Gordon Smith: More about outs than ins for Celtic this season as Jeremie Frimpong transfer shows

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The January transfer window has been really quiet this year but I’m not really surprised. With the massive reduction in income caused by the lockdown, with no spectators being allowed to attend games, it was always going to be a major issue at to whether clubs would be able to bring new players in. At this time of the season there’s generally a move by directors to help the manager if he feels that one or perhaps two new signings could be the difference between achieving a top four place or avoiding relegation. I believe that this season is different because of the financial restraints and because the relegation battle is so tight between the bottom 5.

It’s interesting that the major transfer story for Celtic during this period is the sale of Frimpong rather than about any players coming in. With the league title now looking to be beyond Celtic and with Neil Lennon’s future not yet been established it is hardly surprising that they aren’t really too active in the transfer market. In fairness nowadays, a lot of the signings are made by the head of recruitment at the club but generally the team manager should have an input. It will be interesting to see if Neil Lennon is staying beyond this season because if he does, then he should be rebuilding the team to make a stronger challenge for the title next season. If he’s not being kept on beyond this season then someone else should be brought in now because this gives them an opportunity to access the current squad and identify what positions need to be addressed in the summer when the transfer window reopens.

I remember during Walter Smith’s tenure as Rangers Manager, in what was his last season at the club, I called him to offer him a player who I felt could strengthen his squad. I was a player’s agent at the time and was quite surprised when he told me that he was not allowed to bring in any new players as he was leaving Rangers at the end of the season. I don’t know if Neil’s had this same discussion with the Celtic hierarchy but he doesn’t seem to be mindful of this in any media interviews he’s giving. At all times he’s giving the impression that his relationship with Peter Lawwell and Dermot Desmond is strong and that things are going to improve. Even this week, he has been saying that he’s looking to bring in another fullback now that Frimpong has gone to Bauer Leverkusen.

I must admit that this deal and the price allegedly paid by Leverkusen is amazing. I always liked Frimpong and definitely anticipated a good future for him at Celtic, but I also saw weaknesses in his game that are certainly attributable to his youth and inexperience. I definitely thought he could improve on these faults and that would take his game to another level. For a top German club to come in and pay over £11m for him now is astonishing and I have to say, a terrific bit of business for Celtic as they paid £300k for him. Whoever recommended that Frimpong should be signed for Celtic certainly deserves a thank you and possibly even a reward. Despite Lennon saying he was disappointed with Frimpong refusing to sign a new deal, I think he would still have been moved on even if he had.

On the other side of the old firm, we have a blossoming Rangers team who are continuing to pick up winning points even when they are not at their best. From Rangers point of view, the Frimpong deal must be a bit of a shock considering there was so much talk about Morelos being sold last summer for that kind of money. I personally think if there was such an offer they should have taken it. He scored the winning goal on Wednesday night to be fair but contributed little else and should certainly have got a red card in the 1st half for his challenge on Porteous. Even after all this time and the attention he’s had regarding his on-field behaviour, he still doesn’t seem able to control himself. He’s a liability and I’m pretty sure he’ll get a retrospective ban for his actions. In my opinion, he’s the 4th placed striker, behind Roofe, Defoe and Itten, for a place in the starting line-up and should Rangers be so lucky as to get a bid for him during this window, then I would advise them to take it. Most certainly if it’s in the same region as the bid Celtic got for Frimpong.

I was pleased to see that David Martindale passed the SFA ‘ Fit and proper person’ test this week. It must have been a worrying issue for him but he certainly had a lot of both club and public support. I think his character has turned around greatly since being found guilty of serious drug offences and that is a measure of why it the correct decision to allow him to be officially on the club’s staff list. Having attained a degree since being sentenced and starting out in the football world as a volunteer, gives you a measure of how he’s changed his life around in recent years. The achievements he’s bringing to Livingston currently are outstanding and he should be used by the authorities as an example of how you can turn your life around after having been involved in a serious drug related crime. I wish him all the best for the future.

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