Celtic’s domestic campaign is more or less a forgone conclusion. Celtic are odds-on favourites to win the SPL title, in fact they are tipped to wrap up the league before Christmas. So this season Celtic’s season will be defined not by domestic glory, but by what they do in Europe.
Rangers’ demise and entry into the fourth tier of Scottish football has given Celtic breathing space in the top-tier, for them to chase the riches of the Champions League. Strengthening their side is all resting on their qualification to the group stages where they can secure up to an exceeding £15 million just by taking part. A huge sum of money that winning the SPL and all domestic cup competitions cannot match.
Celtic have some of the richest men in British football gracing their board room, but these millionaires and billionaires are not like a Roman Abramovich or Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan. They will not throw their money away like Abramovich or Mansour do, they have the luxury of owning clubs in the world’s richest league, while the likes of Dermot Desmond & co. own a club that is too big for the league that it is in and earns mroe money through its fan base and sponsorship rather than TV revenue.
The Celtic fans will settle for nothing less than title victory in the SPL, but to get bums on seats they will have to bring the big guns to Celtic Park. Over the past few seasons, the only sell out crowds that Celtic achieved were against rivals Rangers. Without that carrot to dangle in front of the fans four times a year, the pulling power of the Champions League is needed even more so by the money men at Celtic.
£15 million could go towards paying players wages, and used to strengthen one or two key positions. Without the £15 million kitty, Celtic would in all likelihood sell one of their top players – with Ki Sung Yueng being the favourite to depart Glasgow for pastures new. The lack of the Glasgow derby and Champions League football could also force one or two other players to think about their own Celtic futures.
So those eight days are important for not only the club but also for Neil Lennon, who since he started as Celtic manager has come under some criticism for his side choking on the big stage – League Cup Finals, semi finals and in the league also. However last season proved that Celtic do have metal, after they overturned a huge points deficit before their rivals Rangers imploded on and off the park.
The Champions League is the only competition that Celtic will be judged on this season, if they drop into the Europa League then they would give themselves some breathing space in terms of financial income being brought in, but thereafter a one-horse SPL will not generate the excitement many fans live on and the attendances will drop steadily.
Celtic MUST secure Champions League football by beating Helsingborgs IF not only for pride, for exposure and for the co-efficient but also for the financial benefit that it will bring to Celtic.