I started to write this back in January after seeing a post on CQN, about “Succession at Celtic.”
The article had the faint whiff of being endorsed by Peter Lawwell. There is the sly dig at Rodgers for leaving mid-season. The re-assurance that Lennon will be leaving, lest this affect revenue streams. A dismissal of Ronny Deila’s term at Stromsgodset as “one season of spectacular success” , forgetting that he was there 6 years taking the team from relegation battles to mid table and winning a cup , before a title challenge and eventual title win, their first for 43 years. But enough on Ronny.
It’s the headline that really irked me , Succession at Celtic. It irked me as it’s really obvious there’s never really been any succession planning taking place. Last season showed the result of that, this season is starting the same way.
It’s something I’ve been thinking of in respect of Celtic for some time.
One time Celtic managerial target Roy Keane once said, “ fail to prepare, prepare to fail” This was in relation to Ireland’s World Cup campaign where he didn’t feel the right level of preparation and professionalism had been in place, but it could easily be applied to Celtic in terms of managerial appointments,and player recruitment.
Most top businesses have a succession plan in place, as a banker it is one of the key risks we assess for any lending proposal. What happens if key individuals move on and the effect that could have on the business and disruption it could cause.
Celtic have a board of directors where there has been little change in the last 17 years since Peter Lawwell was appointed, some have said this is a good thing as it has led to a period of domestic domination and relative financial strength. I’d argue this may be despite the board stability rather than because of it.
Over the same period we have now had 7 different managers, 8 if you count Neil Lennon’s second tenure separately.
Each change has seen a huge turnover of players, with the least changes being made to existing squads by Brendan Rodgers and Ronny Deila,
Ronny Deila was probably the most left field appointment the club have made, one that genuinely excited me at the time. This was a guy who had taken a side battling relegation and turned it into one winning cups and challenging for titles , before winning the clubs first title in 43 years. Deila was originally intended to be an assistant to Neil Lennon, or the aforementioned Roy Keane, before impressing the relevant people enough that he was given the top job. At Stromsgodset Deila worked under a director of football, former Norwegian international Jostein Flo, a common structure on the continent. He didn’t have a similar structure at Celtic, which may have been more of an issue than we realised at the time.
Deila’s tenure is classed as a failure by many, with 3 failed attempts at qualifying for the Champions League in his 2 seasons, but the quality of player and budget available needs to be taken into account. Only 2 permanent signings in his first season for example.
Defeat to Rangers in the Scottish Cup in 2016 prompted a change, whether it was the fear of Rangers coming back, the fear of empty seats or Dermot Desmond being annoyed by Rangers directors, the Deila project was abandoned. Deila resigned shortly after that loss, with the out of work Neil Lennon one of the first to throw his name into the ring to replace him.
Brendan Rodgers was subsequently announced the day before the Scottish Cup Final, one of 6 candidates interviewed , we were advised by Desmond. For once this seemed like great PR by Celtic, taking the publicity away from the Cup Final.
Some would say that Rodgers benefitted from some of the groundwork laid by Deila in terms of sports science and diet, areas where we had previously lagged behind. Rodgers only brought in 6 players that summer, one of whom Kris Ajer had been signed prior to his arrival, and spent the 2nd half of the season on loan at Kilmarnock.
Much of Rodgers success was built on the players he inherited, as guys like Armstrong, McGregor, Forrest and Brown became even more important.
After securing the league title in April 2017, he signed a new 4 year contract, no doubt on improved terms , which Desmond has confirmed subsequently made Rodgers the highest paid employee in Celtic’s history. The contract tied him to the end of the 2020/21 season. Brendan Rodgers is here for ten in a row, or so we thought.
A comprehensive win at Ibrox and Cup Final win v Aberdeen followed seeing us win the treble with an unbeaten domestic record. The first time such an achievement had been completed,
It was always going to be difficult to build on the highs of the invincible season, with a dip in points and goals following, a second season in the Champions League in a group with 2 elite sides and a couple of thrashings led some to believe we were going backwards but 2 thrashings of Rangers in a fortnight saw us reach another cup final and win the league, on the way to a second treble.
It seemed that nothing could stop Celtic’s domestic domination,
Then came August 2018.
Something went wrong then, that made the man who signed a 4 year contract less than 18 months earlier suddenly start agitating for a move.
Brendan has confirmed the approach from China that would have made him even more wealthy. Dermot Desmond has subsequently confirmed the same. What’s less well publicised is the fact that Rodgers had been approached to go to China in 2016, prior to taking the Celtic job. So he didn’t have to take the job at Celtic, he was out of work, but not out of options. Premiership club Swansea also wanted him back, but he didn’t see that as the correct move. The project obviously appealed to his ego, and looking back it was an appointment that suited both parties. Celtic needed regenerated, Rodgers needed his reputation rebuilt after his sacking at Liverpool.
It’s interesting that Rodgers went public with the Chinese offer after the window closed in summer 2018. Earlier that summer he’d expressed his disappointment with the board when John McGinn signed for Aston Villa. We’d also had the saga over Dedrick Boyata’s falling out after the £10m offer from Fulham was rejected, with Rodgers saying “there is not a replacement there”.
It’s at that point that our succession planning should have kicked in. We had seen the benefits of hiring a top level coach, both on and off the pitch. 6 domestic trophies and 2 Champions League group campaigns in the first 2 seasons. Albeit the European campaigns had arguably been the only disappointment, it should be noted that in each year we had been drawn against at least 2 elite level clubs in our groups. Our income had increased from £52m to £102m , in excess of £22m profits generated for the club, and a £2m bonus for the CEO.
After the Champions League failure against AEK Athens and domestic defeats against Hearts and Kilmarnock early in the campaign, the jungle drums hinted that Rodgers was unhappy , his press appearances became more frequent in the English media. He was marketing himself, he was getting it out there that it wasn’t his fault Celtic appeared to have regressed. Any student of football would have known about Rodgers character before he was appointed, we’d expect a CEO on a basic salary in excess of £1m to be aware. Desmond interviewed him, remember this is the man who passed on Guus Hiddink as he didn’t get the right vibe.
Anyway, at this point the likelihood of Rodgers being here for 10IAR became slimmer, it was an open secret he’d be leaving in the summer.
Then in February 2019 Leicester sacked Claude Puel. Having been passed over for a number of top 6 jobs this was always going to be a role that appealed to Rodgers, giving him an opportunity to get back to the Premiership, at a well run club with ambitions. 2 days later he was gone, and Neil Lennon was appointed the same day. Lennon had left Hibs by mutual consent the previous month, after a run of 6 league games without a win and a public falling out with employees at the club.
Now Lennon may well have been a good short term appointment. His experience obviously helped get us over the line to our 8th title, albeit it’s worth pointing out that at the time John Kennedy who’d rejected a move to Leicester with Rodgers, had as much experience as Lennon had when as under 19 coach he stepped up to take over when Mowbray was sacked.
There were some warnings of what was to come before the end of the season with 3 0-0 draws and a disappointing loss at Ibrox.
This led most fans to presume that the club would have a top class coach lined up come the end of the season.
The treble treble was secured , but many fans were deflated instantly as the announcement on the new manager was made.
You really have to question the succession planning that took place in August of that year. What was the decision making process that looked at Neil Lennon, who had failed at Bolton, and struggled at Hibs, and thought, yeah this guy is an improvement on the guy we let leave 5 years earlier. Had he studied other clubs and methods abroad, had he embraced modern coaching techniques etc.
A recruitment process that had seen 6 candidates interviewed when Rodgers was appointed, including Neil Lennon, was cast aside and Peter Lawwell took great pride in saying we just filed the other applications away and kept our promise to Neil.
I don’t propose to revisit last season. It’s done, nothing we say or do now can affect it. Suffice to say those of us who were deflated at Lennon’s re-appointment took no joy in being proved correct.
Now another article on CQN today has prompted me to revisit this. This isn’t a knock at Paul Brennan who is as much of an avid supporter as the rest of us, but the blog has never been known for addressing the root causes of Celtic failures, with perhaps too much of a focus on finances elsewhere in Glasgow.
The State of the Club was today’s article. State indeed.
I look back at January when I started this. Lennon was still in post, there was however talk of “ Celtic planning an overhaul of their football operations in the summer that would see significant changes to their set-up.”
That gave us some optimism that things would change. That steps were in place toward winning our title back.
Fast forward 6 months and what are these significant changes ?
Despite a long courtship with Eddie Howe and his entourage that hinted at a sizeable number of non managerial staff coming in, there doesn’t seem to be any massive differences at the club. Strachan and Kennedy are still on the bench. Peter Lawwell has stepped down to be replaced by Dom McKay, who appears to have inherited his predecessor’s penchant for cheap digs at our rivals, referring to noisy neighbours but not actually doing anything about them. How often has Dom spoke to the support since he arrived? Where is the much vaunted improved communication?
An exciting and left field appointment was eventually made. The support bought into the Age of Ange and season ticket monies yet again filled the coffers.
Yet here we are. The domestic season not yet begun and a disaster already in Europe as we go out to a mediocre side, who operate on a fraction of our budget. The league season has started with a defeat at newly promoted Hearts, and we are already playing catch up.
Prior to a key European game, we had made 5 new additions to a squad that had lost at least 6 of the first team squad since last season. 2 of these , picked up for nominal sums from Sheffield Wednesday, sat on the bench , not trusted to make a difference.
Our 2 biggest signings were isolating in London, with only the 5th, another introduction from our go to agent in Israel, taking part over the 2 legs.
Where are the changes promised ? The review of how the club operates ?
Rumours are leaked to the press that Desmond is to involve himself in transfer negotiations. Like he did with Howe ? Has he not damaged us enough?
I seen a post this week comparing Desmond to Logan Roy, the fictional character in HBO’s “Succession”, a drama about a dysfunctional family with a strong and domineering father figure.
For those who haven’t seen it, without spoiling it it’s basically about the family looking to replace the key figure in a business empire, which is no longer as strong as it once was. Any connection with Celtic is purely coincidental.
This week’s disappointing results prompted me to come back and finish the piece. It’s become more obvious as the days go by that succession planning doesn’t seem to be something that is considered by those in the boardroom at Celtic Park.
Today we’ve been linked with Liam Scales from Shamrock Rovers. Apparently they don’t want to sell yet as they have a key European tie coming up. Prior to our key tie with Midttjyland we sold our only fit first choice central defender from last season, to the sister club of our opponents, and ended up with an 18 year old at the back.
Invincibles, all gone , with a massive reduction in quality of replacement at the same time as our rivals have strengthened suggest that succession planning just seems to refer to which member of the Lawwell, Desmond or Strachan family we can get into the club.
Back to “Succession” . There are a couple of episode titles that may suggest there is more of a connection to Celtic after all.
The first episode was “Celebration”, something we’ve maybe all become a bit too used to.
Others include “Prague” and “Which side are you on?” reminding us of last season’s European debacle and the ensuing fall out between the board and the support as to which direction we should be taking.
The one that possibly sums up our current state, and the one that Ange has inherited, however was the second episode “ Sh!t show at the f**k factory”
Let’s hope it comes right soon, as the final 2 episodes were “Dundee” and “This is not for tears” ….