Wednesday 26 November 2014

Walker: Celtic board must take blame for Euro woes

Ronnie Esplin

Published 08/08/2014 | 02:30

A dejected Fraser Forster, Adam Matthews and Charlie Mulgrew of Celtic leave the pitch after their Champions League qualifier defeat to Legia Warsaw. Photo credit: Piotr Hawalej/Getty Images
A dejected Fraser Forster, Adam Matthews and Charlie Mulgrew of Celtic leave the pitch after their Champions League qualifier defeat to Legia Warsaw. Photo credit: Piotr Hawalej/Getty Images

Former Celtic striker Andy Walker believes the Hoops board paid dearly for their reluctance to back boss Ronny Deila when their Champions League hopes were demolished by Legia Warsaw.

A 2-0 defeat by the Polish side at Murrayfield on Wednesday night saw the Scottish champions exit at the third qualifying stage on a 6-1 aggregate to drop into the Europa League play-offs – although there is a chance they could be reinstated, with UEFA investigating the possibility that Legia fielded an ineligible player.

The Celtic board and chief executive Peter Lawwell in particular came in for criticism from furious fans at the game, with the lack of activity in the transfer market underpinning their anger.

Only out-of-contract 'keeper Craig Gordon, who has not played a competitive game for over two years, has been signed, while Cardiff City forward Jo Inge Berget joined on a six-month loan deal, neither featuring against Legia.

Walker, now a pundit, believes distress signals in the group stages of the Champions League last season where Neil Lennon's side finished bottom of their section have not been addressed.

"Last season they were drawn against Barcelona, AC Milan and Ajax," he said. "They struggled against all three and the supporters knew then that the team had to be strengthened.

FAILED

"Instead, Celtic have got rid of a big European player in Georgios Samaras and failed to make any sort of effort to replace him.

"They have also failed to support the new manager. Obviously, he is due a bit of criticism, but I just don't think he was helped by the lack of support he has had from the board.

"Celtic needed to strengthen and they have failed to do so at a vital time. When you are used to Champions League football, the Europa League – if they get there at all – is a very poor substitute.

"I understand it is very difficult to attract quality players, but I don't even see or hear of Celtic making any sort of effort to get players in, players they badly need.

"They know they will watch a team who will win the title this season, but when Ronny Deila came in he said they would play with energy and drive and I think he needs new players to try and achieve that."

Midfielder Callum McGregor, drafted into the side under Deila after returning from a loan spell at Notts County last season, claimed Celtic were taught a harsh European lesson but believes there is still plenty to play for this season.

"The game showed what European football is all about. It's ruthless," the 21-year-old said.

"We've just got to pick ourselves up and go again.

"People are saying that the season has finished before it has even started and that is actually disappointing to hear.

"The league campaign starts next week and there's a long season ahead."

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