Time for the board to repay the Celtic fans unwavering support
Despite criticism of the board and the appointment of Neil Lennon at the end of last season, Celtic fans have kept the faith and shown unwavering support by snapping up more than 52,000 season tickets in record time.
That will have given the treble treble Scottish champions a nice tidy boost in revenue ahead of the summer transfer window opening and with Celtic fans now looking for Neil Lennon and the team to equal Jock Stein’s nine-in-a-row record, it is now time that the board repay the fans for their support and provide the funds to strengthen the team and help secure a place in the history books.
A repeat of last season’s debacle must not happen again and despite a dossier being leaked earlier on this week, it is now apparent there has been a much-needed change of approach when it comes to player recruitment after the departure of the inept pal of Brendan Rodgers, Lee Congerton.
With a record sales revenue of over £100 million, the huge uptake in season tickets will once again provide Celtic with a financial might that is second to none in Scottish football - and the board must now turn that financial might on the balance sheets into might on the football pitch with a number of significant signings to bolster Neil Lennon’s side.
Where to strengthen, who to sign and who to sell?
Lennon will have already earmarked the areas of the park where he needs to strengthen and now it is time for Peter Lawwell to earn that hefty wage and bonus.
Having spent £9 million on Odsonne Edouard last season and having bids of around £5 million for Timothy Castagne and a further £5 million spent on Edson Alvarez - it is evident that Celtic were willing to splash the cash on a new right back, a position which needs filled with the impending departure of Mikael Lustig.
Kilmarnock’s Stephen O’Donnell has been linked with a move back to Celtic and with a fee of around £1 million reportedly on the table - he would be a great acquisition to the squad - although his signing wouldn’t get the fans out in their droves to celebrate.
George Baldock is another on Celtic’s radar after the right back helped Sheffield United secure promotion to the English Premier League after finishing second in the Championship. With one year left on his contract, another nominal fee could see the Englishman move north of the border.
Both O’Donnell and Baldock will certainly do a turn for Celtic domestically, but they will need to produce the goods in Europe and in that respect both of them are unknown quantities.
The return of Leigh Griffiths to training is just like a new £6 million striker signing for the club. While it would be great to see Celtic sign another proven goalscorer to join the likes of Edouard and Griffiths in Celtic’s attack, Lennon and Celtic should keep the faith with Bayo - who suffered a season ending injury at the start of the year. If he fails to make an impact in the first half of the season then come January, Celtic should then make moves for a new striker.
As I mentioned in an earlier article, Livingston keeper Liam Kelly has activated a transfer release clause in his contract and Celtic must do everything they can to snap up the shot stopper. He has already proven in his two seasons at Livingston, that he is a good keeper and aged just 23 he has still got a lot to learn, but can push current number one Scott Bain for the jersey. Celtic will have to be quick though as a number of English clubs are reportedly in for him.
And with Craig Gordon reportedly looking to leave Celtic after playing second fiddle to Bain for the second half of last season, then it is imperative that Celtic add to their goalkeeping options.
Could Filip Benkovic return to Celtic for another season-long loan deal? It would be a smart move for both Leicester and Celtic to have the Croatian defender return. He already has experience of playing for Celtic domestically and in Europe - and despite our opinions on Rodgers and the manner of his departure, he knows himself that Benkovic could develop his game further in Scottish Football as Virgil van Dijk did.
Kieran Tierney’s injury last season has put the frighteners on Celtic fans, as we had to rely on playing Jonny Hayes out of position and while he deputised well in games - Hayes is not a left back and Celtic need someone to not only push Tierney at the left back position but also to give us strength in depth. Tierney has played a ridiculous amount of games over the past few seasons and a strong back-up full back would come in handy when Tierney needs a rest.
Ukrainian Maryan Shved arrived at the tale end of last season after the end of his loan spell with Karpaty Lviv. Already many Celtic fans are excited by the prospect of him playing in the hoops and while he will probably need time to adapt to Scottish Football, a full pre-season under his belt could be hugely beneficial for the winger.
With the likes of Scott Sinclair, Mikey Johnstone, James Forrest, Maryan Shved and even youngsters Armstrong Oko Flex and Karamoko Dembele - Celtic have a wealth of talent on the wings and it will be exciting times to see all six play for Celtic next season.
What to do what to do? Porto are reportedly back in for Olivier Ntcham again with Marseille keeping an eye on the player also. Celtic’s transfer policy has always been to work within their means and to break even - as far back as the Gordon Strachan days at the club. So with Celtic looking to strengthen in some key areas, Ntcham could be heading out of the club - despite signing a new deal in November. Although it all depends on the offer that Celtic receive, but they will be looking to secure a sizeable return on their £4 million purchase from Manchester City two seasons ago.
Having fell out of favour with Brendan Rodgers last season and being used mostly as a substitute under successor Neil Lennon, Ntcham could very well be seen as surplus to requirements and his transfer fee could prove handy to Lennon as he bolsters other areas of the park.
But if Ntcham does depart Celtic Park, then a replacement must be found, despite the emergence of Ewan Henderson who needs another season under his belt before he is even considered a regular first team player.
There could very well be some weird and wonderful transfer stories emanating from the media over the next few weeks, but for Celtic fans they are now looking at the board to get down to business and help secure nine-in-a-row and then when that happens, they can look towards an historic 10!
In the words of Still Game’s Victor McDade, Money talks, bullshit walks. Over to you Mr Lawwell.