Published on Friday 13th January, 2012 by Celtic Trust
You’ll remember a few years ago, 4 to be precise just before the January transfer window opened we played the New Year game against them at Ibrox. Scott Mc Donald brought down a header from Sammy, turned on his heel leaving Broadfoot for dead, and smashed the ball into the top corner of the Broomloan Road goal past a hapless Alan McGregor. We came away 7 points clear, seemingly on our way to ‘4 in a row’ under Gordon Strachan. Messer’s Reid, Desmond and Lawell concluded that being so far ahead with a clearly superior squad that the title was a fait accompli, and that the extra £12 plus million or so of Champions League revenue was already in the bag. In such circumstances they discerned it would not be good bookkeeping to invest the extra £500 000 or so Hibernian were holding out for in order to part with Stephen Fletcher. Despite a plea from Fletcher himself, all of 20 years old and the SPL’s brightest prospect at the time , to be allowed a move to Celtic he was eventually off loaded, after Hibs called Celtic’s bluff, to newly promoted Burnley FC, where he became the club’s top scorer in their year in the Premier League.
The cost of ‘financial rectitude.’
Since sold on to Wolves for £6.5 million, Fletcher has never looked back and in the 4 years since has established himself as a Premier League Player. He will be 25 in March this year. Not buying him was the costliest mistake made by a Celtic Board since before the Mc Cann takeover. In the last four games of that season our strikers scored precisely 1 goal between them in 360 minutes of football. Scott Mc Donald missed several incredible chances to score at Hibernian in the penultimate game of the season when the title was allowed to slip out of our hands, and we effectively handed them our trophy. It was that day that Rangers were taken off the life support machine. But the decision that cost us the title had been made in the Celtic Board room during the late January. As a result of their dogged commitment to ‘financial rectitude’ the Celtic Board had effectively given mouth to mouth resuscitation to the Govan mob. We’ve been paying the price ever since. The financial losses alone in terms of three years of Champions League participation are incalculable.
Cutting off your nose to spite your face.
To keep the masses happy and in their state of docile indifference we got Willo Flood, a bargain basement purchase for an estimated £50.000 from Dundee United. Don’t get me wrong, I like Willo Flood. The point is however, he clearly wasn’t what was needed to inspire and revitalise Strachan’s increasingly jaded squad in a final heave towards an unbelievable fourth title in 4 years in the way that Stephen Fletcher would have. For the life of me I can’t imagine an in form striker of Fletcher’s quality, determined to make a name for himself at Celtic Park not scoring a goal in the last 360 minutes of the season. Not for the life of me. That’s how fine the margins were that season. The Celtic Board may need reminding of just what their rectitude and dithering cost us in January 08 transfer window, and get geared up to lay out what is required to bring in a player or two of substance who can help us deliver our first title since then. We’re sick and tired of going into the New Year leading from the front only to collapse in the final furlong. The fact that Rangers are in melt down it must not be allowed to become an excuse for the board sitting on their hands again. Any successful side needs to be refurbished and revitalised regularly and it’s been years since we’ve had a blue ribbon purchase.
Investing in the future.
We’re in a very healthy state financially because we the punters keep turning up through thick and thin. What we won’t be, is taken for granted and the Board should know that they will not be forgiven should a failure to invest in this window cost us the title again this year. In the months ahead when pitches start to cut up, and the old boy network in the SFA comes into its own, resulting in a few dodgy decisions, a couple of ‘honest mistakes’ and half the SPL teams getting ready to bend over for the boys in blue we need to beware not just the Ides of March. We need to be fully prepared for the cold wind of bigotry and loathing that infects certain SPL teams and their supporters any April or May when Celtic are still seen to be challenging for the title. We must invest in this window not only in order to secure the title, but to also build on the huge European experience gained by our squad in what, once we got up and running turned out to be a splendid and exemplary Europa Cup campaign which almost saw us qualify from one of the most difficult Groups in the competition. I seem to recall our first home outing after Scott Mc Donald’s winner at Ibrox was against Dundee United which was expected to be a stroll in the park and at 2-0 up with 20 minutes to go it seemed it would be. All of a sudden we were on the back foot and the ‘quintessential British team’ had a tail wind in their sails. Let’s hope history doesn’t repeat itself ‘first as farce, then as tragedy.’
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