Celtic's continuing virility in purchasing
several shiny new faces has seen their money go far in Mexico, Israel, South
Korea and Sweden, but this remains something akin to a summer of discontent for
the Glasgow club. Despite their heritage, it feels like some professionals,
particularly a selection of headier names from England, would rather sign on,
than sign up.
The noughties have gone, but Celtic and, in
spells, Rangers, in the moments when they have escaped the financial
straitjacket of a £30m debt, continue to meet roadblocks in their longing to
upturn niceties. In times of general
discomfort for football's financial health, this close season has been littered
with several blooming failures in a fairly punch-drunk Scottish Premier
League's ongoing pursuit of a fabled face or two.
Celtic's most notable signings in a run of
eight, include the Mexican midfielder Efrain Juarez (pictured) and the roaming Joe Ledley
from Cardiff City. Rangers have added winger Vladimir Weiss on loan from
Manchester City, James Beattie of Stoke City and Rapid Vienna's striker Nikica
Jelavic to subsidise a shrinking squad. Hopes of growth have been stunted
Craig Bellamy, David James, Sol Campbell
and Jimmy Bullard, of those that we know of, all glanced at what was on offer
from Celtic before deciding they would rather get their fill of football at
other outposts. Bellamy is the only
player out of such a motley collection whom the Celtic support would thank you
for, but all of this carry on has left the club's manager Neil Lennon sporting
a hangdog look.
"I think we get a raw deal in how we
are portrayed in England," said Lennon. "People talk quite negatively
about the Scottish game."
Rangers encountered a similar scenario when
the eagle landed at Ibrox, then flew off. Chris Eagles, the Burnley
winger, was given the big
sell at Ibrox before deciding to opt out. What a palaver.
Even if old Sandy Jardine had spent the day
reminiscing about pre-season training under Jock Wallace on "Murder Hill"
at Gullane in the 1970s, the move would not have foundered. The transfer hit
the buffers over the player's personal terms. "Maybe they would argue they can't pay their mortgages with
medals, but I would counter by arguing you can't show your mortgage to your grandkids," said a frazzled Rangers assistant manager Ally
Celtic's longing to frost themselves with a
"marquee signing" apparently saw Bullard visit a marquee tent at the
Scottish Open golf tournament last month to ponder the proposal over Tiffin and
The slippery Bullard agreed a season's loan
move, but then added a startling caveat: Bullard would require his prospective
employers to unload an extra £30,000 to the £45,000 he was picking up from Hull
City. Yet Celtic were not signing Jimmy Choo.
In times when the combined net debt of the
Scottish Premier League was an estimated £99m for the 2008-09 season, there is
something eerily repugnant about Bullard's antics. It is men such as him, and
the folly of salivating chairman in pursuing such damaged goods - Bullard's
suspect knee, far less his mindset, would probably not hold out over a season
in the SPL - that has impacted upon the well-being of the Scottish game.
Spend in haste, repent at leisure. Without
investing as much detail as the Magna Carta on what remains a gory old subject,
Scottish football is paying a costly price for failing to recognise the merits
of investing in home produce.
A prized name is always good to stir the
loins, but a willingness to develop a solid scouting system and rear your own
yearlings would seem to be the only natural remedy to this self-inflicted
A lack of largesse must surely be a step in
the right direction.
Rangers shredded Hibernian at Easter Road
on Sunday helped by the former Hibernian players, Kenny Miller and Steven
Whittaker. It is the sale of such players that has assisted Hibs in furnishing
themselves with a new ground and training facilities.
Celtic have benefited from the flowering of
the winger Aiden McGeady. £10m has been deposited into their account from his
departure to Spartak Moscow, which proves that a pound in your pocket remains
your best friend.
Scottish football has always been laced
with more than a touch of the eccentric, but there was widespread madness a
decade or so ago when it managed to lose the plot. It continues to struggle to
find the page it was at in the book.
If the lunatics took over the asylum, when
Dick Advocaat's Rangers were hellbent on winning the Champions League and
players such as Claudio Caniggia and Fabrizio Ravanelli were washing up in
Dundee to play, the accountants have taken it back. Rangers had not signed a
player for two years until this month. Such shenanigans do little to help the
image of the Scottish game elsewhere.
Lennon is correct in his assertion about
the London-centric view of Scotland. People tend to make disparaging comments
whenever they discuss the Scottish game, but this is not very often. The appeal
of Scotland does not register very highly in England. Its football less so.
SPL clubs should not take this to
themselves. The standard of
Scottish football player remains good enough to make an impression on the
Championship, which roughly assumes the level of the
Premier League a decade or so ago when the Old Firm could
scout for players on the BBC's Match of the Day, a method suggested by Celtic's chief executive Peter Lawwell. The Premier League is hardly an English league. It is simply a league
based in England.
The Scottish game's leading protagonists
may yet find a heaving name bestowed upon them before the end of this transfer
window, but it is hardly a reason to despair if they do not.
It is must be hoped budding figures in the
form of Weiss, Biram Kayal, Juarez and the incoming Jelavic will add zest to
the leading lights of the haggard SPL. These are hardly days of decadence, but
this enforced period of contemplative reflection may be no bad thing if some
good comes from it.