Before I go any further can I state for the record that I have the utmost admiration for both Neil Lennon and Peter Lawwell. Critics of Neil should remember the basket case of a team he inherited in early 2010 and in a short period of time he turned things around to our distinct advantage. Lawwell also has the difficult job of keeping Celtic financially competitive despite the prospect of playing in Scotland and numerous other hindrances. But right now some things have to be said….
My heart sank on Saturday when I read that Peter Lawwell had said that Celtic were capable of buying a player in the £6-8M price range. Quite frankly no one swallows that rhetoric anymore. Back in 2008 when we won the title at Tannadice on the last day of the season Dermot Desmond courted the TV cameras pitch side and told us that during that summer we would make signings that would take us to next level. Needless to say they never materialised.
If Celtic were going to sign a high calibre expensive player then it would have been then as they had earned guaranteed qualification into the Champions League group stages. Even last summer I held out hopes for a quality signing when we drew Karaganday in the CL qualifiers. We were overwhelming favourites as they had a coefficient on a par with Queen of the South and Gary Hooper had just been offloaded to Norwich for approximately £4M. Rather than pay the going rate for a proven striker with a pedigree the board didn’t buy anyone and nearly blew it only for James Forrest’s last gasp extra time winner. We qualified for the Champions League in spite of the board and not because of them.
I had a quick glance at Friday’s financial statement and never took much note as the money will not be spent on the team, the board have that abundantly clear already. I’m sure the directors are proud of these figures and it’s good to know our business is properly run after the demise of the old Rangers in 2012. However even a quick glance at the financials show we are hugely dependant on two things.
1. Qualifying for the Champions League each season.
2. Selling at least one of our prized assets to England each season.
There’s not a lot wrong with doing that but we appear to be paying a chief executive the princely sum of £1M per year for doing the above two things which is a bit on the expensive side. My questions to Peter Lawwell would be:
1. Where are the growth areas ? Ticket sales, merchandising, sponsorship and advertising all appear to be down. If it wasn’t for selling players the balance sheet wouldn’t look so good and the club is becoming run in a lazy fashion.
2. The board has presided over the loss of around 15,000 season ticket holders in the last 6 or 7 years. This can’t all be blamed on the current poor financial climate so how do they intend to bring back the missing fans when even a £100 reduction last summer never raised the numbers by a great deal ?
It was ironic that the good news of the financials were followed 24 hours later by the dismal performance and exit from the Scottish Cup against Aberdeen. Not for the first time Celtic failed to impress in a cup competition under Lennon and he now finds himself in the firing line. Since 2010 we have suffered humiliating defeats against Ross County, Kilmarnock, Hearts, St Mirren, Morton and Aberdeen. Of the nine domestic cup trophies available to him only two have been won. For the good of the game in Scotland it’s good to see a spread of teams winning trophies but ask yourself this: How come when Rangers dominate they bag a number of trebles and win in a selfish, merciless fashion ? The long unbeaten league run now has a hollow sound to it when others will lift the cups this season.
A few years ago AC Milan’s manager Carlo Ancelotti played a 4-5-1 formation in a Serie A fixture leading to Milan’s controversial owner Silvio Berlusconi to threaten him with the sack for doing so. AC Milan were a distinguished club and Berlusconi said they were above that in the Italian game and should play a minimum of two up front and attempt to win games and entertain their fans.
Neil Lennon has adopted these tactics in recent times and I feel in a similar vein to Berlusconi. Celtic playing one up front in the Scottish game is just not on. In Europe I can understand it but not against the mediocrity we play against each week in this country. With the plethora of strikers we have at our disposal it shouldn’t be hard to find an attacking duo to form a partnership and play in a more attacking, entertaining fashion with the prolific Kris Commons tucked in behind them.
The League is in the bag and in August Fergus McCann will hopefully return to unveil the league flag. When he comes over maybe the directors can take him to the side and ask him if he has any new ideas of how to get bums on seats. Because no one at Parkhead these days seems to know how.