• Ruaraidh Britton

Summer rebuild vital for Eddie Howe at Celtic

After nearly three months, the rumours appear to be true that Eddie Howe will be the next Celtic manager. TalkSport are reporting that Howe has agreed to take on one of Scotland’s biggest jobs in football, and he will be the 19th person to take charge of Celtic and just the third Englishman after John Barnes and Tony Mowbray. Howe has worked wonders in his managerial career, and the story of taking Bournemouth from League Two to the Premier League on a limited budget is nothing short of heroic. But the job on his hands at Celtic is far more pressurising, and after the collapse of Celtic’s bid for ten titles in a row, it is one that will see a world of challenges thrown at him. To start with, he has a summer rebuild to work around, and there are some serious demands being thrown at the 43-year-old.

First things first, he has to build his team how he wants it, and there is some serious dead wood currently earning a wage at Celtic. Two new fullbacks to replace a stumbling Jonjoe Kenny and Diego Laxalt that can offer some creativity in attack and defensive solidity will be a huge challenge. Kristoffer Ajer looks likely to be on his way out, so if attempts to retain the Norwegian fail, recalling Jack Hendry from Belgium becomes a must for their defence to stand a chance as well as getting Christopher Jullien back to full fitness. And then there is the goalkeeper situation. Vasilis Barkas has failed at Celtic, but sometimes coaching can differ from player to player, so it's up to Howe and him working his magic on Barkas if he doesn’t want to splash the cash on a goalkeeper.

The new Celtic team under Howe has to be built around David Turnbull, because he has been outstanding in that Celtic team this season despite their poor return of results. Callum McGregor looks set to lead the side and step in the footsteps of Scott Brown which is an impossible spot to fill, but retaining the likes of Ismaila Soro and Mohamed Elyounoussi will be massively important to regenerating the attacking fire Celtic have sorely watched defused this season. Cashing in on Olivier Ntcham and Ryan Christie will be significant to the transfer funds, and with the former out in France and the latter well off the boil this season. Some goodbyes will be tough, but this team has got to move forward to compete with Rangers next season.

Up front Celtic are in crisis, and this is where a massive call has got to be made on all three of Odsonne Edouard, Leigh Griffiths, and Albian Ajeti. Edouard has Premier League interest from a number of clubs, and he looks like he has had his head elsewhere this season after missing out on a big money move last summer, but sending him packing takes away the most lethal goalscorer Celtic have in their ranks, and relying on Griffiths and Ajeti is simply not going to be enough with both failing to prove themselves this season.

Howe will have his target signings, and the club have to supply him with the funds to get a key talisman up front to replace Edouard. Ivan Toney was linked heavily with Celtic last season, but the club failed, and now Toney is breaking the record for the number of goals in a Championship season in England, and it really does make you wonder what Celtic did so wrong to miss out. These failures cannot happen again for the Hoops, but regardless of who is up front, Howe has a massive demand from the club to repay the faith, and that’s qualification for the Champions League.

Celtic have missed out on Europe’s elite competition since the 2017-18 season, and the time away in Europa League has been a painful experience, with defeats to Zenit St Petersburg, Valencia and Copenhagen being the closest Celtic have come to a strong European run. In no way does this team feel ready for Champions League, but we have to qualify for the tournament for the financial benefits and to gain interest from players looking for a move to Glasgow. But most importantly, it needs to be a statement of intent for the fans and show that Howe means business and that he can give Celtic fans something to look forward to on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

There are only three rounds of qualifiers this time for Celtic, but defeats to AEK Athens and Ferencvaros in previous seasons sum up just how badly Celtic have failed in these rounds. These are comfortable teams to beat, and Howe needs to find a way of starting the season strong and constructing a formation that gets the best out of the squad that can make an immediate impact. Fans don’t have many reasons to cheer about this team at the minute, but a return to Champions League and a strong start to the season without throwing the kitchen sink at the transfer market would be a huge boost for those wearing green and white. It can be done, but Howe needs to understand that time is not on his side; no pressure eh.