Celtic now seriously starting to rue Mark McKenzie and Ben Davies errors

By David Walton

March 11, 2021

As Celtic start to seriously count the cost of their defensive woes, the Mark McKenzie and Ben Davies sagas now look even more ridiculous.

Celtic reportedly tried to move for both. McKenzie had been tearing it up with Philadelphia Union in the MLS last season. He went on to become the runner-up in the Defender of the Year award, and helped lead the Union to the MLS Supporters’ Shield. It was a massive campaign for him.

USA outlet Sports Illustrated stated back in October that Celtic offered Philly a figure that could’ve risen to $4million [£2.9m]. In the end, he signed for Genk for $6m [£4.3m] [Sports Illustrated].

Yes, a chance to get one of the USA’s brightest young prospects. Yet we appeared to not be willing to go only £1.3m higher. Even worse was the fact McKenzie stated back in December that he was open to moving to Parkhead [Sky Sports].

We then made a bigger blunder in not getting Ben Davies from Preston tied up in January after missing out on McKenzie. Davies had reportedly signed a pre-contract agreement with the club [Sky Sports]. As it turned out, nothing had actually been agreed. And after leaving things to the last minute, Liverpool swooped in, signed Davies, and left us with no alternatives.

Celtic already being made to pay for McKenzie and Davies blunders

So in what way are we left ruing these mistakes? Well, forget the fact we’ve just lost the title due to ridiculous defensive errors for one.

Celtic are in a massively concerning state ahead of next season and, in particular, the Champions League qualifiers.

Kristoffer Ajer looks all but set to depart – the chances of him staying look minimal to say the least given his contract is up in 2022. You then have the fact that Christopher Jullien has been struck with a setback and will be out of action for the next six to nine months [Glasgow Live]. Another centre-back option, Hatem Elhamed, also left the club after we missed out on McKenzie and Davies.

Nir Bitton has been out for the last five weeks and his fitness cannot be relied upon either. Shane Duffy will surely be staying with Brighton when he heads back. It leaves us facing the summer without a recognised centre-back partnership being fit and available. Outside of Stephen Welsh, we don’t have another centre-back you can rely on to be there.

Stephen Welsh is the only centre-back we can rely on to be fit and available this summer (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

No time to bed in for new signings

Yes, any new manager can try and bring someone in. But they wouldn’t get any time to bed in before the Champions League qualifiers. Celtic will enter at the second qualifying round next summer. That likely means our competitive matches will start as early as July as football gets back to its proper schedule.

Our best hope is that we can hold onto Kris Ajer until after the CL qualifiers. This is a tactic we’ve managed with the likes of Moussa Dembele in the past. But there’s no guarantee of that. An offer may come in earlier that can’t be rejected.

Had McKenzie or Davies been signed in January, we would be in a much better place. We would have a settled partnership in our side and one that we could rely on for next season. As things stand, we couldn’t be further from that position.

In other news, a Police Scotland source has provided a worrying update regarding the status of next weekend’s Glasgow derby.