Transfers

Brentford captain can lead Celtic towards immortality

 • by Tom Bodell
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The Scottish Premiership has been fertile ground for English clubs in recent years but this summer Celtic want to turn that narrative on its head with their pursuit of Brentford captain Romaine Sawyers.

The 27-year-old attacking midfielder has just a year left on his contract at Griffin Park and the Bhoys have already seen a £1.5million offer rejected, according to the Daily Record

Celtic are expected to return with a bid of £2.5million as they step up their attempts to strengthen Neil Lennon’s squad with ten-in-a-row now tantalisingly close.

Sawyers moved to West London from Walsall in 2016, following former Bees boss Dean Smith to the Championship club. It was with the club that the Birmingham native flourished and he has quietly become one of the best in England’s second tier in the intervening years.

So what is it the Bhoys see in Sawyers and what would he bring to Parkhead? We’ve run the rule over the Celtic transfer target

Who is Romaine Sawyers?

Born in Birmingham, Sawyers grew up with his brother and sister, raised by a single parent – mother Diane – idolising Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion stars.

Normal enough, but what he’s done with his position since is rather less ordinary. Following the lead of his mother, a volunteer, foster parent and someone he evidently looks up to, the Brentford midfielder has thrown himself into being an active member of the local community while with the West London club.

“I am not from a very fortunate background. I have been in the community myself and I feel like I have now got a platform where I can make an impact,” he told the Evening Standard.

“I am not going to be the world’s greatest footballer, but I can leave a legacy through other things.”

Long before joining the Bees, Sawyers has stood up for important social causes. He’s worked with Kick It Out, the anti-discriminatory taskforce, for the past five years, taking him back to his time at previous club Walsall.
The Saddlers were Sawyers’ landing spot after being released by first club West Brom as a teenager in 2013.
Aston Villa boss Smith is clearly another important figure in Sawyers’ life. It was he who signed him all those years ago, who offered him a full-time deal when he left the Baggies and who took him to Brentford when his contract at the Bescot Stadium expired.
It’s clear that if Sawyers departs Brentford, he will leave a hole in the local community too.

What are Romaine Sawyers’ strengths & weaknesses?

Brentford midfielder Romaine Sawyers' 2018/19 Championship stats

Capable of playing as a conventional central midfielder or further forward at No.10, the most obvious thing about Sawyers is his ability to look after the ball and keep Brentford ticking.

Cool and composed, the St Kitts and Nevis international was fifth in the Championship for attempted passes by a midfielder last season (66.27 per 90). He ranked sixth for completed passes (57.1) and fifth for passes completed in the opposition’s half (33.68).

He doesn’t just pass the ball for the sake of it either. Sawyers placed 12th among Championship midfielders for forward passes (20.8 per 90) and 11th for shot assists from open play (1.53).

Depending on where he is deployed, Sawyers could be more proactive in trying to win the ball back. Last term he attempted just 1.38 tackles per 90 and won just 0.88. However, with South African midfielder Kamohelo Mokotjo next to him making 2.08 interceptions per 90 – ranking eighth in the division – the onus was not on him to recover possession.

Sawyers does not score many goals either. He’s never managed more than six in a season and failed to find the net at all in 2018/19 which, with a shooting accuracy of 13.8 per cent, might not come as a huge surprise.

But for someone who played as a No.10 ten times in the Championship last term, an expected goals total of 1.92 is still on the low side.

Where does Romaine Sawyers fit in at Celtic?

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Central midfield is arguably an area of the Celtic squad which has been overlooked for some time now.

While the warrior-like Scott Brown plows on relentlessly time will, eventually, catch-up with the 34-year-old. Nir Bitton is far from a regular while Eboue Kouassi has clung onto a place in the squad for some time now.

Meanwhile, Tom Rogic has been linked with Zenit St. Petersburg and Olivier Ntcham with Marseille – losing either would be a huge blow.

After Lennon replaced Brendan Rodgers the Bhoys stuck with a 4-2-3-1 until the end of the season, only deviating in games against Livingston and Rangers. If the former Hibernian boss is to keep faith with that shape, Brown and Callum McGregor look the most likely partnership at the base of midfield with Rogic ahead of them.

However, signing Sawyers would give Lennon an option in either position – especially if Rogic does leave Parkhead this summer. Either at the base of midfield or in a more advanced role, Sawyers has the vision, range of passing and press resistance to punch holes further ahead of him.

Freshening up the squad as they go for their ninth consecutive title win might not be the most exciting way to spend a transfer window. Fans want to see big names, after all, but Sawyers is exactly the sort of player Celtic need if they are to continue their march towards immortality.

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