The Australian’s relatively late arrival last summer meant some of the crucial deals he struck as part of the 12 additions across that transfer window did not come until the September 1 deadline day. Now, with further important acquisitions being made in the January shut-down, he is seeking to get ahead of the game to ensure a full training block with the pool that the champions-in-waiting will take into the Champions League group stages - the reward for a title triumph they will rubber stamp if avoiding defeat away to Dundee United on Wednesday.
“The work has already started, we’re already planning and I’ve already had conversations with the club about the kind of players we want to identify and bring in,” said the Celtic manager. “Our priority is to try to get that done early so that come pre-season, with us hopefully winning the Premiership and getting straight into the group stage, we know we’ve got a really good opportunity in pre-season to work with the group of players without the pressure of competition. It would be great if we could have all the new players in by that time. Sometimes these things are taken out of your hands a little bit, but [that’s] our intent.”
The Celtic manager agrees it will be a huge plus not having to negotiate Champions League qualifiers in July, the Scottish title winners dropping straight into the group stages that begin in early September. “[With qualifiers] there’s so much uncertainty around it because even in terms of your recruitment, you don’t know if you’re recruiting for Champions League or not. You don’t know that until you go through the qualifiers, so there’s all these sort of unknowns, and usually at that time of year you have players coming in at all different times, particularly with internationals. You’re not really primed to perform, so it’s challenging. Not having that just allows you to map out a pre-season of certainty – in terms of friendly games and the kind of work we want to do – without worrying that we need to be at a good competitive level too early.”