The secret of Celtic glory Smells like team spirit
01:15 GMT, 7 December 2012
It is easy to get carried away with
Celtic. The history, the colour, the noise, the spectacle, all of this
acts like a magnetic force on our attention, on major European nights in
particular. Celtic Park can be an inspiration and it was once again
uplifting on Wednesday.
But at the core of the celebrated
club must always be a football team and if that seems a very basic
requirement, what Neil Lennon has assembled at Celtic is a proper team.
Get in: Neil Lennon punches the air after Celtic progressed to the next round of the Champions League
One definition of a real manager and a real team is that the collective is greater than the sum of the individual parts. Less is made more.
Celtic have done this, they have become a coherent unit one year on from being 3-0 down at Kilmarnock with Lennon fretting about his future. He did not look like the coming man he appears to be today. But the 41-year-old has grown; his team have grown.
In terms of maturity there is a comparison to be made with Borussia Dortmund, who finished bottom of their group a year ago with four points. At the same time Celtic were third in their Europa League group. Both are young teams.
Rocket: Kris Commons drills home the spot-kick that sent the Hoops through
Hard work and a team ethic sounds too
simple an explanation for progress, but there is genius in simplicity.
So when the question is asked: how did Celtic make it out of a tough
Champions League group when clubs of superior resources, such as
Manchester City and Chelsea, did not, a significant slice of the answer
is that Celtic are a team in a way that City and Chelsea have not been.
It is understandable to dwell on the wealth gap. Celtic’s most costly
player in their starting XI on Wednesday against Spartak Moscow was
Scott Brown, who cost 4.4million from Hibs five years ago.
Alongside him were scorers Gary Hooper (Scunthorpe, 1.6m) and Kris
Commons (Derby, 300,000).
Celtic’s starting XI against Spartak cost 13m, which amounts to a couple of annual salaries at Chelsea and City.
Another comparison that flatters Lennon and his club was the sight of
Aiden McGeady entering the pitch as a Spartak substitute. Celtic sold
McGeady to Moscow for 10m — which is 4m more than Celtic have ever
spent on a player.
And McGeady was by no means Spartak’s only recent recruit. Emmanuel
Emenike, who set up Spartak’s equaliser, cost 9m. The wages in Moscow
far exceed those in Scotland.
Anything can happen: Lennon believes his Celtic boys can go deep in the competition
Another comparison is the TV money which clubs receive. Celtic’s cut
last year was around 2m, whereas Wolves, bottom of the Premier League
and relegated, received 39m.
Man City got 60.6m from the televising of the Premier League, Chelsea
54.4m, and it was felt that those two clubs capturing respectively the
League title and European Cup marked the utter triumph of vast wealth.
It has not turned out that way, which is a warning to Celtic. A year
from now, things could be different. But Celtic are not complacent. A
measure of their daily economic reality was seen and heard in the Jock
Stein Lounge on Tuesday. There Lennon talked about the financial rewards
gained before Wednesday’s victory as saving jobs at the stadium.
have this revenue when a lot of people at this club were worried about
their jobs is great,’ he said. ‘Everyone in Scotland is downsizing and
we are no different.’
Lennon was pressed on the January window and talked about getting
players such as Victor Wanyama and Hooper on to better contracts.
And buying players ‘Possibly. But I don’t want to change it too much. I
don’t want to spend mega-money on one player because that will only
disrupt the spirit here.’
Lennon did not overplay the spirit line. He was restrained. But he knows
this is over-achieving and he knows it is being noticed. ‘I think this
might change the opinion or the view of Scottish teams,’ he added,
Contract trouble: Gary Hooper might not sign a new deal