ANDY Walker, the former Celtic striker and Sky Sports co-commentator, spoke a great deal of sense as the row over Parkhead club’s warm weather training break in Dubai raged last month.
Neil Lennon took exception to Walker’s description of the trip as “a jolly” – with some justification given that his players had worked solidly when they were in the United Arab Emirates.
However, the pundit summed up the feelings of angry fans as well many disgusted members of the public when he was asked about the ill-advised excursion in the wake of a 1-1 draw with Hibernian.
“We’re seeing dismal governance from this club,” he said. “I think what the Celtic supporters deserve is a bit of contrition from someone, anyone, with a bit of backbone at this club.”
The clip of his impassioned polemic went viral on social media and days later chief executive Peter Lawwell issued a public apology. He captured the mood of the masses and articulated their views on the controversy eloquently.
Walker, though, was well wide of the mark last week when he stated that Odsonne Edouard has put off potential suitors with his questionable attitude this season and would only be able to command a fee of around £15m when, not if, he is sold this summer.
It is certainly true the 23-year-old has not been at his very best at times during the 2020/21 campaign. It is, too, not unreasonable to suggest that his less impressive performances have perhaps been due to his unhappiness at not getting a longed-for move at the end of last season.
Yet, any player with the physical attributes, youth, sublime skills and goal return of the Frenchman is going to attract interest at a very high level across Europe. It will require a substantial offer, far more than £15m, to secure his services.
Celtic’s record in the transfer market during Lawwell’s lengthy tenure was reviewed in these pages last week and made for interesting reading. There have been some rank rotten acquisitions since 2003. But he has overseen some great bits of business during the past 17 years or so as well.
Kieran Tierney (£25m in 2019), Moussa Dembele (£19.7m in 2018), Victor Wanyama (£12.5 in 2013), Virgil van Dijk (£11.5m in 2015), Jeremie Frimpong (£11.5m in 2021) and Aiden McGeady (£9.5m in 2010) have all banked huge profits.
Edouard, who took his tally for this term to 20 at McDiarmid Park yesterday with a second-half double in a 2-1 win over St Johnstone, will cost more than any of them. It will take a Scottish record transfer fee to land him.
The former Paris Saint-Germain youngster may well have upped his game in recent weeks – he has plundered 11 goals in his last nine games – because the summer window is approaching.
It shouldn’t, though, be forgotten that he contracted Covid-19 on France Under-21 duty back in October. The impact of the virus can, as anyone who has been unfortunate enough to test positive will tell you, be long-lasting. Perhaps it has taken him until now to get back to peak physical condition once again.
Lennon has been publicly critical about the attitude of certain unnamed members of his squad who are hankering after moves on several occasions this season. But he has also repeatedly praised a laid-back, introverted, uncomplicated individual who has given him no off-field issues at all. He is a dream for a coach to work with.
Rangers turned down the £16m that Lille offered them for Alfredo Morelos – a forward who can, for all his brilliance in front of goal, be as much of a handful off the park as he is on it – back in August because that sum fell short of their £20m valuation.
So how much will Celtic get for Edouard? If he keeps netting with such regularity a bid of £30m should just about suffice.
The welcome income will help to fund the significant rebuilding job the manager will have to carry out and prove invaluable amid the current uncertain economic climate.
AND ANOTHER THING
IF Scott Brown announces in the coming weeks that he will, after 14 years of sterling service and 22, maybe even 23, trophies, be leaving Celtic in the summer to finish his career elsewhere, he will depart with the supporters’ best wishes.
If the Parkhead captain reveals before the end of the 2020/21 campaign that he will be retiring and moving into a coaching role at Lennoxtown the development will doubtless be welcomed by fans.
But if Brown decides to sign a new contract and play on? That particular bit of news may not, despite the affection and high esteem that “Broony” is held in, be well received universally.
The central midfielder will turn 36 in June. Some feel he should stand aside and allow a younger man to step into his pivotal role. Ismaila Soro did well after displacing his skipper towards the end of last year.
However, the former Scotland internationalist’s return to Lennon’s side after the 2-1 defeat to St Mirren at Parkhead this month has coincided with a four game winning run.
Scott Brown still has a great deal to offer and should play on for Celtic.