Davie Hay: Invest to avoid Euro downturn

THE 6-1 beating in Barcelona is still very raw, but Celtic can't shy away from some very important questions.

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Neil Lennon and his coaches look on as their Celtic side are beaten 6-1 by Barcelona in the Nou Camp on Wednesday night
Neil Lennon and his coaches look on as their Celtic side are beaten 6-1 by Barcelona in the Nou Camp on Wednesday night

It's all about Champions League football for the club now, because they will win the SPFL for the foreseeable future. But is it just about qualifying for the Group Stage?

And are they content to finish in bottom spot, collect their cheque from Uefa, and wait for the next qualifiers?

I appreciate they are in a David and Goliath situation comparing the resources available to them with those of the likes of Barcelona.

And, of course, just a year ago we were all celebrating them qualifying for the last 16.

But that was done with Victor Wanyama and Gary Hooper, and you can't rely on unearthing such raw talent from the market Celtic shop in.

The only way to get a better chance to compete at this level on a consistent basis is to revise the buying strategy.

I'm talking abut tweaking, not re-writing, just enough to give Neil Lennon the extra quality he needs in key areas.

Right now, that's a creative midfielder and a striker.

Now I'm the first to admit spending more on players - and being prepared to pay the wages that come with stepping up a level in the transfer market - guarantees nothing.

But it certainly gives you a better chance. And they have generated a lot of money from European runs and transfer sales in the past couple of years, so the cash is there.

I reckon Neil will meet the board soon to discuss what happened in this season's European campaign, and more ­importantly, where they go from here. What is said will be kept indoors, as it should be.

When I was ­manager Rangers had brought in Graeme Souness and were spending big to bring quality from England.

I told the board we needed to spend to compete, and identified winger Pat Nevin and defenders Stevie Clarke and Joe McLaughlin as the men I wanted.

Jack McGinn was chairman. His reaction was to brief a journalist that if I wanted them I should use my own money. At the end of that season, Rangers won the league - and I was sacked.

I am sure nothing like that will happen with the current regime. And it's important there is no knee-jerk reaction, though the margin of defeat in the Nou Camp was a shock to the system.

Until now, Celtic have been able to stay within a goal or two of Barcelona. But they weren't in the game. To be fair, on that form, and with Neymar showing why he cost nearly £50million, few teams would have lived with Barca.

But it is the last three games of the group which really concern me, because the performances took a huge dip from the way Celtic started in the San Siro on matchday one.

Until Scott Brown was sent off in the home tie against Barca, they were playing better than they did when they beat them last season.

So, why did it all go so horribly wrong? The real pressure comes in the play-offs, when the big money is on the line.

Having got to the Group Stage, they should have been able to go out and perform to their best. But what they have shown since winning against Ajax at Celtic Park has been way below what's needed - or they are capable of.

It brings me back to what everyone is prepared to accept. If that is getting to the Group Stage, where they are content to finish where their Pot 4 seeding says they should, then fine, declare that.

BUT a number of people will want more than that, and I know Neil wants his side to be in there competing.

It would have been a huge disappointment that the game in the Nou Camp was a dead rubber. Neil didn't miss anyone when he spoke after the game. You could feel his hurt.

And, when asked about waiting until Group Stage football is secured before he can move on some signing targets, he made the point that some players won't agree to come until they know Celtic have qualified.

But, trust me, if the right money is offered, they would quickly agree to sign.

Neil brought in players last summer, and he started most of them in the Nou Camp. I believe he wanted to see if they were up to the challenge, and he will have learned a lot about several. I was surprised to see Kris Commons on the bench because, in the Nou Camp, I thought he was one player they would need.

I'm not saying the reason they lost so heavily was because of Neil's changes. It was down to a poor start with passing below what's required and they were caught out defensively to go behind early.

It was the worst possible note on which to end the campaign. Reaching the last 16 last year was a wonderful achievement: this campaign has brought everyone down to earth with a massive bump.

In football, it's all about the moment, not the past, and maybe even more importantly, what happens next.


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