CELTIC manager Brendan Rodgers yesterday urged young right back Anthony Ralston to keep his feet firmly on the ground as he sets about making a career for himself as a professional footballer.
Contrast the caution shown by Rodgers with the hyper-exaggeration from across the city from Pedro Caixinha after teenager Ross McCrorie came on as a second half substitute in last night’s hard-fought Betfred Cup quarter final win over Patrick Thistle.
“Ross McCrorie is going to be one of the best centre halves in history, not just for this club but for this country,” Caixinha claimed after the match. No pressure on the boy then as he puts his feet up today on his day off before preparing to start against the Leigh Griffiths and Moussa Dembele, Saturday lunchtime.
“Let’s let him be and not get carried away just yet. He’s only just started playing games,” said Rodgers on Ralston.
“You have to be careful with young players. I say to the young players here, it’s very easy to walk around with the Louis Vuitton soap bag.
“When you walk out of here, don’t tell people you play for Celtic. No, you are training with Celtic. You are playing for Celtic when you are in the first team.
“Lots of young players these days look good, they smell nice, but they don’t put the work in. They don’t play. It’s about working to play for the first team. Thankfully with Tony and the likes, he’s not that type.”
“Tony has done very well. He still has some improvements to make but there’s a really good base for him to be a part of the team.
“They need to behave themselves and stay professional. I like young players but I don’t like them to act young. You need to have a maturity, especially at a big club like this one, with the focus on you.
“The young players I’ve brought in have all been great. I don’t have any qualms about how they live their life.
“They all know the demands to be here. You stay humble when you win and look to improve every day. With that, your life will get better and better. But never go away from what it’s all about, hard work and doing your very best.
“There is one common denominator when it comes to young players falling by the wayside – money. It distorts reality. It changes people.
“I’m always cautious of that. I had Raheem Sterling, who was playing for England and a regular in the Liverpool first team, on £2,000 per week.
“I couldn’t do it any longer than about the November time because he was absolutely brilliant, so we had to get him on a different contract. But I stretched it out as long as I could.
“With young players, one, they have to earn it and, two, you don’t go overboard with them because they have played a couple of good games.
“Stay calm. See how consistent and professional they are, and if they are doing well they will always get rewarded. Let them get some games in their legs and let them go from there.”
Maybe Caixinha could learn a thing or two from Rodgers on how to manage young players? A decent half hour against Thistle is hardly evidence that the youngster is set to become “the best centre halves in history, not just for this club but for this country.”
Will the modern game allow clubs like Celtic to compete in the Champions League?
Celtic occupy a strange space in football: one in which they stand head and shoulders above every other team in the Scottish Premier League (SPL), but crouch way below the best clubs on the European stage. Bet365 – currently listed as one of the best ten bookies on Bookmaker Advisor – currently offers odds of 1000/1 on Celtic to win the Champions League
Within the space of 12 months, Celtic have suffered both their heaviest defeat (against Barcelona) and their biggest home loss in their European history (against Paris St Germain). As former European champions, the Hoops occupy a unique place in Scottish football – they remain the only club north of the border to achieve the feat. In fact, they also became the first British club to win the hallowed competition in 1967.
With this in mind, can Celtic ever repeat this feat? Let’s take a closer look…
Great strides under Rodgers
It came as no surprise to anyone that Celtic won the SPL for the sixth time in a row in 2016/17. But the fact they did it without losing a single match shows what the arrival of former Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has done for them. His influence has re-invigorated a side that took a few missteps under previous manager Ronny Deila.
But this is exactly what makes the contrast between Celtic’s dominance at home and their failure in Europe so distinct. So what’s the reason for this deficit?
It all comes down to money
Celtic are the richest club in Scotland and the 40th richest in the world. In 2014, the Hoops were worth £55 million, which puts them way ahead at home and way behind in Europe. At £1.2 billion, Manchester United were – and still are – the richest club in the world.
Yet Celtic are also behind Manchester City (£524 million), Chelsea (£521 million), PSG (£355 million) and even Tottenham Hotspur (£236 million). It’s safe to say that there are many clubs which price Spurs out of the market for European success, so what hope do Celtic have? Not much.
A look at PSG’s team against Celtic
In their match away against Celtic, PSG had class all across the pitch, from Neymar, to Marco Verratti, Thiago Silva, and Angel Di Maria. These players’ salaries – let alone their transfer fees – far exceed the worth of Celtic as a whole. Money is becoming more and more important in the modern game. So unless Celtic can pull off some kind of miracle-marketing coup, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to compete in Europe any time soon.
Is there any hope for smaller clubs?
There are a few stories of triumph over adversity in football – one of those was Celtic in 1967, when they won the European Cup against glamorous opposition. More recently, FC Porto won the Champions League in 2004 and Leicester City won the Premier League at starting odds of 5000/1 in 2015. It can be done, but Celtic and other Scottish teams have their work cut out – especially in the modern game.