Three transfer sagas Celtic cannot repeat this summer

By Euan Davidson

June 16, 2021

Celtic, for whatever reason, seem to love a transfer saga.

All the time, we talk about remorse. About players who slipped the net, signed elsewhere and prospered. Or, we have to endure the same players, ex-Bhoys who made the grade, being repeatedly linked. That, or tangentially linked ‘Celtic men’ on Premier League wages, like Joe Allen and James McCarthy.

Whether Celtic are doing enough to attract players to the club’s “vision”, dithering, or just missing out due to personal terms, we’ve been left frustrated plenty over recent years. As we’re linked with a player, there seems to be weeks, or even months of speculation, before an official bid is launched. For Celtic, transfer activity seems to be played out incredibly publicly, and yields little results.

However, on the rare occasions the club pull off a shock signing, it tends to work wonders.

There are lessons here, if Celtic are willing to learn them. As the Bhoys embark on the biggest rebuild in years, it’s important to review the mistakes of the past.

Fraser Forster was colossal in the 2019 Betfred Cup Final / (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Saga 1: Fraser Forster, Celtic’s “all our eggs in one basket” scenario

Everyone assumed that Fraser Forster would sign for Celtic after his loan return in 19-20.

After all, he’d been at the club before, and his chances at Southampton appeared to have vanish. Neil Lennon was keen [Daily Record], and after winning a treble with Celtic, it seemed like a good move for all parties. Yet, as we all know, it didn’t happen.

And Forster wasn’t even considering it.

Forster had no Celtic plans

He told the BBC in March [BBC Sounds]:

“It was just one of them. I never said I wanted to leave the club. It was good to go to Celtic and play games and show people what I could do.

“I came back in the summer and had always said that I wanted to be a part of the club. I’ve just had to be patient, to wait for my chance to come along and to get into the team.”

Instead, we got Vasilis Barkas, which unintentionally began the 20-21 edition of Goalie Roulette. There was a stage when Celtic’s starting goalkeeper was a genuine unknown, from game to game. Between Barkas, Scott Bain and Conor Hazard, the gloves seemingly belonged to anyone.

So, let’s not do that again.

Honestly: it’s fine we didn’t get John McGinn. / (Photo by Jan Kruger – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

Saga 2: John McGinn, an exercise in Celtic saying the quiet part loud

It’s 2018. Brendan Rodgers is Celtic manager, and we have no reason to think that won’t be the case a while longer. Neil Lennon is at Hibs, and doing just fine with a talented squad. One of that contingent is John McGinn.

Yes, it’s a well covered saga. But it’s the most brutal, yet useful lesson we’ve had in years. That lesson being: don’t low-ball a club who will talk about it very publicly.

McGinn, whose Grandfather was a chairman, who grew up a Celtic fan and yes – wanted to play for Celtic – could’ve been our player. Instead, Celtic huffed and puffed with clearly inadequate bids [BBC]. You know the rest; he joins Aston Villa in the Championship, he helps them get promoted, becomes a legitimate Premier League star.

How did this not happen?!

As McGinn put it himself, on Graham Hunter’s The Big Interview podcast:

“I still, in my head, wanted to play for Celtic, no doubt. But then eventually time went on and it was August – I don’t know how it managed to get to August – but I started to become quite good at just playing and it probably spurred me on to play better.

“That spell was probably some of the best football I’ve played in my career. We managed to win in Greece in Europe, had a good start to the season. I ended up just being content playing football and block out the noise. There wasn’t really a resolution. Then Villa got a takeover and I knew there was a wee bit of interest.

“Next thing you know I’m walking around the Edinburgh Festival and my agent phones asking if I’d like to have a look around at Villa. I’m like, ‘Aye I’ll have a look’, didn’t end up coming back.”

Former Celtic target Ivan Toney / (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Saga 3: Ivan Toney – if they’re in the door, it doesn’t mean they’ve signed

This might be the most frustrating debacle of the three.

Ivan Toney was a star for Peterborough, attracting interest from the Bhoys and Brentford, amongst other clubs. While we’ve never been entirely sure of whether Celtic actually had a bid accepted, the Posh’s chairman Barry Fry claimed Toney “would’ve walked” to Paradise [Glasgow Live].

Instead, he “walked” to Brentford, set a Championship scoring record [Sky Sports], and is now surely worth at least £20m.

“We were well down the line”

Neil Lennon said of Toney recently [BBC Radio Scotland]:

“We had Toney in the building at Lennoxtown when we were in France, so we were well down the line with that one. Just finances, I assume.”

So, Celtic were never able to settle on the fee, and instead spent £4.5m on Albian Ajeti. A lesson for the future; if a player is touring Lennoxtown, and agrees personal terms, it doesn’t mean he’s signed anything. It was a lesson that frankly, we could’ve done without.

As Celtic look to bolster our options across multiple positions, hopefully we see no repeats of any of these sagas.

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