Football Not the Only Thing Being Played at Celtic as Politics Threaten to Spoil Club's Progression
For 150 minutes, Celtic played SK Rosenborg, in a crucial Champions League qualifier, with no striker. The toothless 'tic struggled to break down the well drilled Nordic defence - with an agitated Brendan Rodgers looking as if he was sitting in a dentist's chair, rather than the Parkhead dugout.
Many thought that Rodgers' appointment signalled change at Celtic Park. No more would we see the infamous penny pinching that had time and time cost the club. A year after arriving in Glasgow, it doesn't look like much has changed.
The former Liverpool manager voiced his dissatisfaction at the clubs' January dealings, hinting at a lack of organisation and ambition: "It's disappointing because we had six months as a club to identify the type of players we wanted."
Despite scraping into the group stages, and then finishing with zero wins, those at the top of Celtic didn't appear to concerned with addressing squad's weaknesses. Eboue Kouassi was the only signing of the winter window, a teenager who had barely reached double figures in appearances for his then club. No winger to replace on-loan Patrick Roberts, or central defender to beef up the fragile defence.
But then, there's no value in the January window, is there? That's what Peter Lawwell tells the Celtic support at the end of every January - just months after grumblings about the club looking to adequately prepare for the following seasons qualifiers.
After record season ticket sales, seventeen players departing and an imminent windfall, via a sell on clause from Southampton's sale of Virgil van Dijk, the Parkhead faithful once again find themselves short-changed.
Admittedly, the arrival of Oliver Ntcham from Manchester City looks impressive. A highly-rated youngster with two seasons in Serie A under his belt - a definite improvement on Callum McGregor. However, Jonny Hayes and Kundai Benyu are hardly inspiring.
Benyu has only ever played at a level of football akin to that of Juniors quality. OK, he's young and may be a gem, but still he's no quick fix. In 165 appearances, Hayes scored just eight more goals (23) than Roberts did (15) in 43 appearances for Celtic. Hardly an adequate replacement, is it? A good SPL level player, but he will in no way take Celtic to the next level in Europe.
The Parkhead fans seem to be under the comforting impression that players are just waiting to see if the club qualify for the Champions League, before joining. When has this ever been the case? After scraping past Shakhter Karagandy in the final qualifier back in 2013, Nir Bitton (£700k) was the only addition to the squad.
Like with Rodgers' first season, the 2012 campaign also seen Celtic make no new additions after qualification was secured. Is a player really going to sign a three-plus year deal on the basis of six games?
You'd have to say that the Bhoys are the favourites going into their final qualifying tie with Astana. Not by much, however. One would doubt that you'd find many fans willing to put their house on them progressing.
The squad is an injury away from a disaster in various positions, and once again find themselves gambling on a £30m+ windfall. A bit more ambition from the board would have calmed some nerves, and put the club in a stronger position going into the Champions League group stages.