Okay, so I’m no fan of transfer deadline day – the whole thing has become another Sky Sports gimmick centred around Jim White and his yellow tie, frantically reporting on the news that one average Premier League footballer may be moving to another average Premier League club according to “Sky Sources”.
This year, however, I did take a keen interest. Not to the Sky Sports feed per se, but the actual news of the day at Cetic Park – constantly checking for updates. Early on in the evening it became clear that our business was done for the window as various media outlets reported Celtic were shutting up shop for the day.
For years now I have been crying out for us to do our business early; to bed new players in at the soonest possibility; to give ourselves the best chance we could of qualifying for the Champions League; our Holy Grail.
This summer there were a number of key goals set on our to do list: bring in a manager to energise the club and excite the fans; to allow the new manager to structure his own backroom staff, to be in control of all footballing matters; to provide said manager with funds to bring in his own players; to qualify for the Champions League. All these boxes have a large tick next to them.
Yet why the sense of deadline day dissapointment this year?
In Moussa Dembele, Kolo Toure, and Scott Sinclair I’m delighted with our transfer activity. Dorus de Vries and Cristian Gamboa are unknown quantities to me but I look forward to seeing them in the Hoops – Brendan’s done alright with his recruitment until now after all.
The issue I have, the feeling of dissapointment that I can’t shake, simply comes down to the fact that Brendan Rodgers knows we needed another player (possibly two). We came so close to the perfect summer, and while still a very good one, we fell just short of excellence – after previous summers I know it’s crazy to be anything close to dissapointed this year, and in a few days, on reflection at just how far we’ve improved over the past few months, there will be no despondency.
The issue at the moment, of course, is central midfield. Having improved every other area of our squad over the summer we enter our first Champions League campaign in three years with the middle of the park being probably the weakest area in our team. This is where games are won and lost at the highest level.
The away tie against Hapoel Be’er Sheva confirmed beyond all doubt that we needed some real quality in the centre of the pitch. A calm, composed figure who can maintain possession in pressurised situations; that, or a true defensive ball winning midfielder, the kind of player we haven’t had since Victor Wanyama left for Southampton. (Ideally we would sign both).
Brendan Rodgers knew we needed this – he sees what’s happening on the pitch and is quick to analyse sitautions. While Brendan took a huge risk in Israel by leaving Saidy Janko on the park much to every fans dismay, he has since signed a new right back and allowed Janko to leave on loan. Efe Ambrose was given an early chance against part-time Lincoln Red Imps, he failed, and he hasn’t been seen again since.
For Celtic fans the delight of qualifying for the Champions League was shortly followed by the exciting prospect that we were now going to flex some muscle and bring in a player of real European quality. We had the funds, we had the manager, we had the attraction of Europe and the glamour ties that came with it: but we didn’t act on it.
Celtic will toe the line, that “we worked hard – and couldn’t quite get anything over the line”. But we had a full week after guaranteeing an extra jackpot of approximately £30m to secure at least one central midfielder – we had all summer to line up targets in the possibility that we would qualify.
A week ago Brendan Rodgers seemed confident of improving the squad before the deadline – certain, almost.
Try as I might to quell my own conspiracy theories, I can’t help but feel our manager has been let down by the club this week. That once those European superpowers were drawn alongside Celtic we decided to stick with what we have – we weren’t going to progress through the group, and we’ve got enough to dominate domestically, why spend any more?
I’m sure I’m being daft but after recent evidence of how our business is run it’s a lingering thought I cannot rid.
It’s not all about the money – I promise. But the money was there, and plenty of it.
Transfer targets come and go, deals do break down. If the media is to be believed we targeted Andre Wisdom for most of the summer, once that deal broke down we moved our attention to Gamboa. Rodgers allegedly was looking to bring in former goalkeeper Michel Vorm, Spurs wouldn’t sell, so we moved on to de Vries.
I do believe that the club will have been working on trying to secure targets over the past week. They must have been. But if these deals hit barriers why was there not a bigger target pool for an area of the pitch we so clearly needed to strengthen?
I never want us to make signings for the sake of making a signing. To appease fans. I agree with this summer’s approach. That we should only sign players that will come into the side and improve us. Perhaps we really just couldn’t get a deal over the line. I just can’t help doubting that there wasn’t a single central midfielder available who could have come in and improved our squad.
I’m over the moon with this summer as a whole, and I’m not normally one to be greedy, but at the moment a slight disappointment lingers.