Celtic desperately need an overhaul, but a near-total squad cull would harm rather than help

By Euan Davidson

March 10, 2021

Celtic have been awful in 20-21. Absolutely awful.

I’m just getting that out of the way now, before anyone suggests that I’m blinkered to the reality of it. We’ve been calling for changes at the club for what seems like forever. Everyone in charge of football operations at the club has a lot to answer for. After all, Celtic could’ve reached 10IAR this season, something that may never be done.

It’s been endlessly frustrating. Players have been misused or forgotten. A reliance on old favourites and established friendships has caused us to stagnate. Some who looked like world-beaters only last season have been utterly dire. We’ve conceded goals for fun. It’s been terrible.

Still – and I know this won’t be universally popular – I don’t think completely ripping apart this squad is the answer.

Call it contrarianism if you must, but one bad season doesn’t make a player’s career invalid. Everyone has struggled. It’s a team sport, and so much of that team has been bereft of ideas and often lacking in determination. But were we not saying only last month that it’s a manager who’s responsible for making players tick?

Delusional it might be, but at the start of this season, I was relatively happy with our squad. After all, it was only slightly changed from a First Team that won our 9th consecutive title with minimal fuss. The wheels falling off is the responsibility of the manager, coaches and boardroom; not necessarily the players.

It’s been a bleak season / (Photo by Paul Campbell/Getty Images)

Celtic squad needs surgery, but total player-ectomy might kill the patient

Frank McAvennie has claimed that all but 5 players should leave the club.

He told Football Insider:

“There needs to be a complete overhaul of the squad.

“There is only five players that I would like to keep from that squad – Brown, McGregor, Turnbull, Soro and Ajer. They are the five players who I would build the team around.

“It is then about bringing more players in and they need to spend big. They have big spending to do and if they don’t we are in danger of losing out to Rangers for the next couple of seasons.”

I’m sorry, but that’s hysterical stuff. Even after the doldrums of John Barnes’ spell, Celtic didn’t rid the squad of all but a handful of players. Find any club side in the world that’s done that. It’s completely fine to sympathise with McAvennie’s views; we’re all emotional after all.

But a total cull of the squad would put enormous pressure on the incoming manager. Trying to gel a side with, let’s say at least 15 new players is next to impossible to do. It just doesn’t work. More to the point, the players who have struggled this season have been good before and can be again.

Greg Taylor has had a decent season, Stephen Welsh is constantly improving, Ryan Christie has shown he can be excellent. That’s just three examples from the top of the dome.

David Turnbull celebrates for Celtic against Aberdeen / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Keep the heid

We need to keep this in perspective. Yes, individual performances have been bad, but it wouldn’t take a superstar boss to get this team whistling again. Anyone with a coherent tactical identity that works hard with the players we have will get them going.

No question we need to add and subtract from the squad. In a big way.

But a near-total cull of the squad isn’t necessary. There are plenty of decent Celtic players who’d fit into a new style under an incoming manager with vision. Consider that clubs everywhere, including Celtic, are haemorrhaging money and the scope of “complete overhaul” looks less and less likely.

I sympathise entirely with McAvennie’s sentiments, I really do. But this keeping just 5 players from our current squad stuff is not the kind of talk we need right now.

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