CELTIC first-team coach John Kennedy is confident the club could progress to the Champions League group stage without any additions to the current squad. Kennedy offered up the vote of confidence after Ronny Deila’s side yesterday were drawn against the Icelandic club FC Stjarnan in the second qualifying round of club football’s premier tournament.
Celtic need to negotiate three ties to earn a place in the group phase. Stjarnan, who will visit Celtic Park on 14 or 15 July before they host the return the following midweek, are not expected to prove a threat to the Champions League ambitions of the Scottish title holders. However, Deila’s side last summer effectively lost in both the third and play-off qualifying rounds; the opportunity they squandered against Maribor at the latter juncture arriving only because Legia Warsaw fielded an ineligible player in the earlier stage.
Although Celtic have been linked with Genk striker Jelle Vossen, full-back Marcel Halstenberg of St Pauli and Hibernian’s Scott Allan, the only close-season addition to Delia’s squad so far has been Belgian defender Dedryck Boyata, signed in a £1.6 million deal from Manchester City as a direct replacement for countryman Jason Denayer, who has returned to City following a year on loan at Parkhead.
Kennedy believes keeping transfer business to a minimum should be considered a benefit more than a disadvantage. “I don’t think we need too much,” he said. “We’ve got a very good squad of players. Making five and six changes every transfer window only destabilises things. You need consistency and we’ve got that at this minute.
“If one or two became available that are going to improve the squad and give us a better standard of player then we would look at that. But certainly it’s not that we’re going all out attack to try to bring players. We have to just wait and see what’s available. Even if it means going into the Champions League campaign with what we’ve got I think we’ll be content with that.
“Gary [Mackay-Steven] and Stuart [Armstrong] were both players that were pencilled in for this season and we were fortunate enough to get them a bit earlier. So they’re in a better place in coming before the end of the season. So straight away, there is three new players] and you don’t want make too many more.”
Kennedy experienced his first season in the senior coaching ranks last season after being promoted from taking charge of the youth to work alongside Deila and his assistant John Collins. In his previous role, Kennedy became acquainted with Rangers manager Mark Warburton, after the Englishman established the NextGen series.
The tournament, effectively a youth Champions League, provided the Celtic coach with his first opportunity to test his talents against elite continental opponents.
“I know him but I don’t know him too closely. From my experience of Mark he’s a very nice guy, an intelligent man. He seems to know his football, he did a very good job at Brentford. We’ll wait and see how he does at Rangers.
“One thing I’ll say about Mark he was very pro-youth, he wanted to set up something that would make young players better. Certainly for our young players it was a big factor in their development. He was part of that set-up and we appreciated that.”