By Critical Bill
I watched the aftermath 2020 American Presidential Race with a sense of incredulity. Despite a clear winner, you saw the incumbent President try and hang on to power by any means possible. Very quickly you began asking yourself if there was anything Trump wouldn’t do, how low could he sink ? Of course by the time of Biden’s inauguration, you knew that Trump couldn’t find the bottom and would just keep digging.
And what has that got to do with Celtic ? Well viewing the way Celtic has been run this past year is like watching the outcome of that election. Surely things can’t get any worse we keep saying – and of course they do. Usually about this time of the year you’d be discussing the season’s highs and lows. But any Celtic fan must be struggling to think of many of the former. Sure we won the quadruple treble but beating a lower division team on penalties after twice surrendering leads really took the shine off it. For Celtic and 2020/21 competition, it will be the number of embarrassments that its remembered for – and my God what a long list. Here’s the ones I can recall :-
- Bolingoli flouting Covid rules to visit his girlfriend
- Getting duffed at home by Ferencvaros in the CL, not playing any strikers for 80 minutes of said tie and our manager failing to notice how tired our right back was
- Losing 2-0 to Rangers at home whilst failing to manage to get the ball into their box never mind have a genuine chance
- Losing 8-2 over two legs to Sparta Prague – a team fielding reserves after getting ravaged by Covid.
- Signing players such as Barkas and Ajeti (the latter after we decided Ivan Toney was £1M too expensive) who can’t be bothered to get themselves fit and will either be sold with a significant loss or paid up and asked to leave
- A hugely expensive loan in Shane Duffy who is likely to be a candidate for “They Embarrassed the Hoops” should NTV ever bring it back
- Another loan in Jonjoe Kenny who I suspect would struggle to get a game in a Liam Brady or Lou Macari Celtic side
- The January transfer window – see my previous article on Peter Lawwell’s “Ben Davies spectacular”
- Dubai – from the decision, the aftermath, and the CEO’s pathetic interview
- Dermott Desmond’s two interviews this year. Amongst the gems were Celtic 2020/21 being up there with the Seville side and people predicting the season were being disingenuous
- Losing twice to Ross County, the first ending our proud unbeaten record in cup competitions
- Losing 4-1 to Rangers and watching Diego Laxalt clearly not bother and a 40 year old Jermain Defoe turn a defender inside out to score their fourth – said defender who has just been given a 4 year contract and really is Kilmarnock standard
The above is proof of a genuinely awful year. But we all know that it doesn’t include the worst. Throwing away the chance of the “10” and a domestic record. That and all our other domestic trophies surrendered in the meekest fashion imaginable. The manner in which the season unravelled is astonishing. But if you have to look at why the season spiralled from one calamity to another, you must come to the conclusion that it wasn’t a one off and there is a far deeper malaise within the club.
We witnessed a manger quite clearly losing control. But we then watched in disbelief as those running the club failed to sack him, failed to see the anger amongst the support as a result and then humiliated the club further in their jaw droppingly poor attempts to find a replacement – so bad that Chris White might have sniggered, “I was never that bad”.
With regards to Neil Lennon, I’m not going over old ground. At the very latest he should have been fired at the start of November. When Desmond talks about people being disingenuous about this season, he is half right as nobody predicted things would get this bad. I wrote that we were a lot more vulnerable than some people thought but I suspected that if we blew the league it would be in the last few weeks of the season – not when people still had their Xmas decorations up.
But the board knew about Neil Lennon when they hired him permanently. They picked his coaching staff for him because they felt they couldn’t trust him to bring his own. Despite blatantly obvious risks and warnings that went with the appointment, Desmond and Lawwell chose to ignore them. Thats all you need to know – hindsight isn’t involved in the stick they are currently getting.
However just as you think things can’t get any worse, the board sink lower than the Mariana Trench. The Eddie Howe debacle just leaves you numb. How on earth did we accept a verbal agreement from the guy and then spend more than two months assuming that he’s good as his word without anything in writing. The failure to get something down on a piece of paper and for the deal to then collapse is amateurish. Hold on a second, actually I think that’s unfair, I don’t think Queens Park (prior to 2019) would behave in such an unprofessional manner. And then Celtic release a statement about Howe which is even worse than Lawwell’s Dubai interview. Dermott Desmond conducted business in a way that would embarrass a contestant dismissed in the early rounds of the Apprentice.
So after three months and one of the biggest rebuild jobs on the park awaiting, what have ended up with? I disagree with Paul Brennan on many issues regarding Celtic but he is right when he says that the manager is the most important role at any club. So ask yourselves this – is Ange Postecoglu really the best manager Celtic could find ? Well we now have a manager which nobody I know would have heard of a few weeks ago. Let this sink in . We got £9M from Leicester City for Brendan Rodgers who took them to their first FA Cup and two 5th placed finishes in the EPL. We replaced him with a manger who had Hibs in 8th place. We are now replacing the coach with a guy whose team is 4th in the J League (and who finished 9th last year). At 55 he has NO pedigree in any major league.
In 2014 after failing to attract Keane or Larsson we appointed Deila – who had lost the dressing room after 15 months but was allowed to limp on for the best part of a season because we had no domestic rival. Well there are many similarities between Ange Postecoglu and Ronnie Deila. Both came with the recommendation of the City Group and the CEO’s son and both have never coached a side with anywhere near the pressure that you associate with Celtic.
If you’re looking to bring in a young coach you look at his record and potential. If he’s older you look at his record and experience. There is simply nothing in Postecoglu’s CV that suggest that he should be anywhere near the Celtic dugout. Going back to the question, is this the best we could get, the answer is a resounding No.
I realise that from some folk out, there will be howls of protest. “You’re not giving him a chance”, “Your dismissing his achievements out of football snobbery” “Wim Jansen and Arsene Wenger managed in Japan” etc etc etc…..
Firstly when we appointed Deila, we got almost identical comments from Norwegian media and Norwegian football fans who went onto Celtic websites to tell us we were getting this great manager and we didn’t know how lucky we were. I gave Ronnie the benefit of the doubt and look where he is now.
Lets examine Ange Postecoglu. Even is you buy into some of the Australian hype of about him, everyone agrees that’s its a significant risk in appointing him. Is it a risk we should be taking when this year’s SPFL winners get automatic entry to the CL group stages? In his own words he says that he needs a year to turn a club around before things can get going in the right direction. So can we afford to right off a possible pot of gold of £40M ? There is also serious discontent amongst the support. Is this appointment going to address that and ensure the sale of season books ? I think not.
And what about his actual record ? Where he has managed, his win ratio, his defensive record even his temperament suggest that he is not the right man for the job. But for argument’s sake, lets accept that he is the brilliant innovator who will mould and develop players. To do that he needs a squad to begin with.
As I write this, here are the minimum number of areas that need addressed in the squad :-
Right Back X 2
Centre Half X 2
Midfield X 3 (assuming that N’tcham, Christie join Brown in leaving)
Link-man from midfield to attack to replace Elyanoussi
Striker x 3 (assuming Edouard leaves and Griffiths is told to sling his hook)
You could possibly add another winger to that list. I am very very doubtful that Postecoglu will work but for him to have any chance we should have had a Director of Football and Scouting network already in place. Nick Hammond left in March so who is preparing the dossier of players that we need to look at ? There is absolutely no chance that Postecoglu will know the market especially after there will be further Brexit restrictions in signing players from abroad. We have put the cart before the horse. For this type of manager you would need a set up in place before he arrives. If you believe that he is a great appointment, our organisation just now is setting him up to fail.
The transfer of Hatem Elhamed in February of this year may seem like a footnote in an otherwise disastrous season but look closely at his transfer to Celtic and his subsequent career reveals far more about one of the club’s major fault-lines. In 2017 we realised that needed to get a new Right Back as Mikael Lustig was getting slower. In the summer of 2018, our Chief Executive played his usual rotten poker hand at getting a replacement and its came to nothing. In January 2019 we got Toljan in on loan and that didn’t work – most of our loans don’t. Yet another summer in 2019 was spent looking for a RB and at the end Elhamed was sprung on the support. A 28 year old from Israel who had played much of the two previous seasons at Centre Half and who failed in Europe TWICE before.
Funnily enough, he failed a third time, is best remembered for his mistake against Ferencvaros and was sold at a loss 18 months after he arrived. This was a guy bought on the recommendation of his agent Dudu Dahan who is a favourite of Peter Lawwell and by coincidence was the players representative. Now of course, I’m sure Mr Dahan believed in Elhamed’s ability. But it does ask the question, who scouted him, who looked at his record and did the checks on his background ? At the time he signed, I felt that he was never going to work. And in response I got the usual, “Give the guys chance..you’ve never seen him” drivel. If you’d bother to look at his record, then the likelihood of this signing NOT working out far outweighed the chances of it being a success. Yet we went ahead with it. And two summers on we have the same structure in place for getting players in. It also has a mindset that sees us lose out on gettable players such as Toney and Davies over chump change. A set up that has to deliver not a new team BUT a whole new squad to Postecoglu.
And if much vaunted changes to the structure ever do materialise, what then ? If we decide to go back down the Director of Football route, what happens if the new DoF doesn’t fancy Postecoglu ? The board are making it up as they go along. Lets not kid ourselves here, if this was happening on Edmiston Drive, we would falling over ourselves with laughter.
I genuinely wish Postecoglu well and want him to succeed but this is a recipe for disaster. The fact that we have ended up with him is testament as to how we are run. His arrival is a complete leftfield punt. Like Lennon (x2) and Deila, a man who will be grateful for the opportunity instead of someone with whom we have to negotiate and convince to come. I will not be surprised if both John Kennedy and Gavin Strachan will be part of the backroom team. Both should go as consequences of the past season. For Kennedy a chance of a new start at a new club will test him to see if he has the characteristics required to succeed. His spell at caretake from February to May did nothing to suggest that he has.
And I am not the only one who is very uncomfortable with Ange’s links to the City Group. It has Peter Lawwell’s paw prints all over it. Why on earth – given his track record – are we allowing this man who is supposed to leave at the end of the month to have such a huge say in such an important appointment.
To use another political comparison, it was Neil Kinnock who attributed much of Margaret Thatcher’s success to her having great enemies – in General Galtieri and Arthur Scargill. Lawwell had the perfect foes in Craig Whyte, Charles Green and Dave King. But with them away and Rangers at least organised on the pitch he has been shown up as the Flat Track Bully he is. His and Desmond’s ego and their complacency are two of the principle reasons why we are now in this mess. They have chosen to live in Ivory Towers and the disconnect between them and those who actually contribute to Celtic’s coffers is enormous.
This season saw Slavia Prague – a team with around half our revenue – reach the quarter finals of a European Competition for the second time in three years. We have not achieved such a feat since 2004. Slavia, Red Bull Salzburg and others are well run. You don’t get the Keystone Cops style of management that you do at Celtic with these clubs. Nothing from the past couple of weeks suggests that Celtic are prepared for the challenges ahead and I fear that 2-in-a-row for Rangers is very very likely.
As for Dominic McKay, the appointment of Postecoglu very probably fatally undermines him before he has even got his feet under the desk. Peter Lawwell was here for 17 years. I’m struggling to see Dominic McKay make a one tenth of that period.
As I mentioned earlier, after the shambles of 2020/21 and the Pandemic preventing people from going to watch football, Celtic needed a manager that was sellable to the support. Postecoglu is not that man. All the appointment has done is to make many angry and restless fans even more furious at the direction of travel.
Go back in Celtic’s history to 1986/87. Celtic had stormed into the lead of the league but a Rangers team (who signed some of the best English talent available in Butcher and Woods) had clawed the lead back and were overtaking us. Davie Hay asked for £250K to buy Steve Clarke (the now Scotland manager) from St Mirren. Hay was told to find the money himself. This was the Old Board saying, “We will continue do things in the way that suits us and to hell with changing environments” The reality was of course it meant that they would swim against the tide. And we all know what happened.
This past season has been an equally defining moment. An out of touch arrogant board that will listen to nobody but themselves, who insist that they know what they are doing when all the evidence suggests otherwise. And if you don’t like it – Tough !! Its their ball !!!
When players reported for training in the summer of 2016, they arrived to find Rodgers had a detailed plan of what was expected from each individual. This summer we don’t know even if the manager will be there by the time training starts. No doubt Rodgers was high maintenance but we saw what he brought to the club. He upped the level of professionalism. He attracted players to the club, others wanted to stay. Does anybody seriously suggest that Ange is going to be a smilier draw?
The appointment of Postecoglu is a statement saying we prefer people who comes to us on our terms as opposed to folk who want to tear up the way we do things. Its also a panic appointment – rushing to the City Group for help after Howe fell apart – all this at a time when we needed steady heads to go out and get someone capable of task of answering Rangers back after this season of hell. The whole issue of Postecolglu’s quarantine just adds to the picture that its been made on the hoof. They’ve had seven months to get the right man and instead they are throwing Hail Marys after their own ineptitude in dealing with their first choice.
As I understand after they realised that the Howe deal was falling apart, they interviewed Paul “I don’t want the Celtic job” Lambert. A guy who has just failed in England’s third tier yet was considered a potential prospect to be Celtic manager. You cannot get a better example of how badly Celtic FC is run. A board who are in fact prisoners to their own sense of misplaced superiority.
As must be obvious, I fear that Postecoglu is a bad, bad appointment. But I’m firstly a Celtic fan and hope that he goes on to prove me wrong. I will happily eat humble pie if that is the case and not hide if anyone wants to point it out that I my prediction was lousy. I accept that by writing this I am putting myself out there to be shot at.
I also consider understand and respect those who will pay to watch Celtic especially those for whom missing going to Celtic Park over the past year has been so difficult. But I will now be watching Celtic from the comfort of my home. And if I buy merchandise for my children, nieces or nephews it will be in a way that the money doesn’t go directly to the club. As long as Desmond is there, I cannot contribute towards an organisation that treats the support with such contempt. The board are proud that they are a club that is NOT run by football men. The reality is that we are a club who run by folk that really don’t know much about football – a situation that sees all sorts of anomalies at the club – hot having having a club doctor for over a decade being a prime example.
For me, the board care more about themselves than they do about the club – keeping Lennon in post was them not willing to accept they got it wrong. I don’t know if the rumours are true that one of Dermott Desmond’s son may be joining the board shortly or that Peter Lawwell’s son is earmarked for an important job at Celtic in the next couple of years. But would anyone be surprised ? And if it happens I can only think of “Family Dynasty”. The only time I expect to visit Celtic Park in the next year is to voice my disapproval at the board during an AGM – if we’re allowed in. I’m sure Peter Lawwell’s expected golden goodbye payment may even be a topic that gets discussed this year.
I’ll end with a very sobering thought – How we laughed when Dave King said that all it would take is one League title and Celtic would collapse like a house of cards. Doesn’t seem so ridiculous now does it ? I fully expect the board to dig out the banners to cover stands following a fall in season tickets. But is this the moment for the fans to re-visit “Save our Celts” and “Celts for Change” and ask themselves whether its time to “Sack the Board” ?