PO Box 306, Glasgow, G21 2AE, Scotland
roll out the barrowfield
This issue goes to print on the eve of another Celtic AGM, the one time in the year when those shareholders in attendance have the chance to be patronised in person by the PLC board.
This year you don't have to be Darlinda to predict the issues which will probably be raised during the question and answer session: the budget available for Martin O'Neill to strengthen the playing squad, the chances of Celtic making a sharp exit from the SPL, the perennial problems associated with the club's ticketing system.
Some issues are hardy annuals and we are resigned to the fact that few will be resolved on the day of the AGM. In fact we'll be lucky of we even get satisfactory answers to the questions. However, there is one question that we feel deserves to be pursued somewhat more rigorously than is has been until now, particularly as it was one of the promises made in order to get supporters to part with their hard-earned cash before the last share issue.
With the recent announcement that Celtic have signed a 5 year deal worth £25m with Nike starting from next summer, surely now is the time for money from this deal to be ring fenced in order to ensure the building of improved training facilities.
It is true that a Murray Park does not a good team make - we have pointed this out many a time in the pages of this blatt - and it is also undeniable that Celtic's youth set up appears to be thriving at this point in time. But it would appear that this healthy state of affairs has come about despite of, not because of the club's training facilities. We might be harbouring ambitions to play among the genuine elite of Europe, but the sad fact is that Barrowfield does not stand up to any sort of comparison with even some of the continent's more modest clubs far less the AC Milans and Barcelonas of the world.
We don't necessarily need to emulate Murray Park, an over the top development that seems to have been built as much to massage the ego of the Rangers chairman as to provide training facilities to finely tune the ball skills of such talented athletes as Boab Malcolm FTP, the stamina of wee Burkey or the ability of Maurice Loss to ping a sixty yard pass straight to the feet of any spectator in Ibrox, provided they're sitting in one of the rear sections of the stand. Something less grand will suffice Celtic.
At a minimum it will need to incorporate a full sized under cover training area allowing the players to train in the worst of the winter weather. Sufficient pitches should be provided to allow adequate training and playing areas for not only the first team but all teams under them from reserves to the youngest age group. It should have offices for the managers and training staff along with treatment areas so that as much as possible of the normal weekly routine is done away from Celtic Park. There is already a huge tract of land there already right beside Barrowfield which, on the face of it, would appear to be perfectly suited to this purpose. It has been lying there undeveloped for years and it's a mystery why Celtic haven't already moved in and bought it.
Improving the training facilities might also help encourage the most promising youngsters, from Scotland and further afield, to sign for Celtic ahead of rival clubs. Anything that gives us an advantage in this area has to be of benefit. If the board get this up and running - and paid for - over the five year duration of this Nike contract we will have laid a positive foundation for the future.
Players come and go but a proper training and coaching facility should stand the club in good stead for decades to come. It's something that will prove to be of Long Term not short term benefit.
Time for Quinn and the rest of the bhoys in the boardroom to get the finger out. Surely they're not waiting to see what's going to happen with the proposed Glasgow City Council sports facility planned for near the stadium? Apart from anything else, building a proper training complex for all the players at Parkhead would give the Laptop Loyal one less reason to have a go at us.
GEORGE OF THE TRAINING GROUND