What goes around comes around. Having ransacked their
Scottish neighbours for the very best of talent since the days when men
swallowed wine on the terraces, it is difficult to feel any sympathy when one
of the leading Glasgow clubs laments the loss of a promising talent to the
English Premier League. Celtic's manager Neil Lennon has discovered the harsh
fact of life that in professional football, loyalty is an easily purchased commodity.
The case of Islam Feruz is certainly a curious one. Celtic
halted Feruz and his family from being deported back to Somalia several years
ago, primarily because of what he could offer the club in the future as a player of some promise.
Having been responsible for his development from 10 until
the age of 16 - a period in time in which the forward Feruz has been branded
the 'Scottish Wayne Rooney' after outings with club and country - Celtic are understandably unhappy about the player's decision to
walk out on them for Chelsea.
Ferez has apparently signed a pre-contract agreement with Chelsea
worth £2,500 a week to the teenager, prompting Lennon to blame the player's
attitude and agents as the main reason behind the decision to defect.
"I'd say it was round about March, April time when we
first became aware of a problem with him. His attitude changed dramatically and
his attitude towards the club changed dramatically," commented Lennon.
"Yet the club has been so good to him. We've looked after him and his
family very well but his head's been turned, obviously."
All's fair in love and war. Supporters of less fashionable
Scottish clubs will have little sympathy for Lennon's lament. Despite several of
them benefitting from the income that Rangers and Celtic offer for the good of
their club's financial health, many only see such conduct as a form of
asset-stripping that has contributed to such a lopsided league in Scotland.
Hibernian reached the League Cup final in 2004 and snagged the trophy three years later with a squad that contained youngsters who all
headed for Rangers and Celtic.
Scott Brown, Gary Caldwell, Derek Riordan, Kevin Thomson and
Steven Whittaker are examples of players who have snagged juicier salaries by
being smuggled out of Hibernian with their best years still to come.
In the recent Old Firm game, Brown, Whittaker, Mark Wilson
(Dundee United) and Steven Naismith (Kilmarnock) are just a smattering of players who have
weakened other SPL clubs by departing for the leading Glasgow clubs, even if
they would have probably wound up in England had Scotland's main protagonists not
been sniffing them out.
Lennon has been here before as a player. I remember asking
him about the attributes of Liam Miller before Celtic faced Bayern Munich in a
Champions League tie at Celtic Park in 2003. Lennon extolled Miller's qualities
having witnessed him score in a 2-0 win over Lyon and a 3-1 success over Anderlecht
a few weeks earlier in which the young Irishman was a buzz bomb, scoring a goal
while subjecting a young Vincent Kompany to a tortuous evening.
The Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson shared
Lennon's view on Miller (pictured above challenging Frank Lampard in a rare
outing for United). Ferguson was at Celtic Park to study the suitability of
Kompany, but wound up luxuriating in Miller's wares.
United's interest was sufficient enough to deflect Miller from his
intention to commit to Celtic. Before his first noteworthy season was finished with
Celtic in Scotland, he had signed for United on a pre-contract agreement.
Celtic manager Martin O'Neill offered Miller considerable
riches which he refused. Like Feruz, Celtic had looked after the player, also
during a period of injury, and were left bitterly disappointed by his
Class will out in the end. While Kompany was playing in a Champions League match for Manchester City against Bayern Munich on Tuesday,
Miller - still only 30 - can be found in the less starry climes of the
Australian professional league with Perth Glory.
Having made only nine appearances for Manchester United,
Miller became something of a nomad as spells at Leeds United, Sunderland,
Queen's Park Rangers and Hibernian failed to bring any period of
Lennon should dispense with the belief that Celtic are
innocent victims in such circumstances having cut players adrift at will, some outstanding servants too,
when it suited them. The treatment of Dianbobe Balde in recent times continues
to baffle many supporters. The Feruz malarkey is symptomatic of the way
football works these days, like it or loathe it. Lennon should wish the boy
well and concentrate on the players who want to be around him in Glasgow.
He should also console himself with the fact that at only
16, Feruz, no matter how strong and willing he might be, is likelier to follow
Miller's professional trajectory than that of Wayne Rooney.