Say whatever you want about John Hartson’s comments today being unhelpful, or the timing of them being lousy.
Those who’d like the issue with the manager to go away for the time being are plainly not going to get their wish; these things are going to be discussed from now until Ronny’s future is decided and there’s not a whole lot any of us can do about it.
Yet whilst I would have preferred John not to have said anything, the things he did say have me pondering their truth or otherwise.
Ronny Deila has been at great pains over the last couple of days to thank the supporters for the way they reacted to him and to the team at the weekend. A lot of that was sheer relief; deep down he’s well aware of that. He was within one minute of getting a very different reaction, and he’s got to know that too.
But without a doubt, the fans responded to him and to the last minute winner in a way that was entirely positive.
Ronny says the fans will back him, and they will back the team, like they did at the weekend. He’s right, of course. This is what Celtic fans do. Yet he can’t have overlooked the larger point, which was the one John Hartson was trying to make, albeit in a clumsy fashion.
The guys who travel to away games are the Real Deal; they are the hard-core.
They are the guys who’ve elevated “faithful through and through” to an art.
I never doubted that they would support the team to the last minute at the weekend; that’s what these guys do. At the same time, the 18,000 who turned up for the Scottish Cup game against Morton are hard-core guys too. They were supportive as well, and made that clear.
They aren’t Ronny’s problem, although they would have let him know their feelings if the team had failed to win at the weekend. As I said a moment ago, he was one minute from getting a very different response from those same supporters.
Ronny’s problem, as Hartson has surmised, lies in empty seats. In guys who don’t turn up and might not be back. Guys who’ve purchased season tickets for years and are going to need convincing that it’s a good idea to do so again.
I think Hartson is right to say empty seats would decide this. I think he’s wrong about how seriously our board takes that propsect.
I am coming to believe that our board is willing to gamble on those guys.
The signs are all pointing towards it.
I think they’re willing to gamble, give Ronny another year and hope that any anger over that, which might have been reflected in people not taking up season tickets, will be swallowed up by increased demand for those tickets with Sevco making the top flight.
I listened to Ronny carefully the other day. He sounds like a man who’s now had private assurances about the future.
We should all think about what that means.
If you are a Celtic fan who cares about the direction of the club, and who is grievously concerned about Ronny Deila taking us into next season, there’s a choice in front of you and Hartson knows what that is, even if he’s misjudged how seriously our board takes it.
Once you’ve handed your money over it’s too late to get it back, and you’re depending on the club to do the right thing and take your concerns seriously. Once they have your cash they can ignore you for another year, and history suggests that they will.
In a sense, then, Hartson is on to something. Attendances probably would decide Ronny Deila’s future at the club, but it depends on whether the fans are willing to use that ultimate weapon.
Yet even if they don’t, fan power manifests itself in many ways. Even if the board judges correctly that people will still buy their tickets, nobody inside Celtic Park should blithely assume that those who do renew are happy with the strategy, the team or the manager.
Try as the board might, ignoring those people isn’t a long-term strategy that’s going to bear any fruit.
One way or another, we’re heading into a big summer, with big decisions.