Within every fan across the globe, a war wages; one side fights on behalf of how you know the world works and the other, competing, side represents how you wish the world would work. My heart told me Celtic’s star attraction, Moussa Dembele, would form an unshakable bond with the club, racking up appearances and snatching trophies with devastating regularity. My head told me that if a proposed mega-offer from one of the Planet’s richer clubs was to materialise, Dembele would be packed off and set on his way quicker than I could sigh in frustration. Fortunately, the French striker has seen the long-term benefits staying at Celtic Park will have on his career. Regular playing time allied with the faith of his manager will allow him to develop into the world-class player we all know he can become.
Moussa Dembele was not the only player to be linked with a move to London. Goalkeeper Craig Gordon was touted as the replacement for Asmir Begović, who seemed on the verge of a move to Bournemouth, on the Chelsea bench.
While I am glad that he too has committed himself to the club and am thankful for the continuity his presence provides, I would not have thrown any insults his way if he opted for the move to London. This is a guy who looked to all the world as though his career was over. Injuries had accumulated in such rapid succession, keeping him out of the game for such a sustained period, that his signing at Celtic was met with bemusement. Does he owe the club for turning his personal fortunes around? Perhaps. But having lost years of potential earnings who could begrudge him spending his autumn years sitting on the bench at Stamford Bridge accumulating vast wealth.
Much to Rodgers’ chagrin, this month proved to be more a case of retaining talent than it was of augmenting our forces, with only the holding midfielder Eboue Kouassi being brought in. There is of course a large amount of excitement around his arrival, although he appears to be as much signing for next season as he is for this, and as such will need some time to acclimatise.
A failure to attract a striker to supplement Dembele and Griffiths is irksome, especially given Griffiths’ perpetual inability to remain match-fit. With rumours circulating that a schism is developing between the balding striker and the gaffer, it was a position I would love to have seen addressed. Rodgers recently failed to douse these rumours, instead putting the onus on Griffiths to buck-up his ideas and put in the requisite effort required to secure a regular place, when he said, “He’s a good kid, a great boy, but he understands where he’s at. We all know the talent, but it won’t be good enough on its own.”
Things have degenerated some distance from the Hapoel Be’er Sheva game, when, fresh from scoring a sublime free kick, Griffiths bolted towards the gaffer for a warm embrace.
The name most touted for arrival was that of Nigeria’s Henry Onyekuru from Belgian outfit K.A.S Eupen. While he appears to be the identikit for what we require; quick, intelligent, cunning and ruthless, his poor attitude and subsequent disappearing act probably highlights a character flaw that Rodgers and Celtic have done well to steer clear of.
While there has been fewer footballers arriving at Parkhead than Muslims entering Donald Trump’s dystopian America, there have been plenty of departures. A panoply of youngsters heading out to the lowers levels of the football pyramid has occurred once again, while the loans of Ryan Christie to Aberdeen and Kristoffer Ajer to Kilmarnock look beneficial for all parties concerned. Sadly, the wonderfully amiable yet woefully inept Efe Ambrose was once again not shifted from the books.
While this window has been low on excitement, the most important factor must be considered – the effects Rodgers will have on existing players. This time last year who would have thought that players like Armstrong, McGregor or Forrest would be decisive, mainstays within the squad? Who would have thought that Scott Brown and Tom Rogic would be serious contenders for player of the year? This Lazarus-type spell that the gaffer has cast upon the players has even filtered down to the forever forlorn Dedryck Boyata. Two goals, which have seen the side garner an additional six points, have been welcome, yet it is renewed defensive discipline that is most heart-warming. His fist pumping delight at a last ditch, goal-saving tackle against St Johnstone was particularly smile inducing.
More could have been done, of course it could’ve, however, perspective must be maintained. While Celtic are judiciously going about their business, the team from across the city have had a rather more scattergun approach. Mark Warburton’s attempt at halting Celtic’s advance, utilising little but loan signings, will prove as effective as King Knut’s attempt at holding back the tide armed with no more than hubris.
Twelve months ago who would have thought we could be this happy?