Yesterday at Celtic Park the media’s attention was focussed on the wrong thing.
I’d like to think that inside the boardroom the men who sit there know that, and they got the real message loud and clear.
Perhaps they did, or perhaps they like the media were blindsided by the protests. Certainly, they moved Peter Lawwell to do something he hasn’t done before. They got him out of his soft seat in the stand, even if he didn’t belong where he ended up.
But the real protest was more potent, whether in the stands or outside them.
It was to be found in over-busy cinema queues and Sunday pubs more full than usual.
It was found in an increased uptake of day-trip tickets.
It was found in empty seats at Parkhead.
And it was found in the stands themselves, personified by those who had shown up, eschewing the other temptations of Sunday to be there on the day. Perhaps attendance was a protest on its own, to sit there as silent observers.
Perhaps they were just following habit or perhaps they were simply unable to think of anything better to do.
But that silence spoke volumes.
This is the protest that should really scare the Hell out of our board.
There’s more wrong at Celtic Park than just what happens on the pitch.
There isn’t one of us who grew up with Celtic who isn’t a keen student of its history.
Many of us come from Celtic families, from deep Celtic backgrounds. It’s as if we born into this, and as our fathers and mothers and older brothers and sisters handed this to us, it’s our privilege to take on the responsibility not just for keeping the flame but of passing it on too.
Those guys in the stands at Celtic Park yesterday weren’t angry for the most part, except at the end when the final whistle blew, and those on our board should be more frightened by that than I suspect they are.
What we saw yesterday was apathy.
Those were guys going through the motions, attending because they already had the tickets, but taking no joy in the experience at all.
Those guys are becoming disconnected from the emotional experience of following this club, and if that goes completely, if disillusionment hardens into cynicism, the ball is up on the slates.
Beyond that, we might be looking at a generational disconnect, and if we are then the consequences are going to last far beyond the here and now.
Anyone who has kids knows that if you want to get them interested in something that the window for doing so is small.
Today there are so many distractions for the younger generation; keeping them interested in football at all is tough and getting tougher. If you’re a parent trying to get your kid interested in Celtic, you’re already competing with the EPL and La Liga to a certain extent, even if you get them really young; if you’re a parent, a Celtic fan, trying to get your kids interested in this version of Celtic it’s a tough enough sell if you’re fully onboard.
But it’s hard to imagine being able to generate much enthusiasm at the moment.
It’s just not there.
This game at the weekend was one shy of being a title decider, yet the ground was half empty and those who showed up sat in morose silence, and I don’t blame them one bit.
Outside of our ground, our shiny frontage boasts of heroes, but inside the boardroom any interest these guys had in that went out the window years ago.
We’d never retain a Larsson under this “strategy”; he’d have been sold in year two and the best would have passed us by.
We’d never sign a Nakamura now, a player close to the finished article, playing at his peak, who was there to improve the squad, not for a resale value.
For months now I’ve pondered this; who’s the next player we’re going to feature on The Celtic Way?
Will it be a player at all?
To listen to some of his defenders, Celtic would have gone bankrupt if not for Peter Lawwell.
Apparently, we owe this guy everything as though Celtic wasn’t here before him and won’t be here 100 years after he’s gone.
But that’s the rub, isn’t it?
What’s this guy’s legacy going to be?
What are he and the present board handing down to our kids and grandkids?
Something they can be proud of?
Something they’ll actually want?
Or a utilitarian corporate “franchise” with no emotional roots for them, and therefore nothing in which future generations can take pride?
The silence at Celtic Park on Sunday was a final warning to the people running our club at the moment. The mood is darkening, and a change in manager isn’t going to make any difference, even if it’s the kind we can all support.
Whether it’s the composition of the board itself, the club’s apparent unwillingness to fight it’s corner over stuff like Resolution 12, the notion that we’re still watching a rigged game because nothing’s changed at the SFA or a combination of all this and more, something’s gone wrong, far wrong, something that goes beyond football, that’s left us a hollowed shell, stripped it of it’s soul, reduced somehow, a “business” with “customers” instead of fans.
And customers have a choice what they do with their money.
They can take it somewhere else, spend it somewhere else, on something else.
How does that change?
How do we make Celtic seem special again, especially to the next generation who this club needs if it’s to thrive in the long term?
Because this is the real legacy of the current setup.
A disconnect with the present, that threatens to destroy the very things that will ensure we have a healthy future.
Anger is bad enough. It’s dangerous to the men in the boardroom.
Apathy is worse. It’s dangerous to Celtic itself.
The people running our club had better think hard on how they’re going to change that.