In the book Bounce, Matthew Syed goes to watch the Russian ice dancing champions in practise. They are the number one and two couples in Russia, the number one and four couples in the world. He describes that one couple glide flawlessly around the rink, whilst the other couple, also travelling perfectly and symmetrically around the rink fall more regularly on some of their jumps, but it is the number one pair, the world’s premier couple who are the ones that have the regular falls because they are the ones who are trying something new.
The message is quite obvious – to be the best you need to perform out of your comfort zone. To be the best you can possibly be, you need to try something new and in doing so you will fail, but the more you fail, the more lessons you will learn, and the more lessons you learn, the better you get, and the better you get, the less you fail, and the less you fail, the more you succeed.
Over my lifetime, by trophies won, Celtic are the best team in Scotland. In fact, as a recent tweet shared around the Celtic social media space confirmed, if you are under the age of 89, Celtic have been the better team across your lifetime. In my 52years, I have seen the completion of two nine in a rows. The first one was ended by Rangers, but very quickly the lead title was shared between Celtic, Dundee United, and Aberdeen. Rangers then had a period of heavily funded success, but that was ended by Celtic. And whilst there was then a period of to and fro between the two clubs when Rangers were funded by the taxpayer, eventually they failed and died, and we have gone on to become the dominant force again and over the last 50 years have won more trophies and titles than anyone else in Scotland. Yes, Celtic are Scotland’s preeminent team.
We have won 10 of the last 11 titles and will this season go on to win an 11th out of 12. After such a period of dominance, there has never been a better time for Celtic to come out of a domestic comfort zone and aim higher.
Whilst the mega rich ultra elites of European football have a level of wealth to invest in their super teams with which we cannot currently compete, for the last 10 years our European peers who operate below this level have demonstrated that regularly competing to last eight or last 16 of the Champions League and last four of the Europa League is attainable for a a club of our size. Moreover, the Elite Clubs ultimately failed in their attempts at creating an exclusive super league, they will no doubt have another go. Anybody who’s watched the recent Apple TV documentary will know what the downsides of that super league were and undoubtedly those elite teams will revisit that proposal and try to resolve some of the issues of the lack of a pyramid scheme in a new proposal
In our current state, we will not be close to conversations around that league, but we have a USP in the passion of us fans. That desire for that something special among the plastic elite is highlighted in us, the Celtic fans, being part of the intro of that very Apple TV doc. The attitude across Europe that we provide a throwback to the way the game was and that type of elusive added value may just be something that has us engaged with – but only if we are an appropriate partner. That requires Celtic to move out of the domestic comfort zone and have a European vision. It is time to raise our gaze above beating our local Glasgow rivals and to fix a target on being in a European final within five years once again be a club who achieves in Europe and doesn’t just participate. Player trading, a large ‘boots on the ground’ scouting network (a scouting network that we utilise) is essential and so will be a track record of success.
Parochial attitudes of recruiting executives and directors from St Aloysius’ has to go. We have to cast our recruitment net wider and we have to have a board of directors who believe in aspiration, not management of decline. That groundwork must start now because beating a Rangers every season is something we’ve done for most of the last 50 years – it’s time to move on and have a Euro vision.