Celtic constantly being linked with McCarthy, Roberts et al is a real concern

By Euan Davidson

January 22, 2021

Celtic have one again been linked to James McCarthy.

If the constant Patrick Roberts chat wasn’t boring enough, here we are: linked to a player who’s a Celtic fan. It was tedious at first, and now it’s entirely predictable.

It puts us in a weird position, I’ll be honest. We have a duty to report the latest Celtic stories, and so there’s an air of trepidation whenever either of those names make the headlines. We know how folk will respond, because it’s how we respond:

“Aw no. Not this again.”

An experienced midfielder, McCarthy has 263 appearances in the English Premier League, with 37 more coming in the Scottish top-flight (Transfermarkt).

As my esteemed colleague John McGinley points out, he’s a player with top-level experience, and might be a useful addition on a free transfer.

With Scott Brown out of contract in the summer, we could use leadership and international experience in the midfield.

But doesn’t all this point at a deeper problem for Celtic? There are two scenarios here:

  1. These links are persistent because they’re true. In which case, the Celtic recruitment team have literally zero imagination.
  2. These links are persistent but aren’t true, but there’s little else of note happening from the recruitment side.

Be honest, which do you prefer?

Crystal Palace’s James McCarthy / (Photo by Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images)

Celtic in for McCarthy? Recruitment leaving much to be desired

For Celtic, McCarthy might be an ideal fit. Roberts, too, might be a solution to our ongoing lack of depth on the wings.

How uninspiring is that, though? If we’d signed McCarthy maybe 5-6 years ago, there’s a quality transfer right there. If Manchester City had accepted an £8m bid from Celtic in 2017 (Scotsman)… etc etc.

Let’s be honest; has either player done enough over the last two seasons to justify Celtic splashing the cash? For me, no. Yet, every single transfer window, the same names pop up.

Obviously, the Celtic scouts aren’t going to announce themselves to the press when they go to watch players (in normal times, obviously). Equally, the club aren’t going to just spell out who they’re after and at what cost. Frankly, that’d be insanity.

There is a balance, though. And the woes of repetition are compounded when Celtic are linked to a player for a substantial length of time, then lose out.

Filip Benkovic is another player who fills column inches, but Celtic bid for him and fell short. Arguably, that should say the most about where the club is in terms of recruitment. He’s another ex-Bhoys player that Celtic wanted to bring back.

Former Celtic star Virgil van Dijk / (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

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If we’re doing a reunion tour, why not bring out the big guns? Cheeky bid for van Dijk, maybe? Lure 49-year-old Henrik Larsson out of retirement?

It’s a sad scenario in a dismal season. All we’re looking for is a bit of imagination. I don’t know any other club who is linked to players from their past or alleged “club men” as much as we are.

In managerial terms, too: Martin O’Neill, Roy Keane and Gordon Strachan get linked with the big job every time the conversation comes up.

Celtic need to have more creativity than this. At a time where some good PR is vital to the club, being linked with the same names over and over is getting extremely old.