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Are Celtic afraid to go Scottish?

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With Celtic making their first signing of the January transfer window today, a question is rearing its head on their recruitment policy – are Celtic afraid to go Scottish?

Norwegian midfielder Stefan Johansen made the £2 million move from Tippeligaen side Strømsgodset today, but have Celtic snubbed Scottish talent for a quick buck?

It is no secret that Celtic’s transfer policy now seems to be to buy in potential talent and then to sell on for a sizeable profit, but is the club’s scouts focusing far too much on foreign shores than on Scotland?

Certainly recent acquisitions in the guise of Ki Sung Yeung, Victor Wanyama and Gary Hooper have worked well for Celtic both financially and on the field also, but they have also wasted money on Efrain Juarez, Morten Rasmussen, Mo Bangura, Derk Boerrigter, Teemu Pukki and Amido Balde to name but a few signings, that have failed to set the heather alight.

These latest signings – bar Virgil van Dijk – have failed to do the job both domestically and in Europe, and will almost certainly not bring in the amount of money that the Celtic board would have hoped to secure when they depart the Scottish champions for pastures new.

When you look at recent talent in Scottish football, you must question why they are ignoring good, experienced and quality players from their own league choosing instead to buy players from foreign shores who are an unknown quantity – especially with no experience of the rough and tumble of the Scottish game.

The recent emergence of Dundee United’s kids is a huge indication that if you stick to home grown talent then you could be rewarded with a few gems. United manager Jackie McNamara has at his disposal – Andrew Robertson, John Souttar, Stuart Armstrong, Gary Mackay Steven and Ryan Gauld. All five are quality players, certainly they have the experience of playing in the Scottish top flight and just like any other new Celtic signing – would be able to achieve experience in the Champions League over the next few years.

Robertson has been tipped with a move to Everton, while Gauld has been touted for a move to the English Premier League and La Liga, so why are Celtic snubbing such talent?

Chief Scout John Park has been tasked with unearthing new talent that Celtic can profit from after a few years at the club, but why not go for players that may command the same transfer fee while wages that are on equal footing or less? At least Celtic know what they can do domestically and they can be nurtured and developed into players that can take on Europe’s elite.

With around £10 million spent this season on player transfers, throwing money away on players that are labelled projects or signing third choice targets to keep an increasingly frustrated fan base happy is a waste of money and effort.

During the Summer transfer window, Celtic were reportedly after Alfred Finnbogason and then ended up with Amido Balde and Teemu Pukki, while Finnbogason is banging the goals in for Heerenveen – scoring 17 goals in 19 appearances, Pukki and Balde are not even classed as first team regulars.

Apologists for Balde and Pukki claim that they are still works in progress, but after six months of playing in a Celtic shirt they are no longer works in progress just two more players picking up a wage and not delivering.

Celtic are in desperate need of a goal scoring striker as well as creativity. Currently the side are relying too heavily on Kris Commons for their creativity with spirts and spurts from the injury prone James Forrest, why not bolster their attacking options with the likes of Armstrong and Gauld?

Why not take a look at Inverness Caley Thistle’s Billy MacKay or even St.Johnstone’s Steven May? Two proven goalscorers in the Scottish Premiership over the years and are more of a potent threat than what the current crop of Celtic strikers are.

Looking back on Celtic’s past signings since 2010, only three player were Scottish [outwith Watt and McGeouch who were signed as youths]those being Kris Commons, Charlie Mulgrew and Paul Slane and only ten in total from Britain or the Republic of Ireland, of those only two have flopped – Daryl Murphy and Paul Slane [although the latter was more down to injury than ability or lack thereof]. Of the foreign players that Celtic have signed since 2010, they have totalled 20 players with only Virgil van Dijk, Victor Wanyama, Mikael Lustig, Emilio Izaguirre and Beram Kayal showing any return for the money spent on them.

The stats don’t lie at the end of the day eight out of ten signings from these shores have done a job for Celtic, while only five out of 20 players from abroad have worked. Yet the biggest sale has come from one of those foreign signings – Victor Wanyama being sold for £12.5 million – two years after Celtic had signed the Kenyan for a mere £900,000.

But how much money have they wasted on chasing the next Victor Wanyama? Certainly they have wasted around a cool £7 million on Balde, Pukki and Boerrigter this season. Maybe its time for Celtic to recall John Park and let him focus on the young talent within Scotland and Britain’s shores, that is what he did brilliantly at Easter Road as he is credited with bringing through the likes of Kevin Thomson, Scott Brown, Steven Fletcher among others.

The fans may be wanting a big money signing, but the times of spending £5 million on a single player is gone – the last big money signing was Mexican Efrain Juarez and look how he turned out. Celtic have always, until the days of Martin O’Neill, been synonymous with nurturing their own talent or signing the top talent in the Scottish game.

With players choosing life in the cash rich bubble of the English Premier League, Celtic have to pay more out on wages to entice foreign talent to the club, but maybe it is time for the club and their scouts to focus their efforts on home grown talent rather than the roulette wheel of foreign acquisitions.

It would be far less expensive.

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About Author

scotzine

Andy Muirhead is the Editor of Scotzine and the Scottish Football fanzine FITBA. He is the Scottish Football columnist for The Morning Star and has written for a number of other publications including ESPN, Huffington Post UK, BT Life's a Pitch and has had his work featured in the Daily Record, The Scotsman and the Daily Mail.

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