Despite perceptions (especially around transfer window closing day) football business decisions are not always made inside 24 hours. Indeed many take time to fully formulate ideas with all the pro’s and cons being weighed before finalising the process. A conversation with Liverpool in November over their tweaks to their football strategy was the genesis for the arrival of Brendan with the February cup defeat to The Rangers being the catalyst to a new policy and the arrival of our new manager.
By November of last term the Celtic board knew that something wasn’t right. They retained faith in the manager and in the policy of signing players that would develop and add value as a way of keeping the club’s signing policy on a balanced, even keel but there was something missing.
Down South Liverpool had the same strategy (as Brendan explains in the video here) but had recently made changes, most noticeably in the decision to remove Brendan and appoint Klopp. Celtic discussed the strategy at length with people from Liverpool to ascertain their thought process. The Merseyside club confirmed that they didn’t have the funds to directly compete with the likes of Chelsea, Man City or even Man Utd and buy success. They had to buy the tier below those other clubs and hope to develop players – that meant having a manager who was skilled at developing players and working with youth. They had that in Brendan and had nearly won the title but in some ways ALMOST reaching the Promised Land had created its own problems. The fans had experienced the rarefied air of Premiership top-level and wanted more.
The people running the club told Celtic that whilst they retained the essence of the youth and development strategy they needed to start winning things. That meant supporting the developing players with a select group of established stars and that this would cost money. They also felt that, after 20 years of not being considered title challengers they needed to make a statement to agents, players, fans and the media that they were serious about this new strategy and one part of that would be to bring in one of Europe’s hottest managerial talents.
All the Liverpool people said struck a chord with Celtic. What they also picked up on was the respect and admiration the Liverpool people had for Rodgers and that Rodgers had actually suggested the revised strategy. Rather than ask them to ditch the whole thing and go back to spending big, he understood why youth development had to stay at the core of the process. They believed that he was one of the best managers in English football – he just lacked the gravitas for the new strategy they would implement, that signing targets had been missed out on because Liverpool were no longer seen as one of the elite. It had been a tough decision but one that was required for the club to make a statement.
Celtic saw the changes of Liverpool and took the message into their own signing strategy. When reviewing what was missing at Celtic, Ronnie Deila had also identified the lack of mature leaders helping the youth players. The first indications of Celtic’s willingness to tweak the strategy were seen in the arrivals of Kazim-Richards and Carlton Cole.
As the winter moved into Spring, Celtic were increasingly concerned that Ronnie was not getting the existing players to buy in and, more worryingly, the fans appeared to have lost faith in him. Dermott still wanted to retain the existing policy with literally one or two exceptions. Peter Lawwell was leaning more towards the Liverpool strategy. Fast forward to April.
Dermott was at Hampden. To say he was disappointed in the team performance would have put it mildly however the real change in attitude came in the behavior of the Rangers board – “Neds in suits” was one quote form someone who saw their post match behaviour. People of the value of Dermott are not good losers and certainly don’t like losing to people with no class.
In typical business fashion of the guy at the top suddenly coming forward with someone else’s idea, Dermott arrived at the next board meeting with a great proposal – spend more money on a manager of gravitas and tweak the current strategy to facilitate signing a couple of ready-made first team stars to bring through the youngsters. It would take time and money to change the squad and get a higher profile manager. A calculated risk was taken that a blue chip manager would fund himself through extra season book sales but squad change over would be more tricky to fund however Demott and the board authorised greater use of the overdraft facility to enable players to come in before players left.
We are just at the start of the Rodgers revolution and hopefully the early indications lead to long-term changes. What we do know is that the policy has changed. Toure, De Vries and Sinclair deviate from the norm of the last few seasons, as does the spend on Brendan himself. Ironically it was a chat with Brendan’s former club Liverpool in November that was the genesis of this change and defeat to a lower league side that proved the catalyst.