Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A big month

Apparently Gary Caldwell’s transfer to Wigan almost fell through because of the bad weather.

Until 40,000 Celtic fans volunteered to help clear the road.

Boom, boom!

In his defence Gary brightened up the SPL. The inexplicable mistakes, the charging runs that so often came to absolutely nothing, the complete lack of self awareness in his pronouncements to the press, the embarrassment of having to explain to anyone not up to speed that the Celtic centre half was last year’s player of the year. All great fun.

He’s got his ambition of playing in the English Premier now. I wonder if he saw that happening with a team like Wigan? Anyway, good luck to him. I’m sure he’ll enjoy endless days of George Orwell related sightseeing at the pier.

Caldwell’s transfer actually forms part of Tony Mowbray’s biggest statement of intent since arriving at Celtic Park. With Willo Flood, Barry Robson and Chris Killen also moving south Celtic are clearing the decks.

Footballing orthodoxy suggests that managers are unable to effect too many changes in January. The poor start to his Celtic career has given Mowbray no choice but to make some pretty major changes now in the hope of turning the season round.

Celtic are out of two of the four tournaments they entered and still seven points behind in the SPL. That gap is not insurmountable but he needs players he can trust and players of a certain quality if he is to hunt Rangers down.

With Jos Hooiveld signed Mowbray has replaced Caldwell already but he’ll need to sign others if he hopes to sustain a challenge.

The risk, as Celtic found to their cost last year, is that to buy in January you’ve sometimes got to pay over the odds. When Peter Lawwell refused to do that last year he robbed Gordon Strachan of the chance to freshen things up.

Strachan must have realised as February loomed that Celtic’s failure to strengthen offered Rangers hope. When Walter Smith managed to turn that hope into self belief Strachan and his players had no way of responding.

This is another January of high stakes for a Celtic manager and his board.

Across the city, at the top of the table Rangers must simply endure the transfer window. The squad will not be strengthened, so Walter Smith must hope that it is not weakened. He’s already missing some key players – including Bougherra and Boyd – through international commitments, injury and suspension.

Temporary absences he’ll feel he can cope with. If too many of them are made permanent in an effort to appease the money men then it will be time for some panic in Govan.

Despite the seven point gap, this year’s SPL remains very much in the balance.

It looks like this snow covered January might yet turn out to be the pivotal month of the season.