For a television show to last 50 years and retain the level of commitment, love and undying affection from its fan base it needs to be constantly evolving but retain the hallmarks of what made it good in the first place.
Yes ladies and gentlemen I am of course referring to the greatest Science Fiction show of all time – Doctor Who.
My first love was this show I am not ashamed to say and I’ve been hooked ever since. At times I’ve hid behind the sofa when things were scary or looked away in disgust at lame poorly constructed stories which made something I loved look bad or failed to meet my (and other fans’) high standards because I know just how wonderful this show can be when they get it right.
I also have to face the mockery of others when said standards produce bad episodes which are poorly thought out and woefully executed into the bargain because the BBC refused to give the production team a budget which matched the income the show generates worldwide in sales.
In that way it’s a lot like being a football fan and a Celtic fan in particular. We have our moments of pride and sheer joy at what we are watching and when the show doesn’t hit the heights of previous episodes we start to grumble and often very justifiably.
The other (not so secret) reason for the success of Doctor Who is of course regeneration. When one actor has had enough or some fans have had enough they can change it. In the 1966 story “Power of the Daleks” we saw William Hartnell change into Patrick Troughton for the first time and Troughton’s Doctor states “Life depends upon change, change and renewal” following on from Hartnell’s proclamation that this old body is “wearing a bit thin”.
I have found those words to be ones to live your life by. Changing, tweaking and playing with the formula heralds something that respects and continues traditions while at the same time they make it feel fresh and new.
It works for long running and popular films and TV shows and it works for football clubs.
Celtic are now out of European competition. It will be July before they enter Europe again (save a trip to the Nou camp) and in that time the life of the football club depends upon change, change and renewal.
What Celtic fans and neutrals alike witnessed at Celtic Park on Tuesday is a Celtic team, a coaching staff and a board whose style, approach and ability to change the menu had begun “to wear a bit thin”. Celtic under Neil Lennon in Europe have achieved most of their success playing on the break after soaking up pressure. When they are asked to make the game they have been found wanting against more streetwise sides.
If they are to progress, a serious reassessment of how we play the game needs to come along with new players as both are now essential.
Right now the debris of this latest defeat to more savvy Italian opposition hurts but the time for renewal is now. Not when the transfer window opens or the cheques have cleared or we know the date of the next qualifier – NO – the time is now for EVERYONE at Celtic to get together and come up with a strategy to move Celtic forward and make Celtic ready for the challenges which lie ahead. It is time for people to step up and come up with credible ways and methods of improving the side on three counts –
1. To continue to dominate and win things domestically
2. To alter the team in such a way that it is more entertaining and capable of attacking as well as defending at home and abroad
3. To prepare the team fully in terms of personnel and approach for the European campaign of 2014/15
The team which has served us so well has seen its time come and go and it needs major changes but as we all know major changes take time – well now Celtic have the time. It is likely in the opinion of this writer that certain players will leave Celtic either in January or in June. If there is a price that can be fetched for any come January then it would be prudent to sell and for once actually use the money to bring in sufficient quality to replace the players who want to move on for whatever reason and bed in those players in time for the first match which will take place in July of next year after a World cup has finished.
No dithering. No dallying. No more going in for player 3 million under their value and then saying we tried but they wouldn’t sell (because we wouldn’t meet the asking price). No more excuses about the SPFL. No more waffle. No more look at our former rivals – the stick used to beat people over the head when they think inadequate spending on the team has taken place. We’ve heard it all before and to be honest I think we are fed up with it.
The manager performed minor miracles last season but he had a team who came to its peak after years of building. Now the same thing must happen or the limp and weak performances we saw last night and in Amsterdam and in Karagandy and in Sweden during this campaign will become the norm.
It is not only the management and the board who should have a long hard look at themselves and their role in this season’s less than impressive run, it is also the players. Scott Brown must shoulder a great deal of the blame as should Nir Biton for ridiculous red cards leaving Celtic without a midfield to speak of. Charlie Mulgrew, Beram Kayal and latterly Joe Ledley filled in but the ease with which Milan and Ajax with a few precise passes found a huge gaping hole was noticeable.
It also didn’t help that Kayal remains unconvincing or inconsistent after his injury (and I really liked him when he burst onto the scene). Losing Adam Mathews was equally troublesome but no blame can be apportioned to an injury.
The spark in Samaras from last season disappeared, Commons has not had the effect in Europe that he had last season and there is a lack of creativity and a major lack of a goal scorer in this team who can perform at this level (and arguably at SPFL level also). The signings this season, Van Dijk aside, have failed to impress or make their mark for a variety of reasons and the inability to replace the goals of Hooper and the strength of Big Vic are the two reasons why Celtic now face a dead rubber in Barcelona. What a difference a year makes!
Now let me say I am not an accountant but I do know one thing when you bring in as much money as Celtic did last season and then they do not replace the outgoing quality with something its equal or as close to it as possible, if your ambition lies with Pukki, Balde, Boerigter, Moyukolo, Biton and some reserve keeper from Fulham then serious questions need to be asked.
The amount of money spent on these players when it could have been used on the striker and the midfielder to unlock defences baffles me. Why did we need a player whose goal scoring record is as bad as Pukki’s? Why another project up front when Tony Watt and Atajic were on the books? Why another winger and one that plays wide left and who has a history of injury when you have Samaras and Forrest and two full backs who at time play like wingers (and arguably with equal or better delivery)?
Why give a contract to a defender with a similar problem who has now been lost to us? Why Biton? Why is Rogic not in the team in front of Mulgrew in midfield? There are too many questions with no forthcoming answers.
Does that sound like a well run team to you? Does it sound like people sat down, identified positions that needed strengthening and that the choices were worthwhile?
So players, management, scouting department and board need to come together, present a vision of the way forward and then all do their jobs to ensure we get it and that the best possible chance is provided to the manager to get Celtic into the group stages again and with a better draw compete for at worst a Europa League place. I don’t think it is asking too much quite frankly otherwise is the limit of our ambition just to get there for the foreseeable future? If this is the year of transition then all fine and well but out of the rubble must come hope, aspiration and the foundations for a brighter tomorrow, otherwise what is the point?
Change brings hope with it.
My opinion is that some players will now leave. They’ll have done their stint with Celtic and by God they have done us some turns and given us some of the best nights we’ve ever had but everything comes to an end and this is the perfect time when you are on course to win the title and you have room to experiment and develop a team to some degree at least.
From the rubble we must rebuild and change shape and to do that the team needs to look at the following areas and make proper judgments and improvements.
The elusive number 10
Players with guile and craft can improve Celtic no end. Nakamura and Moravcik didn’t break the bank. The players are out there and it is time for the much lauded John Park to find this player. There has already been talk of a Chinese player who is a creative midfielder but whose name escapes me for the moment. Now while this may make some business sense unless the guy is a player I’d leave well alone– my advice would be head to Eastern Europe and you’ll find something along those lines which follows club policy, price range and meets our needs – Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Slovenia, Hungary, Ukraine have all produced some of the most technical players the game has ever seen and many of them are now EU and require no work permits but I am biased and I’m not a scout. The fans need a new hero. That is the challenge before you Celtic.
Neil Lennon was credited with finding Hooper. Bangura, Amido Balde, Pukki, Daryl Murphy and others have all come and gone and they have 7 goals between them. No one can seriously be happy with that or these acquisitions and it isn’t like money hasn’t been spent on these guys. One is gone, one is on loan and the other two have been unconvincing if that is the kindest word to use. The big Icelander may prove to be the answer. Tony Watt might come back a new man ready for action and Atajic must now be looking at what is in front of him and think – I cannot be any worse. Our much applauded youth set up needs to see players making that step into the first team of Celtic and not that of St Mirren or Ross County. Strikers coming through the ranks at Celtic were once ten a penny and I’d like them back please.
Scott brown is a given but who should stay, who should go and who should start stepping up pronto?
The midfield needs reshaping. In my opinion Joe Ledley will leave Celtic either in January or on a Bosman. He came to Celtic that way and he will probably head back to Cardiff. I love Joe Ledley but like others perhaps his time has come and gone. Kayal likewise has not managed to sustain the start he made and he would also be better moved on. The central berth is really up for grabs. Either Rogic or Biton must step in and prove themselves OR they too must find alternative arrangements.
We have enough wide players but their contribution must improve. James Forrest the player has not kicked on and showed quite clearly that he is not what the manager constantly keeps telling us he is. This kid is fast but he doesn’t make the right decisions often enough and his ability to beat a man and deliver a good cross is not there for me either. He has a lot to prove from here on in. Derk Boerigter may come good but the jury is out. He appears to be a good crosser of the ball given the right amount of space but who is he crossing to? A striker who is a good header of a ball doesn’t appear on the team sheet every week at this time – food for thought. Commons remains the most intelligent player in the team but he lacks pace to get away from other players and Samaras must play wide left or nowhere. A new tough tackling midfielder and a creative one are both priorities for me.
The defence has been the best part of the side in Europe this season Van Dijk, Ambrose, Lustig, Izzaguirre, Mulgrew and Mathews are all excellent players on their day (even if Efe is still prone to moments of madness). I have fewer concerns with this part of the team although the less said about the defending against Milan the better. The last two games illustrated very clearly that unless all these guys play to their best, there will be problems. This is something to work on from here on in but there is ability there and one small blessing in disguise may be without further European exposure the diamonds may not find themselves being mined. Sadly for all these players bar Izzy and Efe the World Cup is now over or probably over. This may work to Celtic’s advantage. It took Neil Lennon a few years to get this part of the team right. We must hope that it can stay together and that they can work on defending set pieces a damn sight better.
Which leaves the goalkeeper who I thought was less than commanding yesterday. If an offer comes in I personally would take it, play Zaluszka in the interim and have another keeper lined up. If Celtic have not already been looking at this area then they are in major neglect of duty given a lot of the chat that has gone around.
With no further distractions this is the perfect time to assess these areas, identify targets, sound out potential prices and peculiarities with deals and prepare a budget to go and get them.
Being a well run club is about more than how much is in the bank and how many sponsors you can get in China. It, like Doctor Who, is about keeping things fresh but continuing in the same manner that the audience is used to.
If you feed fans Champions League football and then it goes off the menu it doesn’t matter what the balance sheet says, it will be that time of year again when the weather changes but the question on everyone’s lips will be ticket renewal.
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