Football fans across the country know that the transfer window is open season for lazy red top journalists, but this year Celtic have given these journos an even easier time of it than usual. The generic, “Celts swoop for (insert a randomly overpaid and disinterested English Premiership player of your choice)” headlines have of course been present as you’d expect. However, this year they’ve been coupled with an equally mundane and utterly frivolous genre of headline.
The summer of 2011 seems to be the season of “Hoops run the rule over (insert your own bizarre trialist who we won’t sign)”. Despite being in desperate need of a seasoned goalkeeper, attacking midfielder who goes beyond the play, and a prolific goalscorer, none of the above have been identified. The fans are left in the dark with the meaningless charade of pulling in players, who I can only assume have came from touting agents, for a few days training at Lennoxtown.
To name but a few, the Parkhead faithful have had their hopes dashed by trial spells from Cameroon striker Mo Idrissou, Katlego Mphela, Milos Lacny and Stipe Pletikosa. The question you must ask is why Lennon feels the need to take a player on trial in the first place. Does he have no faith in the findings of the scouting system? Or worse yet, is there no scouting system in place at all?
As mentioned above, the recent trialists in particular smack to me of agents touting for business as our naïve manager takes the bait in the hope of striking it lucky with at least one. This is a dangerous game to play. Celtic can’t hand any more power to devious agents, and continue to allow an air of uncertainty in the transfer market creep into an already shakily pegged Neil Lennon’s management tenure.
In a bizarre way I can identify with Stijn Stijnen, the Belgian goalkeeper who rejected the chance to go to Celtic on trial. Why should an experience goalkeeper with an aptitude for playing in big games have to endure a patronising week of training at Lennoxtown? If Celtic are interested, then sign him; if not, then let him go.
Sadly this saga doesn’t stop at trials. The capture of Fraser Forster on loan, and this never-ending pursuit of peripheral English Premier League players on loan is tiresome and impertinent to the cause. Put simply, Celtic have failed to identify a decent goalkeeper since Arthur Boruc parted ways with the club. Last season, on the recommendation of Lennon’s old pals Paul Lambert and Alan Thompson, we took
Forster on loan. Now, 12 months on, we’re no nearer finding a replacement, and have papered over the cracks by re-signing Newcastle’s third choice keeper on another year long deal. Next year we’ll have the same issue again. Why not address it now rather than next season? The same can be said of the EPL players we’re constantly linked with. Supposing Celtic signed Bellamy on loan again, what have you solved? In a year’s time you’ll be short of a striker, and will have blown a huge hole in the wage budget, without any transfer fee coming in for the player to soften the blow.
Celtic’s transfer policy must follow that of all other ‘big’ European clubs in ‘small’ leagues. Ditch this mindless pursuit of big names, ditch the loan deals, and ditch the trialist nonsense. Establish a decent scouting system to coincide with our formidable youth system. The likes of Kayal, Izaguire and Hooper are perfect examples of how the club should operate. Bring in under 25-year olds with talent and fire in their belly, get 2,3 or 4 seasons out of them, and sell them on for a considerable profit before reinvesting this in more players of the same ilk.
Perhaps this outlook could be viewed by some as pessimistic, but Celtic can’t compete financially, but can trade on the reputable name of the club. Celtic must operate the same way as Ajax, Sporting Lisbon, Anderlecht, Brondby, Rosenborg, and about a million other big teams who play in smaller leagues with crippling financial constraints. If this lesson isn’t learned soon, Celtic could find themselves with further humiliations in Europe, and in the unenviable position of having lost 4 SPL titles on the spin, to a lackluster, threadbare, and ultimately skint Rangers side.
Take heed, and send in the scouts.