Firstly I want to apologise for the pessimism of this article.  I hope my feelings as to where the season is heading are wrong and trust me, I will be first on here to say “my bad” if we manage to turn the campaign around.  

But right now Celtic 2023/24 looks like one slow-motion car crash.  The mood surrounding the club feels like Dresden after the bombing.  An air of despondency started the week before the final league game of last season when we realised Ange was away.  And it has got progressively worse since.  And it’s concerning the manager’s position that we must begin.  We hired a replacement that divided the support.  Now I was relaxed about it as I stupidly assumed that having brought him back, lessons would be learned from his previous stay.  Everyone would be on the same page – recruitment-wise – and Rodgers had a point to prove with us in Europe.  

God, was I gullible.  Rodgers was only ever going to work if he was backed.  Failure to do so would result in two things.  His demeanour would be lower than Rishi Sunak’s approval ratings and the support wouldn’t have patience with him as a result of how he left in 2019.   And that’s how it’s transpiring.  However, as somebody who was happy enough for him to come back, I mustn’t kid myself on and pretend that Brendan is blameless in this looming catastrophe.  Dropping 5 points to Kilmarnock from winning positions is on the man in the dugout.  Yes, he’s had injuries to key players to contend with and probably the worst two transfer windows that we have ever put together. But currently, we struggle against ANY team that organises itself in a basic manner.   

Against Ross County and a team whose manager had lost the plot with his side, we nearly threw away a lead as their players cut through our defence twice like a knife through butter in the closing minutes.  (Derek Adams would be away a fortnight later) Unfortunately for us, Miovski and Watson from Aberdeen and Kilmarnock respectively, wouldn’t be as charitable as the men from Dingwall, as moves that begin in the opposition half, would see them at our penalty area within a few passes and they then bury it in the back of the net unchallenged.  

This is all on Rodgers.  He has to organise the team better and make the appropriate changes.  Just now he is looking hapless.  I’m struggling to make a case for him and frankly unless he seriously ups his game and makes a turnaround akin to Tommy Coyne in 1990/91, then I see it only finishing one way and he will join Billy McNeill and Neil Lennon as managers who by and large failed 2nd time around.  In his first spell he seemed to have a Midas touch in transforming players such as Stuart Armstrong, Boyata, Simunovic and Christie.  Now it is the gaze of Medusa as Kyogo, Alisdair Johnston, Forrest and Hatate all regress.  Only Matt O’Reilly – prior to Atletico Madrid making their public bid – has shown any sign of improvement.  Scales has done better than I anticipated but his limitations are pretty obvious.  

In my previous article, I wrote in depth about our signing policy this season, which has made a significant contribution to the gloom. Excellent players such as Jota left and players arriving – such as Kühn – are regarded with suspicion instead of any anticipation.  The feeling in the stands (and I’m not blaming the support) is not helping with what’s happening on the pitch.  Losing fans’ favourites and replacing them with projects who are not ready to be first choice was never going to end well and so it’s proving.

But one of the most damning reasons for the atmosphere surrounding Celtic is the belief that nobody in the recruitment side of the club or the board will be held accountable for the malaise.   Mark Lawwell & Craig Strachan’s jackets should surely be on a shoofly peg for last summer and this January.  But who really believes that they are ?  Peter Lawwell left after failing to secure “the 10” but he’s back in a move that was close to being “Bernard Higginsesque” in that it was a complete failure to understand the strength of feeling of the support against him.

A boost in fan morale could be made by swinging the axe on folk who have clearly failed the club.  But nobody I know believes that will happen as getting in with the bricks at Celtic Park breeds a sense of entitlement that is off the scale.  Make no mistake, dynasties are back.  Professionally run organisations don’t let a former CEO return as Chairman.  Competent companies don’t hand important jobs to offspring whose CV’s suggest an accident of birth was the significant factor as to how they ended up in position.  

Should the worst come to the worst – and I fear it will – then that would be two out of the last four titles thrown away.  If it comes to pass, then in both losing seasons, the board failed to do the bleedin’ obvious in the autumn of each year.  In 2020/21, you didn’t have to have a degree in football management to see that Neil Lennon was drowning early on in the season.  Getting the ball in the opposition box all of 5 times during a home defeat to Rangers, was proof that change was needed.  A change should have been made long before we succumbed 8-2 on aggregate to a Covid-ridden Sparta Prague side.  The fact that even after that debacle, the board sat on its hands should have led to serious director upheaval.  As it stands only Ian Bankier has gone from that board and that was down to his choice – he wasn’t forced out.

This season it has been crystal clear that we needed to invest in the side after the disaster of the summer transfer window.  Once more the board seemed happier to count the cash that is piling up in the bank as opposed to using it to address the deficiencies of the team.  And – much as I hope that I’m wrong – the result looks likely to be the same as three years previously.  Yet I would put money on nobody running Celtic taking any responsibility.  

Even if Rodgers somehow confounds my expectations, this season merely reinforces my belief that the club requires a complete overhaul – from boardroom to administration, to first team and to youth level. Instead a culture of complacency – not seen for 40 years – seems to have infested the club.  It will lead to a poisonous stand-off as the fans are not stupid.   And failure that will likely see only the manager pay for it with his job, is not going to be enough to get the fans onside.  

These are seriously worrying times for Celtic.  A massive pot of money due to Champions League entry looks like being gifted to Rangers and we know – if nothing else – they won’t hold back in spending it.  In the summer of 2021 a “Hail Mary” pass got us lucky with Ange.  It is asking helluva lot for such fortune to repeat itself.  I  have zero faith in the board being able to go out and recruit an appropriate manager and to clear out the recruitment/scouting/youth setups that simply aren’t working.   My suspicion is that for some time we will have a support at complete odds with the board.  And that is a never a good place for any side to be in.    

The long term issues are for another article.  Short term, the manger’s position must be looked at urgently.  

This year is looking like a mirror image of Rodger’s last season at Leicester.  Poor start, followed by better form.  Break for the World Cup and it all falls apart.  Other than at Ibrox and Tynecastle the team really has never got out of 2nd gear.  However, an improvement in results prior to the winter break saw everyone feel better.  But post-winter break, the performance levels are as poor as the team played in the Covid season.  The first XI is currently way less than the sum of its parts.  The board should be looking for somebody with a non-Celtic background to come in and attempt to win the title.  That is a big call but properly run teams know when the game is up with a manager and to take the necessary action.  Yes, it would cost us financially in paying Rodgers off but in all likelihood its either now or in the summer.  Doing it now and getting somebody else in gives us a slight chance of retaining the SPFL title.  

The signing of players in the summer already deemed surplus to requirements should result in Mark Lawwell being sacked immediately.  The quality of some players being recommended in the European market should also see Craig Strachan following him out the door.  Such action – whilst in no way a game changer when it comes to the title – would give some indication to the fans that the extent of issues within the club are being recognised.  It would also help raise spirits within the stadium – à la the removal of Jock Brown.  If it’s not already known in the football world, it soon will be that Celtic’s recruitment team are clearly not up to the task.  As a result, any decent manager we approach will be aware of that and won’t touch the Celtic job with a barge-pole.

But realistically, is any of the above likely to occur ?  I very much doubt it. Those running the club seem oblivious to the iceberg that we’re floating towards.  When faced with calls to do something they come across as Amity town council when responding to Sheriff Brody.  Michael Nicholson – by all accounts – doesn’t like the glare of publicity.  Well, failure this season will put him right in the firing line.  Journalists who are not anti-Celtic are already questioning his role.  If he wants to remain a largely background figure then he has to get his finger out now.  We pay him £750K a year – a very very handsome salary for somebody running an SPFL club.  Its situations like the current one where has to earn it.

However, the very fact that nobody is holding their breath and waiting on the board to act says so much about the lack of belief in the current set-up.  Many seem resigned to the fact that this season is a shambles and will finish with us winning nothing.  In that event, this season – like 2020/21 – is very much on the directors.  The difference being that I cannot see them being able to regain the supporters’ trust after a 2nd calamity in 4 years when they failed to react to unfolding events.