celtic in 2010?

As I said in a forum thread last night, if his career had blossomed since leaving would we even be talking about a potential move back to Celtic? I doubt it because he would be priced out of such a move whereas now, people think he might have to lower his demands such is his career dip.

Now after a three-and-a-half year spell in Moscow and just over a year with Everton he has apparently put in a transfer request. Given that his appearances have been limited at Everton I’d say he’s done the right thing for himself but is Celtic really on the radar or is this pure speculation?

I think McGeady will have matured in his five years since leaving Celtic. I know many would like to see him back, but there’s an equal amount (if not more) who wouldn’t.

Fancy tricks aren’t everything in this game and it doesn’t win you matches. You need to be able to deliver and that is where my frustration with McGeady lies.

Throw in the fact that coming back is rarely, if ever, a good thing and I think you have your answer. The way forward for Aiden is not the way back so perhaps this should remain a rumour.

Tomorrow Celtic take on FC Den Bosch at St Mirren Park. I’m desperate to see the Hoops play again.

I’m also looking forward to seeing some fringe players getting a chance to shine. For some players, it may be the last or close to last time we see them don the Hoops as Ronny aims to trim the squad so I’ll be tuning in for sure.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

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Celtic’s first Bosman comes home.

Earlier this week, Celtic appointed former midfielder John Collins as assistant to new manager, Ronny Delia. Collins returns to Celtic Park 18 years after he left the club for AS Monaco.

He was the first Celtic player to leave under the Bosman ruling. During his time at the club, he was a key part of a Celtic midfield which included club legend, Paul McStay.

Collins’s had an influential role for Celtic and was a key ingredient to the attack. In addition to his good all round game, he had a tremendous ability to strike free kicks with his left foot.

In his six years at the club he was a stand out performer despite not being the best years for Celtic it has to be said. Yet he stayed and he performed so it was no surprise that when he left in 1996 with only one trophy to his name that Celtic fans accepted he wanted to move on, despite feeling the loss of a quality player.

There was no doubting the calibre of Collins and he could have played in most teams in Europe. That (and possibly the fact he was free) was enough to attract the attention of Monaco in the first place.

His playing career would eventually go from the shores of southern France to the banks of the Mersey with Everton and then alongside the Thames with Fulham. Beyond the domestic scene, Collins was an important player for the Scotland international team as well.

Although an ageing international squad, it was players like Collins who could breathe life into a starting eleven. Scoring in the opening game of the World Cup at France 1998 against Brazil from the penalty spot was one of his most significant goals in his international career.

That was is 11th goal for Scotland and in total he scored 12 goals in 58 appearances. He would eventually retire from international football after being pipped to a place at Euro 2000, losing out on aggregate to England in a two match play off.

However, it was those six years of dedication to Celtic that stand out for me. Like Paul McStay, Collins was an important part of Celtic during an unbearable trophy-less period.

It was players like Collins who kept the hearts and minds of the Celtic fans going at a time when all was not well at the club. Winning the Scottish Cup in 1995 would be the only honour he would pick up at Celtic having made 223 competitive appearances and scoring scoring 48 goals.

After departing in the summer of 1996, he would go on to win the league with Monaco in his first season in France. Ten years later, having moved into coaching, he picked up his third honour winning the League Cup as manager of former club, Hibernian.

It was a short spell there with the relationship lasting only fourteen months. He endured a player dispute, received an apology from the players in return and delivered Hibs first top flight trophy since 1991.

A year after resigning from Hibs over separate dispute with the board, he spent less than a season with Belgian club Charleroi. He also had s short spell as Director of football at Livingston.

For some, these brief interactions with clubs might ring alarm bells but many like myself have only never heard positive things about Collins’s knowledge of football. Like the appointment of Ronny Deila, the vibe regarding Collins’s return to Celtic is generally positive with the fans.

When working with the media, he has always expressed himself well as a football pundit. Alongside Gordon Strachan, he is one of the few Scot’s who actually comes across well and demonstrates a deeper understanding of the the game.

Of course, its making sure things happen on the field of play that counts when you are on the management team. In John Collins, I feel Ronny Delia has a good sidekick to enter the Scottish football arena with.

As we all know, the Celtic job comes with a certain degree of baggage. Collins know the club, the league, country and of course, the media (Gerry McNee take note).

Many fans are intrigued and indeed excited to see how this all plays out. Despite the World Cup keeping most of us preoccupied, its hard to ignore what’s going on at Celtic right now.

With just under four weeks until Celtic’s initial Second qualifying round of the Champions League, Deila and Collins have their work cut out for them already. Its a gruelling task they have ahead of them but one which this group of players have already been through together and a challenge that the management team are certain to embrace.

What remains to be seen is how Delia and Collins approach it. And will there be any moves and changes in the playing staff before then?

Well, one thing at a time I suppose. Until Monday’s draw then…

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

Headhunting

Where do you begin when searching for a new manager? Well avoiding past mistakes would be beneficial to begin with.

Appointments aren’t always about replacing like for like. You have to look ahead and where you are as a business or in Celtic’s case, a club and a business.

The question the board must ask themselves is “what direction is the club going in?” The football climate in which Celtic exist is one with restrictions, that we are all well aware of.

There isn’t the kind of money flowing through Scottish football like there is in other leagues in Europe. I’m not just talking about the flagship leagues mind you, they are an inner circle that requires more money than sense.

I’m referring to countries elsewhere in Europe where there are league’s that fair better with TV revenue. Some of these countries appear to have better deals with similar or smaller audiences than Scotland and yet I’m not entirely convinced that the quality is substantially better.

Despite this, Celtic Football Club is set up well to survive the financial shortfall, even if the rest of the Scottish clubs are not. The financial backbone that is in place ensures stability which in this day and age is a saving grace.

On the playing field, the league is of course bread and butter for a club like Celtic. Currently, there is no opposition to threaten Celtic’s claim season after season.

Not even the emergence of Second Rangers can be considered a threat. They don’t play in the SPFL, are not guaranteed promotion after next season or to even exist long enough to get there.

So what is the attraction for a potential suitor to the Celtic throne? Well, should an appointment come from within the Scottish game, it will be a big step up by taking the reigns of a club like Celtic.

Winning the league would be a huge challenge for guys like Jackie McNamara or Paul Hartley whose names have been mentioned in the past few days. Europe would be considered an even greater task but Lennon was in that boat as well and proved the doubters wrong.

It took him a couple of years to get to grips with competing in Europe but he learned. The question is will Celtic go down the same route as they did with Lennon or pick someone with more experience?

Henrik Larsson has been talked about heavily, even before the departure of Lennon. As a club legend it is not surprising to hear his name every now and again.

Many fans would love be to see the return of the king and Larsson himself has hinted at a return some day. He has been busy coaching in his home country of Sweden for five years now and looks set to continue that unless matters change.

For some, it isn’t Henrik’s time and feel if he had to come now it might tarnish his legendary status. For me though it would be the board’s desire to capitalise on Larsson’s marketing value that is of concern.

PR stunts are not beyond Celtic and if Larsson’s attraction was purely a financial one I disapprove. Robbie Keane was drafted in at a time when Mowbray’s efforts to make Celtic success flopped.

Keane’s appearance in a Celtic shirt must have sold dozens of jerseys and put bums back on seats. In reality, getting rid of Mowbray was the best thing the club did that season, the worst being his appointment.

If the club are looking at managers from outside of Scotland then you are looking at someone who may have handled a larger spending budget or worked in a tougher league but probably not managed a big club. There are a number of candidates out of work right now and when a club with the stature of Celtic are headhunting, interest is most definitely going to be high.

For example, David Moyes, ex-Celt and long-term guardian of Everton, recently sacked by Manchester United. He might be out of Celtic’s league financially and not everyone’s cup of tea, but on the other hand Celtic could a be the perfect opportunity for him to rebuild his reputation.

After just ten months at Manchester United he could be considered tainted goods, but he didn’t get that job by chance. He earned the opportunity through hard work obtaining his coaching badges whilst still a young player and earning plaudits from his fellow professionals as he climbed the managerial ladder.

Promotion to the second tier of English football with Preston (and very nearly the Premier League) brought him to the attention of Everton. He maintained Everton’s status in the top half of the Premier League in all but two of his eleven years at the helm.

He brought some brilliant talent to Everton, though the money was there to do so. What goes against him is that he never won a trophy or made an impact in Europe despite getting some very respectable league positions and making a domestic final.

Also in the managerial wilderness right now is another former Celtic centre half, Malky Mackay. Disposed of by Cardiff in December, he is certain to be looking to get back into the game as soon as possible.

He first stepped into the management hot seat as caretaker at Watford. That role would become his own but only after Brendan Rodgers had failed to deliver first.

Cardiff then came calling for Malky and it was there that he made a name for himself. He made the play-off’s and the League Cup Final but would eventually see defeat in both challenges.

The following season he won the Championship title and earned automatic promotion to the Premier League but soon after a rift would materialise between the himself and the owner. There is no doubt that the souring of that relationship diluted Cardiff’s chances of staying up and that was ultimately the end of the road for Malky and Cardiff.

Would he be a good choice for Celtic? I think so, but the main question is, is he the kind of coach the club are interested in or could even persuade to come north of the border?

Paul Lambert, another former Celt, currently plying his trade in management at Aston Villa could be looking for a move. New ownership is on the cards at Villa and when that happens you tend to find that your face no longer fits.

At this stage new owner’s have not been acquired but Lambert may take this opportunity to move if he feels his role is under threat. He stepped away from relative safety with Norwich to take the job at Villa but it is a big ask to get success at that club these days.

Staying up isn’t generally a concern for Villa, its progressing that is the challenge. Lambert may well continue his career at there, but if Celtic do come calling and money was not a huge concern for either party, I think Lambert would find it hard to refuse.

Also on that list of rumoured candidates is Steve Clarke. He has carved out a very respectable career as an assistant manager for a Newcastle United, Chelsea, West Ham United and Liverpool.

Clarke has also worked under some big names in management. Ruud Guillit, José Mourinho, Avram Grant, Gianfranco Zola and Kenny Dalglish have all utilised his services over the years but he would eventually venture out on his own.

That came in the form of Head Coach at West Bromwich Albion. His first season there was a huge success finishing eighth in the league.

Sadly for Clarke, that success would not be mirrored the following season and he was axed before Christmas. Whether he returns to management or not only time will tell but the one fact that is unquestionable is his ability as a firsf teamm coach.

Then there is Owen Coyle, a man formerly linked with the job at Celtic. On that occasion he was said to have been offered the role before Tony Mowbray but turned it down.

His managerial career was on the up with Burnley and he chose to stay in England. It could have been a good appointment for Celtic at the time but my feelings on that have changed.

As much as I understood his decision to make a name for himself in England, his career is in a different place altogether now. After gaining promotion to the Premier League with Burnley he jumped ship mid season to former employers Bolton who he had once played for.

Burnley were relegated that season and many felt Coyle had turned his back on them and I am inclined to agree. Although he had managed to keep Bolton in the Premier League for two seasons, he would eventually find himself back in the Championship.

Results didn’t go well down there and he was out of work only a few months into the new season. The following year he took the reigns at Wigan but once again he found himself out of work just six months into the job.

Celtic may have decided that with a poor run in the game in the last couple of years he is not the man for the job anymore. He was once, but for many Celtic fans he missed his chance and his value has plummeted.

A left field entry on the list is Oscar Garcia. He took Brighton and Hove Albion to the play-off’s this year but was unsuccessful in the end.

The Championship is a competitive league and he did well to get Brighton into the play-off position. The fact that he chose to resign after such a short spell is surprising given that he did well with relatively limited experience.

He may be looking for a bigger club and Celtic are certainly that. Whether he could cut the mustard in Scotland I do not know but I do question his staying power given that he has left his two most recent jobs after only one season in charge.

Also in that play-off battle is Steve McLaren. Having made the final and losing to a late goal might he be looking to move on?

Love him or hate him he has bags of experience. He hasn’t made any signs of leaving Derby but he remains a possibility and given his coaching credentials oversess and at international level he is not to be sniffed at.

Lastly, there is Roy Keane, another ex-Celt whose name has been mentioned. His recruitment as a player, whilst totally unnecessary, was amother PR stunt that Celtic just couldn’t refuse.

Sunderland was his first venture into management where he won promotion to the Premier League in his first season. He kept Sunderland up during his second season but the season that followed saw a poor start and Keane eventually resigned.

With a character like Keane’s there was the usual controversy. Never afraid to speak his mind, his management style didn’t go down well with players and officials during his time there but that’s Roy Keane I guess.

Ipswich Town would be Roy’s second crack at management. It failed to develop into anything successful for him or the club during an eighteen month period and having falling down the league he was sacked.

He returned to coaching last year taking up the assistant managers role under Martin O’Neill for the Republic of Ireland’s national team. Although still a relationship in its infancy, it hasn’t prevented Keane’s name being mentioned with the Celtic job.

His opinions and temperament don’t always win him votes with people. Roy is never afraid to speak his mind though but whether Dermot Desmond sees Keane as the kind of character he wants to coach the team, the Kaiser will have the final say.

What Celtic require is someone who will stick around for a few years and make some progress. The league is almost certainly assured given the gap between Celtic and the rest of the SPFL clubs.

Whoever takes over will have to emulate that domination in the league. A more successful run in the cups would also be desirable.

Then there is Europe and with it the income that Celtic require. European nights at Celtic are what we as fans all crave and without those evenings the domestic season would be very dull.

Being involved in the Champions League group phase is essential. Qualifying from that stage and reaching the last sixteen is a target that can only be surpassed by repeating the journey year after year.

Only two Celtic managers have ever made the knockout phase in the current format of the tournament. The board may not expect that next season given the change in personnel, but surely progression in Europe is the objective that makes this all worth while?

On the other hand, Celtic may be looking overseas for someone who can tweak those European fortunes. Though it’s unlikely that the club will be able to obtain the services of a coach with an admirable CV without breaking the bank.

Celtic may play in Europe but as I have said before, there are limitations to what you can and can’t do and that includes attracting the right people and being able to pay the right money. Whoever the club appoint, it will clarify their ambitions and intentions.

They must move swiftly though. The World Cup begins soon and with it an opportunity to scout talent.

Ideally it would be best to appoint someone before then and get them preparing for the Champions League qualifier’s in July. In the past the club have been slow to elect a manager so I hope that they are actively seeking one now.

Peter Lawwell stated that the club haven’t begun their search. Personally, I find that hard to believe, this isn’t the public sector after all.

Lennon said leaving wasn’t a knee-jerk decision. I’m sure the board may have either been expecting it, or helping him wind things down.

The new manager will need the backing of the support and not just the board. It would be advisable to give him every chance to succeed by getting him on board now.

So let’s hope the club don’t waste too much time and make an announcement soon.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

Well, well, well

Wouldn’t you know it? No sooner has David Moyes sworn in at Man United than Neil Lennon is top of the list to replace him at Everton.

Now I don’t know about you but I can’t see this post being of interest to Lennon. Not at this point in his career anyway.

Everton are a good club but they’ve achieved little in modern times. Sure, they’ve remained stable in a highly competitive league but for a decade Moyes has been the glue that’s held Everton them in that position.

Tight budgets are the norm for Everton these days. While this may be something that Lennon also has experience of, he is used to playing Europe now.

Perhaps this kind of role could lure Lennon in a few years time. In reality though, Lennon has much left to do at Celtic and he still is young so the opportunities are there for him in the future.

League titles, domestic trophies and Champions League are all a reality at Celtic Park. At Everton its about Premier League survival.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

End of an era

When a giant figure leaves the scene forever, a new era is born. Now that Sir Alex Ferguson has announced his retirement, that time is now.

The news of his departure has engulfed the world of sport since the media broke the story. Ferguson did of course mention retirement around a decade ago, but nothing ever transpired until now.

At the ripe old age of 71, Ferguson is a legend of the game. His length of service and influence at Manchester United has gained respect around the football world and beyond.

In terms of the best managers in the world, particularly in Scotland and England, he is up there with the best. Many debate who is/was the best but at the end of the day it is a personal choice.

Firstly you have to have managed one of the few clubs who possess a certain bond with their fans and that club must also have a kind of ‘romance’ about it. Most of all though, you have to have made your mark in the world of football and taken the best prize of all – the European Cup.

Ferguson has done this and follows in the footsteps of those who he admired most in the game. They don’t make mangers like this any more, we live in a different age, particularly in the UK.

Money dominates the game these days and the game is now a business. The modern day supporter is a shadow of those who crammed into the terraces of yesteryear.

Galla signings, advertising, merchandise, TV rights and coverage are now staple in the game. Ferguson has witnessed these changes in his decades within football.

His legacy is that even in the modern day he taught a fair few opponents a lesson. More importantly he has gained their respect and influenced their own careers.

The gap that Ferguson leaves is not only going to be a hard hole to fill at Old Trafford. The experience he retires with leaves chasm in the game.

Its been said that David Moyes is Ferguson’s imminent replacement at Manchester United. There is no doubt that the former Celtic player and Preston manager is a respected figure in the Premier League, but is he the choice every United fan wants?

Moyes has been in charge at Everton for eleven years. He arrived at the end of the 2001-2002 season and finished 15th in the league.

In the four seasons that followed he would alternate between a top half and bottom half of the Premier League. For the next six season he would keep Everton in the top half of the table and in the current season he is set to do the same.

He has survived in the Premier League all this time on a tight budget which is to be admired. His experience of survival is perhaps sometimes overlooked due to fact he has won nothing with Everton.

If his appointment does eventually transpire as it is expected to today, many will see this as a ‘safe’ appointment. People will also call into question what that will bring to a club like Manchester United whose fans expect success at home and abroad.

When you thrust money into the hands of a good coach, which Moyes quite clearly is, you begin to wonder what the result might be. Good or bad this is an appointment that may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

Although Moyes has been the front runner in the media for this vacancy, Jose Mourinho has been on the lips of many. The only reservation I would think that United have about Mourinho would be that it wouldn’t be about the club, but about himself.

That does not fit in with a club like United. It is a fans club and community but he remains an admirer of Ferguson and United.

Mourinho has always had money to spend. At United, he would be unlikely to get the financial freedom he is used to.

Moyes’ stability in the Premier League stands him in good stead. Any money he does get at United, will be more than he has been used to at Everton.

If he is indeed the man who is announced later today as the new United manager, then he obviously has the approval of Ferguson. Nobody in the UK knows the game more than he.

It’s fair to say he has lived and breathed the game, battled with the best and worn his heart on his sleeve. Having never been a United supporter, I have grown to respect Ferguson as a football man.

If he passes the torch of success to Moyes without the sort of sticky start that he had when he came to Manchester United, it will be a good beginning. The rest though…has yet to be written.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie