Big Summer for the Bhoys

July 14, 2010

After two consecutive disappointing campaigns, The Celtic FC are set to bolster their squad in this summer’s transfer market.  In contrast, their “Old Firm” rivals Rangers have lost their most valuable assets, and the cash-strapped club don’t appear to have suitable replacements lined up.

Finishing second in most European leagues can hardly be considered a failure.  For Celtic, anything but league triumph and Old Firm domination is unacceptable.  There were mixed emotions amongst Hoops fans when then manager Gordon Strachan resigned from his post in 2009.  When he took the job in 2005, he had a tough act to follow.  Martin O’Neill had restored power in Glasgow the way of Parkhead, and was revered by Celtic fans worldwide.  

Strachan was successful.  He won three straight league titles in his first three years, and ended his tenure with three other domestic cup trophies.   Not to mention the famous Champions League victories over Manchester United and AC Milan, which both helped Celtic reach the knockout stages of the competition in back to back seasons (2006-07. 07-08).  He faced a lot of unwarranted criticism in his final two seasons as manager, which were both injury-riddled.  He is known for his rigorous management style and shrewd tactics, which didn’t translate into attractive football fans craved.  In his fourth season, he finished second in the SPL behind Rangers, and only managed to defeat their rivals once in four league contests.  His impending firing resulted in his resignation at the end of the season.

Fans were excited about the hiring of former West Brom coach Tony Mowbray, who had the pedigree to change the negative, but successful style implemented by Strachan.  His West Brom, and Hibernian teams played a 4-3-3, and were always fun to watch.  His West Brom teams in the Premier League were refreshing, because rarely do you see newly promoted teams give it a go.  His tenure at Celtic was an absolute failure. He failed to beat Rangers in three tries, could not advance to the Europa League knockout stages, and were a distant second to Rangers in the league for much of the season.  After a 4-0 loss to lowly St. Mirren, he was sacked in late March.

With only pride left to play for, and second to have a shot in Champions League qualifying, assistant and former Celtic captain Neil Lennon took over on an interim basis.  In eight league games, Lennon was perfect taking 24 points from the fixtures which included their only victory over Rangers last season.  His spell was good enough to earn him the job permanently.

This summer has been very successful for the Bhoys.  They have signed three quality players on free transfers, and  one big surprise in the group in Joe Ledley.  The Cardiff City product has been tipped for a Premier League move for some time now.  He almost realized top flight dreams with the Welsh outfit last season, but Cardiff City lost out to Blackpool in the Championship playoffs final.  Ledley can play either as a left winger or centrally as a holding midfielder, a la Gareth Barry with his dangerous left foot.  Celtic’s capture of the Welshman surprised many as Premier League clubs Stoke City and West Brom were interested in his services, as were Italian giants AS Roma.  This signing likely means that winger Aiden McGeady will make his long-awaited move to England, but Ledley’s versatility could prove to be an upgrade for Celtic. 

The other two signings are right back Cha Du-Ri from German side Freiburg, and left back Charlie Mulgrew, most recently of Aberdeen.  Cha had a successful World Cup for South Korea, and is very capable going forward.  Celtic also are reportedly about to tie up Mexican right back Efrain Juarez, which would be another major move as he has been linked with clubs all over Europe.  Cha, and Juarez’ prospective signing more than likely spells the end of right back Andreas Hinkel at Parkhead, unless Lennon is intent on moving the German into the center of defense. 

Mulgrew should be a familiar name to Celtic fans, as he was a product of the Bhoys academy.  His rift with then manager Strachan, never allowed him a chance to prove himself at Parkhead.  He had an unsuccessful spell with Wolves in 2006, and eventually back to Scotland with Aberdeen in 2008.  Mulgrew is a very talented player.  He is truly a wing back, which I don’t need to tell you is extremely rare hailing from Scotland.  He’s big, very strong, and has the pace and technical ability to venture forward.  He possesses a fearsome left foot, and is somewhat of a specialist from set pieces.  If there are no longer attitude issues with the player, then he could become an integral part of Lennon’s plans going forward.

South Korean midfielder Ki Sung-Yong will feel like a new signing after moving in January.  Ki is immensely talented, and is eventually destined for greatness if he adjusts to life in Glasgow.

The club have also been strongly linked with former North London star Sol Campbell, and recently relegated Hull midefielder Jimmy Bullard.  Campbell is definitely still possible, but it looks like wage demands have killed the Bullard move. 

Don’t expect Robbie Keane back in any shape or form following his second-half loan last season, as Spurs boss Harry Redknapp is keen to sell him if he won’t ply his trade at the Lane next year.  The club will likely make a splash with a striker if Keane falls through.  They will be depending on youngsters Cillian Sheridan and Paul McGowan to provide cover for Geogios Samaras, Shaun Maloney and Marc Antoine-Fortune if they can’t find their man up front.

Celtic have lost CB Stephen McManus to Middlesborough, who Gordon Strachan has swiftly transformed into Glasgow South.  Along with McGeady and infamous keeper Artur Boruc, expect those to be the only big names exiting Parkhead this summer.  Celtic are keen to keep hold of star midfielder Scott Brown, who hasn’t quite fullfilled his talents since his move from Hibs.  It’s there, and new midfielder coach and former Celtic great Alan Thompson intends on getting it out of him. 

Celtic will be in for a keeper with the Boruc departure.  However, from one pollock to another, backup Lukasz Zaluska is the likely replacement as a starter.  If that’s the case, it would be nice to see third-string American keeper Dominic Cervi get his first-team debut at some point this season.

Until next time, Hail Hail!