I know what you’re thinking: Celtic players can’t even get the festive season off, from either playing matches or being criticised. Yes, it seems a little harsh to be doing this at Christmas. I sincerely hope anyone mentioned in this article doesn’t have a Google Alert on.
Still, we’re in the midst of a generational pandemic, and yet football continues. As football continues, so does the business side. Fans love transfer speculation, new signings being announced and business being done. Yes, it’s the dark, capitalist heart of the game but admit it: you’ve watched Sky Sports News before.
With that in mind, I’m going to indulge that little part of your brain that loves this kind of thing. Consider it a naughty Christmas present from me to you.
Here goes, then: Celtic need to make changes in January, and that will involve selling and buying. The “buying” part has been, and will be, covered in great detail. However, there are players who simply haven’t lived up to expectations and need to see the door.
It’s nothing personal, I promise.
A product of Aberdeen’s youth system, Scott Bain was signed on the cheap from Dundee in 2018, but it seems as if he’s been around longer. Never fully able to hold down a spot in the first team, Bain has been in and out of Brendan Rodgers and Neil Lennon’s plans.
He’s a good shot-stopper on his day, but has he ever really been Celtic standard? In Europe this season, he was preferred to the underwhelming Vasilis Barkas for both Sparta Prague defeats (BBC), as well as the collapse against Hibs (Sky Sports).
In fact, the latter Sparta Prague debacle was his nadir for Celtic. WhoScored? rated Bain a pitiful 4.48.
His inability to organise a defence, his suspect positioning and rash decision-making mean that Bain, at 29, is never likely to be the main man in goals for Celtic. With £4.5m being spent on Barkas (Daily Record), it seems that if any goalie is going to leave, it’ll be Bain.
A lovely fella, no doubt. But a Celtic goalkeeper? Probably not.
I’ve spoken before about Olivier Ntcham, the mercurial and frustrating French midfielder. Clearly a talented player, the former Man City player’s work rate and consistency are a source of sheer exasperation for Celtic fans. On some days, you’ll see Peak Ntcham, strolling around the midfield, creating chances and scoring iconic goals (BT Sport/YouTube).
More often, though, you see the Vexation Ntcham. The guy who, for all intents and purposes, doesn’t seem that bothered. His shooting and key passing averages are way down this season (WhoScored?).
It could be for any number of reasons, but he’s not fulfilled his potential at Celtic. An exciting prospect when he joined, with two years of Serie A experience, Ntcham looked the business.
It might not be his fault, as he’s been played as a deep-lying playmaker, a defensive midfielder and a 10 under Brendan Rodgers and Neil Lennon. Maybe the coaches at Celtic just aren’t sure how to use him.
Linked with a move to one of Marseille, Porto, Southampton and West Brom in September (Football Insider), Celtic should readily accept anything over £8m for the midfielder.
Now, this will be a controversial one.
Stay with me, though: think of all the best Celtic youngsters coming through. Ismaila Soro, Luca Connell, Ewan Henderson and – most pertinently – David Turnbull. Where do they all play? That’s right, in central midfield.
Where does Ryan Christie play? Attacking midfield. Deeper? Scott Brown and Callum McGregor. If Ntcham stays, he’s there too.
Simply put, is there much to suggest that Tom Rogic isn’t superfluous to requirements at Celtic?
Look, I love him too. I think he’s brilliant. When he announced himself with a wonder-strike against Killie, I was delighted. When he scored against Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup Final, I was as ecstatic as the next Celtic supporter. But, despite his early season renaissance, I think we should look to accept a good bid for Tom Rogic.
Actively shopping him and accepting an offer are entirely different things. I don’t want to send the Australian packing, but equally, if we got £5m+ for the attacking midfielder, it’d be good business.
At 29, his fitness is declining. Even over the last few years, it’s been rare to see Rogic play for much longer than an hour. Given the intensity and physicality of the Scottish game, we need players with more durability. Most importantly, it allows a clearer run at the first team for some of our most promising assets.
Rogic, it’s been real. But if you ask me, the best long-term move is to get a fee for him while he’s still the right side of 30.