There are not many footballers who can claim to be big on both sides of the border, but Charlie Nicholas is one of those men thanks to his legendary spells at Celtic and Arsenal that span across three decades in the game.
The winner of the 1983 Scottish PFA Player of the Year had two spells (1979-1983 and 1990-1995) with The Bhoys and won the Scottish title twice before finishing up his career at Clyde in 1996.
Nicholas has been a familiar face to footie fans over the years thanks to this punditry work and he’s never been shy to tackle the issue when it comes to the beautiful game in Scotland or England.
That made him the perfect special guest to join Power Power and Ruby Walsh on our From The Horse’s Mouth podcast this week and the subject very quickly turned to the current misfortunes of Celtic this season, as their bid for 10 Scottish Premiership victories in-a-row has come completely off the rails. Nicholas very swiftly pointed to where he feels the problem is at the Parkhead club, so this episode is a can’t miss if you love Scottish football.
“Celtic have gone backwards and the signings have been poor,” said Nicholas. “They were lazy about the signings. They have a certain element that the board control the budget. It’s been that way for a long time.”
“But what happened just over a year ago was, Rangers lost to Celtic in a League Cup final. That was a warning sign of how Rangers would respond under Gerrard and how Celtic would respond under Lennon.”
“The (Celtic) ownership thought that Rangers don’t really have that much money; how are they going to make it that much better? They allowed £15m, £16m to be spent. People think that’s fine and fair, but then it’s down to the manager and his staff to do the job to make sure that the signings you’re bringing in are better or it’s making your squad stronger.”
That’s what Gerrard has done. He’s hardly spent any money on defenders, and yet I think they’ve let in five league goals this season.
“They are brutal at the back, Rangers are not a fabulous footballing side. In fact, when they beat Celtic the last twice their strikers haven’t even played well. Celtic should have won on January 2, but they couldn’t put the ball in the net because Rangers are so strong defensively.”
“I hold Celtic guilty, because I thought they got lazy in the type of players that they’ve acquired. They needed strong centre‑backs, they needed full-backs, and they didn’t get them in until late. Of course, upfront they’ve been relying on keeping (Odsonne) Edouard happy, who’s a fabulous player, and they’ll eventually sell him,” Charlie explained.
There have been problems at Celtic. Neil Lennon has been chopping and changing the style and the personnel, and it’s caught up with them.
“Whereas Gerrard has been ruthless, tight defensively, solid in midfield and they’ve nicked a few goals upfront. Celtic and Rangers will dominate the other teams domestically, but Celtic are faltering for me.”
“The domestic situation has been fabulous for Celtic fans and it’s a major success story, but Celtic’s level of interest should be at Europe. That’s where they made their reputation. That’s where their reputation lies in greatness, not just domestically.
“They’ve let their standards drop whereas Rangers have raised the bar in Europe, which means domestically they gather momentum. I have to hold my hands up and say that Rangers have been by far the most consistent and better team.”
When asked if the current protests from supporters against Bhoys boss Neil Lennon were justified, Nicholas were quickly replied he felt some of them had gone much too far.
“Some of the protests have been way over the top. The personal stuff doesn’t fit with me,” said the Scottish Football Hall of Famer.
“Then they’ll go to the board and say to the board, “you fell asleep at the wheel”. That’s what the fans have been accusing them of. I think there is a little bit of that. You dropped your standard when you stopped thinking about Europe standards. I know Brendan Rodgers took a couple of major hits and he didn’t do well, but I think that was part of the reason why Brendan said, “if you’re not prepared to back me and support me, I have to get out of here”,” added Nicholas.
“Whereas Neil accepted it a bit more readily, because he was at Hibs and he didn’t have a job. He was a Celtic icon, and I don’t dismiss that at all. But the reality is, they got it wrong.”
The standards have dropped. Rangers have caught them up, and now we’re in real danger.
“I’ve not admitted the title is going to Rangers yet. I’m probably a fool for saying that, but I don’t see any way back for Celtic either. It’s going to end up a real sad season for them. If you don’t win the 10, then it’s a rebuild. That’s where I would like the standards to be back to. If they were to go after that type of outlook again, I would be supporting them if that was the case.
- Man City buy 15th trophy of Sheikh Mansour’s reign
- Revealed: Man United’s sales brochure for the January 2021 transfer window
- Revealed: Frank Lampard’s 4-point plan to save his Chelsea job