Tales of January Transfer Windows Past

With the imminent arrival of Eirk Sviatchenko  and the possibility of Steven Fletcher also joining on loan, Celtic are finally coming to the party that is the January transfer window.

This writer, and many others, have already identified areas for strengthening within the current Celtic squad and the proposed signing of Sviatchenko should go some way to shoring up a defence that has come in for heavy criticism so far this season.  Should Fletcher make the move North to Parkhead, seven years after he was initially linked with the club, steps will also have been taken, albeit possibly only temporarily, to provide Leigh Griffiths with some real competition or a competent strike partner.  This may actually turn out to be a transfer window where Celtic come out markedly stronger than when they entered it.

A review of the last five January transfer windows at Celtic Park paints a mixed picture of success and failures in transfer dealings, but has generally been a window that has flattered to deceive and left many fans feeling let down by the clubs transfer activities.  All too often January has been used as an opportunity to consolidate rather than improve and build for the season ahead.  Certainly, that is one criticism that can be thrown Neil Lennon’s way with the previous manager having brought in players such as Pawel Brozek, Viktor Noring, and Rami Gershon on loan deals.  Between them, the trio mustered a grand total of six appearances and all returned to their parent clubs at the end of their loan stays.  Fortunately, however, Ronny Deila seems intent to buck that trend as his signings of Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven last January suggest.

So, just how have Celtic fared over the last five January windows?

Over this period 15 players been signed either permanently or on loan for a combined total of £6.15million with 30 players having  left the club –some more than once thanks to loan moves- either permanently or temporarily, bringing in a total of £4.325million; resulting in a net spend of £1.835million.

The bulk of Celtic’s January spending over this period has come in the last two years with over £5million being spent on the likes of Johansen, Armstrong, and Mackay-Steven.  The imminent arrival of Sviatchenko for a reported £1.5million suggests that Celtic’s recent January spending is about to continue.  It also suggests that Celtic under Ronny Deila may be taking a different approach to this particular signing window and see it not just as an opportunity to consolidate on the existing talent within the squad, but as a chance to add quality and competition in areas in need of strengthening.  This appears to be a change in tact from the previous three transfer windows (2010/11-2012/13) which saw Celtic spend a paltry £800,000, despite nine new faces joining the club.

This is, of course, was the Lennon/Lawwell years where austerity and financial prudence were the names of the game and players like the aforementioned Noring, Brozek, and Gershon were brought in to add temporary squad depth rather than excite the fans or improve the team long term.    This was also the time of project signings such as Rabiu Ibrahim, Colin McCade (your guess is as good as mine), and Tony Watt, with only the latter proving to be any sort of success, although all too short lived unfortunately.    However, Lennon’s prudent approach did unearth a trio of gems with Commons, Lustig, and Tom Rogic all signed during this period; Rogic however only coming to prominence this season under Ronny Deila.  Incidentally, Commons and Rogic cost a combined total of £700,000, almost the entire transfer outlay during the January transfer windows of 2010/11-2012/13; Tont Watt being the only other signing to incur a transfer fee.

Going the other way in the Parkhead revolving door, there were 30 transfers, either permanent or temporary, away from the club.  The vast majority of these transfers were loan moves with youth players heading out to achieve first team experience elsewhere.  In fact, only three transfers brought in any transfer funds; Hooiveld to Southampton, Ledley to Crystal Palace, Kayal to Brighton.

While that may seem surprising at first look, it is worth remembering that it is the January window we are looking at and, with the exception of Joe Ledley, none of the departing players could be considered as first team regulars at the time of their departure.  January is therefore seen as a time to send young players on loan to gain experience or free transfer any deadwood within the squad.  It is not a time for a club like Celtic, challenging for honours and striving for constant improvement, to be selling its star players.

Having noted that January has traditionally been a time to loan out young players, it is also worthy to highlight that of the 19 youth players loaned out during this period only Tom Rogic has made an impact in the Celtic first team upon his return, and even then it required a change of manager – as well as a change fortune on the injury front.  Perhaps therefore Celtic need to look at their loan system and reconsider the clubs chosen to host youth players as so few of them return with an improved chance of making the first team.

The tales of January transfer windows past tells us that Celtic have adapted their transfer policy over time.  From using January as a period of consolidation and ensuring immediate success with the short term signings of squad players, Celtic now appear to view this period as an opportunity to improve the squad with one eye on the here and now, and one eye on next season.  With any luck the arrival of Sviatchenko will just be the start of the new faces arriving a Celtic Park this month as Ronny Deila continues to build and develop his squad.

How Previous January Transfer Windows Have Played Out

2010/11 – In
Player From Fee Apps to Date Goals to Date
Tony Watt Airdrie £100,000 34 8
Kris Commons Derby County £300,000 218 91


2010/11 – Out
Player To Fee Apps at time of leaving Goals at time of leaving
Jason Marr Ross County Loan 0 0
Jos Hooiveld Kobenhavn Loan 7 0
Olivier Kapo Al-Ahly Free 2 0
Richie Towell Hibernian Loan 0 0
Milan Misum Swindon Town Free 0 0

Net Spend: £400,000

Minimal spend but money well spent as Kris Commons would go on to become a fans favourite for years to come, and is still an integral part of the first team squad.  Commons made an immediate impact scoring 14 goals in his 21 appearances during the 2010/11 season.  He has now played over 200 games for the club and is closing in on a century of goals.  As for Tony Watt, while it may not have worked out for him due to attitude problems, he will forever be remembered for that goal against Barcelona.

2011/12 – In
Player From Fee Apps to Date Goals to Date
Mikael Lustig Rosenborg Free 115 9
Rabiu Ibrahim PSV Free 2 0
Pawel Brozek Trabzonspor Loan 3 0


2011/12 – Out
Player To Fee Apps at time of leaving Goals at time of leaving
Jos Hooiveld Southampton £1.5million 7 0
Josh Thompson Chesterfield Loan 21 3
Lewis Toshney Kilmarnock Loan 1 0
James Keatings St. Johnstone Loan 0 0
Paul Slane MK Dons Loan 1 0

Total Income: £1.5million

Neil Lennon’s first league title success saw a pretty uninspiring January transfer window with project signing Rabiu Ibrahim joining on a free transfer -leaving one year and two appearances later- along with Pawel Brozek, of whom a lot was expected and nothing delivered.  This window did however see the arrival of Mikael Lustig who, like Commons a year earlier, did make an impact on the first team and is still a regular starter at right back, deputising as captain on occasion.

However, the best piece of business carried out by Celtic during January 2012 was convincing Southampton to part with £1.5million for Jos Hooiveld.  The big Dutchman seemed like a competent enough centre half but was too injury prone to have a real shot at the first team.  For all the fans may have a go at Lawwell over his running of the club, he played a blinder getting £1.5million for a player who couldn’t get a game ahead of Glenn Loovens.

2012/13 – In
Player From Fee Apps to Date Goals to Date
Rami Gershon Standard Liege Loan 3 1
Tom Rogic Central Coast Mariners £400,000 40 6
Viktor Noring Trelleborgs Loan 0 0
Colin McCade Shamrock Rovers Free 0 0


2012/13 – Out
Player To Fee Apps at time of leaving Goals at time of leaving
Rabiu Ibrahim Kilmarnock Loan 2 0
Glenn Daniels Partick Thistle Loan 0 0
Paul Slane N/A Released 1 0
Mo Bangura Elfsborg Loan 16 0

Net Spend: £400,000

Another mind numbingly turgid January transfer window, however, the cheque was opened on this occasion to the tune of £400,000 for an unknown Australian; Tom Rogic.  Sure Rogic has turned out to be a good signing three years down the line, but back in 2012/13 he was just another project signing and not what the fans were looking for.  Rogic went on to make eight appearances in his first season before injury robbed him of most of the following two years.  Celtic’s other January signings Gershon, Noring, and McCade could only muster three appearances between them; all going to Gershon.

On the way out Mo Bangura made his second loan move away from the club to Elfsborg, Rabiu Ibrahim departed for Kilmarnock, and previous youth starlet Paul Slane was released from the club.  January 2013 was a whole lot of meh.

2013/14 – In
Player From Fee Apps to Date Goals to Date
Holmbert Fridjonsson Fram Reykjavik £100,000 0 0
Stefan Johansen Stromsgodset £2million 98 19
Leigh Griffiths Wolves £1million 86 51


2013/14 – Out
Player To Fee Apps at time of leaving Goals at time of leaving
Paul George Hamilton Loan 1 0
Tom Rogic Melbourne Victory Loan 15 0
Bahrudin Atajic Shrewsbury Town Loan 4 1
Stuart Findlay Greenock Morton Loan 0 0
Dylan McGeouch Coventry City Loan 26 2
Mo Bangura N/A Free 16 0
Mickey Miller Dumbarton Loan 0 0
Joe Chalmers Falkirk Loan 3 0
Joe Ledley Crystal Palace £2.5million 157 30

Net Spend: £600,000

Change of tact here as Celtic actually spent some money on Stefan Johansen and Leigh Griffiths, although a large chunk was recuperated through the sale of Joe Ledley.  A further change in tact saw a partial step away from mid-season project signings as the aforementioned Johansen and Griffiths were immediately included in the first team and have remained there ever since.

Johansen, signed as a replacement for Joe Ledley, is closing in on a century of appearances for the club while Griffiths has just notched his 51st goal for Celtic.  Neil Lennon, thank you for your parting gifts.

The downside to this window was losing Joe Ledley, average Joe Ledley.  A consistent seven out of ten performer who never let the team down and always did what was asked of him.  There was nothing flashy about Joe but he had a presence in the midfield that is sorely lacking in the current team, any time you want to come back up the road the door will be open.

Other than Ledley’s departure the other transfer out of note was Tom Rogic’s loan spell with Melbourne Victory which gave the Aussie some much needed game time ahead of his triumphant return under Ronny Deila.  As for the other outgoing loanee’s, none returned with enhanced first team chances, making you doubt either the quality of the youth players coming through, the quality of the host clubs chosen, or both.

2014/15 – In
Player From Fee Apps to Date Goals to Date
Michael Duffy Derry City Undisclosed 0 0
Gary Mackay-Steven Dundee United £250,000 39 4
Stuart Armstrong Dundee United £2million 41 4


2014/15 – Out
Player To Fee Apps at time of leaving Goals at time of leaving
Amido Balde Hapoel Tel Aviv Loan 24 3
Stuart Findlay Dumbarton Loan 0 0
Marcus Fraser Ross County Loan 2 0
John Herron Cowdenbeath Loan 2 0
Paul McMullan Stenhousemuir Loan 0 0
Beram Keyal Brighton & Hove Albion £325,000 132 3
Filip Twardzik Bolton Undisclosed 5 0

Net Spend: £1.925million

Ronny Deila’s first January window and for the first time in five years Celtic spend decent money in January without also bringing in good money through player sales.  Michael Duffy was signed as the obligatory project signing but both Armstrong and Mackay-Steven were signed as first team players and made a more than reasonable impact on the team.  While Mackay-Steven has struggled for form this term, Armstrong has maintained a regular presence in the starting eleven and looks like an important part of Deila’s plans.

The only departure of note was Beram Kayal whose star was already on the way down before Deila’s arrival at the start of the season.  By the time of his sale Kayal had become a bit part player which was a shame given the promise he had shown early in his Celtic career with his high intensity performances.

As for January 2015/16, we’ll have to wait it out a bit longer to see how it goes but with Sviatchenko arriving and the real possibility of Steven Fletcher and one or two others passing through the gates at Celtic Park, the January transfer window might, just might, be something to look forward to once again.


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