John Park details Celtic process that delivered £97.9m of transfer profit

By John McGinley

October 8, 2021

Former Head of Football Development at Celtic, John Park, has given an extensive interview to The Athletic about his time at the Bhoys.

Park spent close to ten years at Celtic Park and Lennoxtown, working with a number of successful managers to identify players and find bargains in the transfer market.

The Athletic have totalled up the top 11 signings that he had a hand in signing, including Virgil van Dijk, Victor Wanyama and Kristoffer Ajer, reporting they delivered a total transfer profit of £97.9m between them.

Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Now he’s gone into the processes behind identifying those kinds of ‘Moneyball’ talents, telling The Athletic: “We were ahead of the game. We had our own data analysis department back then, with Craig Dunbar and Paul McLeish. They ascertained the facts from the data to compare players and value them against what we’d got in the club at the present. When you look at the stats and leverage them against the scouting reports, you come to the conclusion that they can be the right ones for the club.”

Citing the likes Mikael Lustig and Kris Commons, Park goes on to explain that it’s crucial for Celtic to identify cheap players to fill out the squad as it maximises their contributions to the club, even if they do not end up becoming a big, high profile departure to an illustrious league.

He told the outlet: “It’s a lowball game, a Moneyball game but it’s down to the staff behind the scenes to spot these guys approaching the end of their contracts, and knowing they’re good enough for Celtic, or at least being confident of it. You can talk about the Virgils (van Dijk), Moussas, but those bread and butter players who have come in for little or nothing have done every bit as much for Celtic as the big names.”

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Right now, Celtic are struggling to be a force in Europe, even in UEFA’s secondary competition. But during Park’s peak days at the club, he was helping assemble a squad capable of out performing Manchester City and Chelsea.

He reckons that kind of thing is possible at Celtic with the right staff, scouting and data analysis in place.

Park told The Athletic: “There was one year in the Champions League — we qualified for the last 16 when Man City and Chelsea didn’t (in 2012-13). It was in a newspaper about how Celtic spent a relative pittance, and they were questioning, ‘How can this happen?’ Well, the answer is astute scouting observations and strong data assessment, a good team of people around about you, and then good coaching. It is an entirely possible outcome.”

Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

He goes into much more detail in the article which is well worth a full read.

With a real absence of this kind of expertise at the club right now, at least in a senior role, it really does make me pine for Celtic to make an appointment to help out Ange Postecoglou and the recruitment team in January and next summer.

We need the right kind of players best suited to this tactical system, rather than trying to force square pegs into round holes. Football has moved on from the time Park describes and Celtic need to get with it.

In other news, Celtic loanee left in disciplinary limbo.

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