January is traditionally the month where football fans test their already stretched sanity to the full, hoping against hope their club can pull off a masterstroke, or two, in the transfer window. More often than not, the excitement of the transfer window drags out to the dying embers of DEADLINE DAY. Fans from all over the country huddle around TV screens to ridicule Jim Whyte and his yellow tie, whilst also praying that the next big announcement is the signing their club desperately needs; only to feign happiness at the sight of Colin Kazim-Richards being paraded.
And so it was last night as the saga of the transfer window came to its conclusion with the last minute confirmation of a signing, only this one was met with genuine sighs of relief as Celtic finally signed a much-needed right-back.
After the disaster that was the summer transfer window where Celtic missed out on several top targets, failed to address known frailties in the squad, and lost star striker Dembele in acrimonious circumstances and without a ready replacement, it was imperative to get this one right.
Top of the list was a right-back, a centre-back we could call our own for next season, and at least one forward. On the other side of the revolving door was a list of around 10 players who could easily have departed Rodgers ever bloated first-team squad without as much as an eyelid being batted.
So just how did the much-maligned recruitment team at Celtic Park get on during the month of January?
After going the majority of the season with just one fit forward, French Eddy, Rodgers moved to sign no less than four forwards in January; admittedly Maryan Shved Seven (I make no apologies) is more of a winger rather than a centre forward.
First in through the door was Oliver Burke on loan from West Brom. Initially, a rather underwhelming signing, Burke has already won over the majority of the support with a couple of industrious performances playing in a central striking role. Two goals in his opening couple of games has also helped ease the doubters and the powerful young Scot looks like he will be a good addition to the squad for the run-in.
Next in was the slightly more eye-catching capture of American international Timothy Weah, also on loan, from PSG. Weah, of course, is the son of Liberian President and world football legend George Weah. Two goals in his opening appearances along with some positive soundbites regarding the club and its fans have helped Weah to settle into life at Celtic Park almost instantaneously. As with the Burke loan, there is no option to buy at the end of the season, however, should young Timmy continue in his current vein of form for the remainder of the season, then rumours that Celtic will look to extend the loan for a further 6 or 12 months will gather speed; much like Weah himself whenever he is on the ball.
Vakoun Issouf Bayo became the third forward addition – and first permanent signing of the window – towards the end of transfer window and was paraded in Paradise for the first time underneath the Disco Lights. Bayo may not be a household name (yet) but I am reliably advised that Celtic may have a real talent of their hands. I’m no expert on the player, however, his name was one that I’d come across in recent months as one to watch, even before Celtic’s interest. Bayo’s former club Dunajska Streda is the Hungarian club of Slovakia, and living out in Hungary now, I’d made a point of keeping an eye on their progress over the last year or so. Excellent in the air and a handful in the box, Bayo was the name I heard most whenever I checked in on Dunajska Streda over the last 6 months. Here’s hoping he can hit the ground running.
The last of the attacking additions arrived in the form of Ukrainian winger Maryan Shved who was immediately loaned back to his former club Krpaty Lviv. Shved is an exciting and direct winger who will add to the 1 million wingers already on the books when he arrives for keeps in the summer. However, Shved’s signing was possibly most notable for Brendan Rodgers reaction to questions about the Ukrainian’s pending signing; publicly stating that he knew nothing of the player, and that it was the ‘club’ and not ‘we’ or ‘us’ who were signing him, fanned the flames of speculation around the Northern Irishman’s future at Celtic beyond the summer.
The final additions all arrived on deadline day with Andrew Gutman and Manny Perez, both projects for the future and avenues into the US market, arriving before immediately leaving out on loan to continue their development.
However, the most crucial of the deadline day signings was that of Jeremy Toljan from Borussia Dortmund. Yes, he may be another loan. Yes, we may not have an option to buy. But does that really matter because thank Christ, the lad is a right-back and hopefully the solution to a Mikkel Lustig sized problem.
Shved, Gutman, and Perez were all signed and loaned out on the same day; thus, not affecting the squad size in any way. Hazard, Aitchison, and Calvin Miller are all reserve or development squad players, and their departures also on loan deals do not affect the first-team squad. Despite boasting an insanely large squad and the repeated desire of Brendan Rodgers to trim it to a more manageable size, there were very few departures in January.
Lewis Morgan has been on the periphery of things this season, with injury and the emergence of Mikey Johnston stunting his top team opportunities and development. A loan move to Sunderland where he has been reunited with former boss Jack Ross, should see the talented wide man given plenty of football in a challenging league and looks like the best move for all parties.
Even the late loss of summer singing Yousouf Mulumbu will have little impact on the first-team squad given how infrequently he has been involved since signing.
Perhaps most surprising is that the likes of Johnny Hayes, Jack Hendry, Kundai Benyu, and Scott Allan will see out the season at Celtic, despite there being little chance of any of them seeing much playing time between now and the end of May.
As football fans, we’re a fickle bunch and will always demand more. But all in all, on the face of things, this was a pretty decent transfer window.
The centre-back we wanted did not arrive, but other than that the problem right-back area has been dealt with and we now have enough firepower and attacking options to look forward to achieving 8-in-a-row with a great deal more confidence than on the evening of the 29th December.
Ideally, we would have looked to make permanent signings instead of loans given the short-termism they promote and the speculation they generate over Rodgers long-term future. But, in reality, loans may have been the only way we were able to sign the like of Burke, Weah, and Toljan; chances are we would have been priced out of permanent deals and struggled to meet wage demands.
For Celtic to compete in the transfer market, we have to operate smarter as a club, utilise the loan market, and challenge the recruitment department to scour the emerging and less glamorous markets for players and that most hated term, ‘Projects’.
Spending big on players is not the way forward, and given that the club has emerged stronger from this window than it entered it, I’m quite happy with how it’s panned out.
Here’s to 8-in-a-row and then to convincing Weah and co that their futures remain in Paradise.
Let me know your thoughts on Celtic’s Transfer Window, I’m interested to hear other opinions.