After a long slog, Celtic have emerged from the transfer window having finally addressed key positions.
Based on the season so far, the squad is now very strong domestically and, hopefully, with the potential to do something in the Europa League.
The issue of whether we have had a ‘good window’ or a ‘bad window’ can’t simply be answered by the players we end up with.
It’s also to do with how well equipped we were for the critical first fifth of the season.
If two comedians tell the same joke and one is terrible while the other is brilliant, maybe the fault lies in the timing.
In that regard, not enough was done to back Neil Lennon at the time he needed it most.
The manager carries the can for team selection against Cluj, but was also hampered by lack of incoming players in the months prior to the game, having seen around 13 players leave.
Elhamed was the only one of his signings to start the match and looked suspect at crucial moments. Lennon, it would seem, had the same feeling over Jullien and Bolingoli.
The two, since then, have games under their belts and Sunday at Ibrox proved they have the mettle to play in a pressurised environment.
Lennon has also bounced back from that adversity and his team is looking more solid at the back.
He will no doubt have taken lessons on board, but one that would hopefully be learned upstairs is that, while some players hit the ground running, others need time to adapt to their new environment.
Getting players in early is critical for this part of the season, where the most financially lucrative games are played and where the pressure is as intense as anything at the business end of the season.
Losing Tierney was an undoubted blow, but while Bolingoli and Taylor may not yet, or ever be, at the same level as him, having two fit players for the position, over an injured and missing KT and well past-his-best Izagguire, might see us actually better off this year.
Obviously a fit and rampaging Tierney would be a different story, but the player wanted the move and the club were happy to take the money he earned. In his place, we have what looks like genuine competition for the position and that can only be a good thing.
Right-back seems to be the same. Lustig was a great servant and came back from being written off to make a superb contribution, but the years had taken their toll. Elhamed and Bauer both showed enough on Sunday to suggest a decent standard in that role, and provide adaptability and cover for centre back.
Jullien excelled on Sunday and, hopefully, that will be the platform he needs to emerge as a genuine leader at the back, alongside another in the shape of Ajer.
The return of Forster could prove something of a masterstroke if he can get his confidence and fitness back to anything near how it was the first time around. He’s made a good start and, with Gordon and Bain in reserve, Celtic’s goalkeeping department has tremendous strength in depth.
Mohamed Elyounoussi is a left-wing flying machine who can also play up front. He knows where the goals are and, again, if he can recapture his pre-Southampton form will be something of a coup.
Unfortunately, there’s no option to buy and also disappointing was the revelation that he thought he was joining us from Molde, but Peter Lawwell seemingly baulked at the 3.2m euro price tag.
Where his arrival leaves Scott Sinclair is anyone’s guess. The winger has scored more than anyone for Celtic in the last three seasons but finds himself frozen out after having his contract extended.
Celtic evidently wanted a transfer fee for the player, but the gamble was potentially gaining a similar amount to the year’s wages we stood to lose. In the end, it looks like we could be paying someone not to play. If anything has happened behind the scenes, that’s one thing, but if Sinclair is being the professional he appears to be, then it would be a good move to bring him in from the cold.
Keeping hold of players can be, as the old cliche goes, as good as a new signing. If Ntcham has his head in the game, as he appears to, then he certainly fits this bill.
The Frenchman is top quality on his day and if he can add consistency, he could dominate the midfield in this country for as long as he stays here.
Another sigh of relief is that his countryman Edouard is also still here, not that there was any whisper of him moving. He is going to set Scottish football on fire this year.
Callum McGregor had serious interest in him and it’s also fantastic news that he’s still here. Having knocked back interest from Leicester, Celtic may now have to dig deep to keep a player who went to the well more times than any other last season.
And let’s not forget Tom Rogic who was linked with a move. The Aussie maestro had a season to forget by his own standards, missing much of it through injury, but time and again he’s proven to be Celtic’s expert lockpicker. A fit and firing Rogic is something that we’ve all missed.
A raft of young players signed permanent deals including Luca Connell (midfielder, Bolton), Jeremie Frimpong (left-back/left-midfield, from Man City), Lee O’Connor (right-back but versatile across the defence, from Man United), Jonathan Afolabi (forward, free), Tobi Oluwayemi (goalkeeper, from Spurs), Liam Burt (midfielder, free) Leo Hjelde (centre-back from Rosenborg).
Some of these players are at different levels of development, but they all appear very highly rated. The likes of Tierney, Moussa Dembele and Edouard have shown that if you’re good enough, you’re old enough. With player the calibre of Karamoko Dembele coming through, Celtic would seem to be building a good team for the future.
One surprise was that Ewan Henderson left on loan. The games will do him good, but with Scott Brown unlikely to start every game and Callum McGregor overused last season, it seemed that Henderson would feature more this term. If he comes back from loan and does as well as the likes of Christie, Ajer and McGregor, though, everyone’s a winner.
Similarly with Anthony Ralston, who has gone to St Johnstone on loan. His chances seem slimmer, but he can take confidence from the fact that the three named above weren’t considered by many to be “Celtic class” when they left on loan and look where they are now.
The squad, from what we’ve seen, looks good now, and some players may have become available that weren’t at the start of the window.
Making the same mistakes over and over again and hoping for a different outcome is something we’ve become accustomed to, not least in these past few years where we’ve failed to qualify from four of six Champions League qualifying campaigns against very beatable opposition.
Some of our loan deals mean we have kicked the can down the road for another year and will face similar problems, same time, same place.
Celtic have salvaged it and produced what looks like a good window, although whether the incoming players and loans are the absolute best we could have enticed and/or afforded is a question for another day.
We continue to sit on a pile of money. From the top of it, we still can’t see The Rangers coming, but it would good to see us investing more on the best quality we can get and making sure they remain a speck on the horizon for the foreseeable future.