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Friday 15 December 2017

Celtic doing it the right way

I'll bet Brendan is feeling a lot more secure at Parkhead than Jurgen Klopp is at Liverpool

Celtic players celebrate one of their five goals in Wednesday night’s Champions League play-off first leg win over Astana at Celtic Park. Photo: PA
Celtic players celebrate one of their five goals in Wednesday night’s Champions League play-off first leg win over Astana at Celtic Park. Photo: PA

At this time of the year when Celtic run their annual Champions League gauntlet, it is always worthwhile to tip the hat and acknowledge a job well done.

I'm not talking about Brendan Rodgers or the players who put Astana to the sword in midweek and allowed the club to make plans for the £30m they can expect to bank from the Group phase games they now look certain to qualify for.

I'm talking about the way club runs its business.

Celtic have been a model of professionalism judged against the obvious ready reckoner Rangers provide and are doing as well as they could possibly be doing in the unique circumstances of the Old Firm and Scottish football.

In the broader context provided by the Champions League in midweek, there was a comparison to be made with Liverpool but it is a difficult one because of the chasm between the two clubs in terms of financing.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp. Photo: AP
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp. Photo: AP

Jurgen Klopp's big worry all summer has been that his employers would sell his best player Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona for well over £100m.

Liverpool can bank on £150m plus from the Premier League every season.

Brendan Rodgers, who had to deal with the same transfer committee Klopp is now beholden to and ultimately the same bitter reality that in the modern football world, Liverpool is a selling club, must make do with a small fraction of the Anfield budget at Celtic Park.

The Premier League is a world away and it is all too easy to be patronising towards plucky Celtic and pat them on the head as something of a Champions League novelty act because of this.

But in the real world, in the day-to-day work of a football club, I'll bet Rodgers is feeling much more secure in his environment than Klopp right now and enjoying the confidence you get from being the biggest fish.

I'll bet Mauricio Pochettino is having sleepless nights about Dele Alli and is, like me, struggling to square the logic Daniel Levy is applying when he values Alli at somewhere north of £150m but pays him wages an average player at most big clubs would eye with disdain

Brendan Rodgers, pictured here with Nir Bitton after Wednesday night’s Champions League win over Astana, has worked wonders on a relatively small budget at Celtic. Photo: Reuters
Brendan Rodgers, pictured here with Nir Bitton after Wednesday night’s Champions League win over Astana, has worked wonders on a relatively small budget at Celtic. Photo: Reuters

These are 'first world' problems for Spurs and Liverpool fans who can't be sure what they will wake up to in the next few weeks.

I'll bet that Celtic fans go to work with a smile on their face, loving this spell of total SPL dominance while their counterparts on the Kop wonder will they ever win anything significant again.

I doubt Celtic fans waste any time pondering the notion that it would all be so much better for themif someone waved a magic wand and gave the club a Premier League golden ticket.

I can guarantee you that nobody who supports the green side of Glasgow was engaged in a deep discussion about the Premier League when Scott Brown lifted the SPL trophy over his head in April.

All the fans were thinking about was another title win and even better, in a season during which Rangers' ongoing crisis deepened.

I always laugh when I hear people claiming wisely that Celtic fans, in their heart of hearts, would like to see Rangers back as a strong rival in the SPL. Anyone who ever talks like that knows nothing about football fans.

Rangers manager Pedro Caixinha. Photo: PA
Rangers manager Pedro Caixinha. Photo: PA

Perhaps there's a few lads in suits at Parkhead who count numbers and would fancy a keener edge to the biggest derby rivalry of them all based on the premise that it might generate a few more quid.

But because Dermot Desmond's careful stewardship of the Celtic brand has kept the club out of the red, Celtic supporters can afford to be smug, and who could blame them?

They have Rangers exactly where they want them. All things being equal, they have big European nights to look forward to up until the New Year, they will win almost every league game this season. Perhaps there are some among this happy crowd who are not satisfied and long for a day when Celtic are duking it out with Liverpool and Manchester United for the Premier League title.

In the current landscape of European football, that will never happen but imagine if the Old Firm had been allowed in ten years ago. Where would Rangers be now, never mind Celtic?

It's been a struggle for Rangers to haul themselves back from demotion to the wilds of the Scottish lower divisions but think for a moment how much harder it would be if the punishments imposed for gross mismanagement of the club had happened in a Premier League context.

It's a long, long way back from League Two.

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