Let’s take a look at a club like Kilmarnock. A small provincial club whose population is given as being just over 40.000 souls. The average home attendance barely rises above 5.000, except when the Glasgow giants come to visit. With the news that Johnnie Walker is set to cease production in the town next year, things can only get worse as yet another major employer seeks out cheaper options abroad. In comparison to Celtic and Rangers, wages at Kilmarnock are much smaller. However, they are still too high for the income they generate. The club is still full time, but only just. They have major debt and further downsizing is very much on the cards.
This scenario can be replicated in most other clubs including the likes of Aberdeen, St Mirren, Dundee United and Hearts. A mixture of over ambition by the clubs themselves, aided and abetted by greedy banks have led to the current crisis.
Secondly, there is no money to be made in Scottish football. The television revenues are pitiful and sources of income outwith ticket sales have all but dried up. Rangers are already in effective administration, despite the fine rhetoric of Ibrox insiders and briefed sources in the press. They have no room for manouevre and are to all intent and purposes being run by a bank. Any future European revenue will be gobbled up by the men from the bank.
The proposed Lennon/Lawwell meet the fans tour speaks volumes as it smacks of utter desperation. Their first priority is to get the stadium filled to capacity as best they can. With the probable absence of top class European football next year, they don’t have their worries to seek. If we assume that Neil Lennon will be the next manager, his task is simple. It is to put out a winning team week in, week out. If they happen to play with flair and passion, then that is a big bonus. What we don’t want to hear from Neil (and I suspect we won’t) is his ‘philosophy’. His job is to ensure that all the well paid stars at Celtic Park understand the absolute need to go out and give their all every week. The supporters who are making great personal sacrifices to fund a season ticket deserve no less. What drove thousands of people out from the stands of Celtic Park, was the perceived lack of commitment by many of the overpaid prima donnas in Celtic colours.
Make no mistake, Celtic do pay bigger wages than Rangers and by any standard are a well-run club. Unfortunately, that all counts for nothing if the players can’t deliver on the field. The St Mirren game in Paisley and the semi-final against Nairn were defining moments. Celtic supporters said “thus far and no more, we deserve better”. Mowbray failed spectacularly and in so doing threw the spotlight on the Board. Peter Lawwell’s reputation is now on the line, hence his very visible high profile as he and Lennon attempt to woo an alienated support. They will have to work very hard to get back the good will of many supporters. Lennon’s appointment will go down well with a large section of the support, who nevertheless will understandably harbour doubts about his suitability for the job.
As strange as it may seem, I am actually looking forward to next season already, although for many the portents are not great. Robbie Keane will be going back to where he belongs after showing us what a class act he is. Camara and a few of the other loanees will also return to the continent. However, next year Neil Lennon will have the one commodity that was denied previous Celtic managers. A mortally wounded Rangers with quite possibly a skeleton squad and a rookie manager. I suspect that after some brutal maulings in the Champions League, their season will totally implode.
The key thing is for Peter Lawwell and co is to get a wise old head alongside Neil in some advisory capacity. Despite his obvious passion for the club, Lennon is young and inexperienced. Being a Celtic manager is a lonely, lonely job and it takes a big man like Martin O’ Neill or even a bigger man like Jock Stein to keep calm when others around are losing their heads.
I am not downbeat, but quite optimistic as we begin the period of rebuilding which has been necessary since O’Neill left the club. Lawwell needs to give Lennon money to get some decent quality. The club was right not to give into the wage demands of the likes of Gary Caldwell who is now apparently on 25.000 pounds a week! He was shown the door, yet we can get far better quality players than Caldwell for a fraction of his current wages. We may see Artur Boruc and Aiden McGeadie leave to fund the new squad. If that is the case, then so be it. Let’s ensure therefore Mr Lawwell that every penny of the transfer money is available to Neil Lennon. We won’t be fooled again.