Who Knows Better - Davie Provan or Peter Lawwell?
Celtic's 3-1 victory over Rosenborg last Wednesday took us another slight step closer to the Champions League Group Stages. With 4 qualifying rounds to get through, this season's journey is no doubt the toughest yet.
The current landscape of European and Scottish football means that qualification is so important for the club, both in terms of finances and relevance on the European stage. Not just for Celtic, but for Scottish football more generally. We're all aware of the financial boost the other Scottish Premiership clubs receive if Celtic make the Group Stage, and for Scottish football to be represented at the highest level of European football is vital for the national game.
Surprising then to hear the thoughts of former Celtic player Davie Provan slandering the board's strategy in the tabloid press today. Provan suggested that the Celtic board have given a 'wake-up call' by Brendan Rodgers 'frustration' at the lack of summer recruits up to this point.
He suggested that the influence of Olivier Ntcham and Odsonne Edouard on Wednesday's game highlights that you only get what you pay for and Celtic should add a 'few more like them.'
The problem with the Sky Sports pundit's argument is that it's deliberately ignorant and ironically contradictory at the same time. In his attempt to garner controversy, which he has predictably achieved, he has missed out a few evident truths about the benefits of the Celtic board's strategy.
The Celtic board have just broken their own transfer record to sign Edouard, which Provan begrudgingly endorses. He then states that it is pretty insignificant given the income we've received from the sales of Stuart Armstrong and Erik Sviatchenko. What his criticism actually is then, is that Celtic aren't consistently laying out a high net spend. What a great idea Davie, no one in Scottish football has ever done that before.
"There’s nothing wrong with balancing the books, but simple arithmetic tells you Celtic are rolling in cash right now. Where is that money going, because it isn’t buying players."
A few more Ntcham's and Edouard's would cost in the region of £20m+. The vast amounts of money that Celtic are 'rolling in' are somewhere in the region of £30m - the club's cash at bank in the last financial report. That's the equivalent of about one season's Champions League money.
Another thing wilfully ignored by Provan is the success that has come of transfer dealings since Brendan Rodgers arrived. Regardless of who was involved in the recruitment process, Celtic now have a nucleus of really exciting, young players that are among the most promising in Europe. Edouard and Ntcham are excellent, but they are ably backed up by Moussa Dembele, Kieran Tierney and Kristoffer Ajer. While Ajer isn't a Rodgers recruit and Tierney a youth product, it was Celtic's so called penny pinching in the transfer market that brought Odsonne Edouard here on loan first. After a successful season on loan - at low risk - the hefty permanent deal was made less risky because we knew what we were getting.
Provan also takes a swipe at Celtic's hotel and museum, suggesting that fans would much rather see that money invested in players. And he's right, the fans would much rather see that invested in players. But us fans are irrational and emotional onlookers, not the people who have to decide what is the best use of Celtic's resources from a business point of view. Answer me this - what is a better use of Celtic's resources? Two or three players at £30m who may or may not succeed and may or may not have their time at the club hampered by injury? Or adding to the non-matchday experience associated with Celtic so that the club can increase its' revenue free from the worry of the pittance TV money offered by Davie Provan's employers?
Of course, we would like to see some new arrivals. We always do. There's gaps in the Celtic squad that need filled, particularly at right back and in the central defence. But we don't need former players lambasting the club halfway through a transfer window at a time where Celtic - since Brendan Rodgers' appointment - are investing more money than they have done for years. The current strategy has made the group stages twice in two seasons under Brendan Rodgers. This season, we can judge the transfer dealings at the end of the window and at the end of the qualifying campaign.
At the start of Brendan Rodgers' 3rd season, we are looking sharper than ever at this early stage of the campaign. The players know the system and they each understand their role in the system. Despite two unprecedented season domestically so far, it seems like Brendan Rodgers' Celtic are beginning to properly click in to gear.
I trust that if we do make the right additions and qualify for the Group Stages, Davie Provan will wax lyrical about how well the Celtic board have done to steer the club to the top table of European football for a third season in a row, while also being on the most stable financial footing.
I won't hold my breath though, because I'm not sure that will fit with the doomsday editorial agenda of Sky Sports and The Sun.