So we’ve reached September and football’s transfer window has closed once more. All of the wheeling and dealing is over for a while and clubs now know the squads of players they have to get them through the remainder of 2010.
Celtic fans have probably seen more comings and goings than any other set of supporters over the past three months. With a new manager in place that was perhaps inevitable. Neil Lennon took over the reins at a time when a total overhaul of the playing staff was required – and that is exactly what he has delivered.
The squad is now undoubtedly Lenny’s squad. So let’s look at the players that will play their part in the quest to regain the league title.
The departure of Artur Boruc had long been rumoured and his move to Italy was not a great surprise. I had hoped to see an experienced and obvious number one recruited to replace the best keeper we have had in many years, but it was not to be.
The Shay Given on loan stories continued up until almost the last day, and I would have been very pleased had be re-joined the club that let him go at the beginning of his career.
Fraser Forster, a highly rated young player, has come in on loan from Newcastle to join Lucasz Zaluska and Dominic Cervi. But, undoubtedly we are now weaker in this department.
Korean international Cha Do Ri and Emilio Izaguirre from Honduras look to be the first choice full backs. Cha looks much happier going forward than defending so far while Izaguirre looked good on his debut, although it is difficult to make judgements after so few games.
With Andy Hinkel out for the season with a knee injury, Charlie Mulgrew and Mark Wilson are the back ups. Midfielders Ledley and Juarez have already filled in at the full back position, although are primarily midfielders.
The verdict: we are better off and crucially have more strength in depth.
New signing Daniel Majstorovic, an experienced Swedish international is the main addition. He joins Jos Hooiveld, Glenn Loovens and Thomas Rogne as the main first team centre halves, with a fit again Milan Misun hoping to press for first team time too.
The priority now must be to develop a settled partnership at the back. Injuries over the last year or so have seen something of a revolving door at centre half with many different combinations tried.
I had hoped to see another centre half brought in. Without that signing we are no better off than we were last season.
This is the area where the squad looks much stronger than it did last season, with internationals Joe Ledley, Efrain Juarez and Beram Kayal coming in. And the manager also has Scott Brown, Ki Sung Yueng and Marc Crosas at his disposal.
There are plenty of midfield options available now, and we have playrs who can lay in different formations. We can also look forward to goals from midfield, which is something we have been lacking for a few years now.
Wide midfield/ winger
With Aiden McGeady now plying his trade in Moscow, there are opportunities for others to shine. Shaun Maloney is fit again and he will look to become a first team regular, while Paddy McCourt will hope to increase his game time. Youngster James Forrest has had a very promising start to the season, while Niall McGinn will soon be back from injury.
I have to say we are weaker here. For all that McGeady had his detractors, he gave an option on one wing and had the ability to hold the ball when that was required. If Maloney is finally over his injury worries and can play consistently he will help to fill the void. But while McCourt, Forrest and McGinn are all talented, none is yet a consistent performer.
New signings Anthony Stokes, Gary Hooper and Daryl Murphy will compete with Georgios Samaras, whom many people expected to leave before the window closed.
Perhaps it is telling that the famous no. 7 jersey will remain on the peg. Without a Craig Bellamy or Robbie Keane type signing to fill it, that is wise.
Stokes has scored goals in the SPL and Hooper is highly rated. But there will be a lot of pressure on these two young men to deliver. We have a midfield that will create chances – we need strikers to get on the end of them.
A couple of injuries would leave the striking options looking very limited. I think we are one player short here and hope that lack of a top quality striker does not come back to haunt us.
So where does that leave Celtic?
Well, firstly let me state that I’m not interested I’m playing a numbers game. I don’t care too much about exactly how many players have come in or left the club. And I’m not interested in analysing how much we have spent or what has happened to the wage bill.
What I am interested in is the quality of the squad we now have.
Celtic lost two very important players in this transfer window with the transfers of Artur Boruc and Aiden McGeady. Neither, sadly, has been replaced with players of similar quality.
On the positive side we have signed a number of international class players who are in their early twenties, and this gives both youth and the potential for improvement. If the core of this squad can stay together for two or three years then we could perhaps see something special.
The primary target for Celtic this season is to win back the championship. Crucially, I believe that the squad that Neil Lennon now has at his disposal is capable of doing that.
I would have liked to see a couple of additional signings to add some immediate quality to the squad. In my mind that would have meant moving from narrow favourites to win the league title to near certainties.
Overall I think this is a decent start to the reign of a new manager, especially bearing in mind that Neil Lennon came to the job with absolutely no experience in the transfer market.
But I can’t shake off a nagging feeling that it could have been a great window, rather than a decent one.
Time will tell exactly how the season will progress over the next few months. And if it doesn’t work out as hoped there will be another transfer window in January!