When I talk about strikers I always say there should be one criteria only. If it’s not met there’s no point in scouts going to watch them. That’s goals. Has the guy got a record for scoring lots of goals? Without that, what’s the point? Yet so many of our strikers over the last couple of years have arrived at Celtic Park without that key stat … and look what’s happened to them.
As it is with strikers, I’ve often thought that it should be the same with managers. In my view, a manager who wants to come to Celtic Park needs to have a record of verifiable success somewhere else first, or what’s the point?
But this isn’t always borne out by the history.
Gordon Strachan arrived at Celtic Park having never won a trophy as a boss. Tony Mowbray arrived having secured an English Championship title. Ronny Deila arrived as a league and cup winning manager. Neil Lennon had never managed a football club in his life.
Besides, with so many managers in the game who’ve never won something how is success measured these days? My first choice for this job would be Brendan Rodgers; his one success was getting Swansea to the play-offs and then into the Premier League. He came close, very close, to winning the EPL with Liverpool. To me, that’s success.
Others might disagree.
David Moyes, my second choice, has won a single Charity Shield with Manchester United and a League 2 title with Preston. Not hugely impressive. But he’s also been LMA Manager of the Year three times for his work at Everton.
Martin O’Neill was a success before arriving at Celtic.
There was never any question of him coming here and making a go of it. Leicester fans loved him, and were sickened to see him leave. He wasn’t, as so many of the current candidates are, flailing around in the ranks of football’s unemployed. It was the last great example of Celtic going for the right man, and getting him.
Jock Stein was already a Scottish Cup winning boss before arriving at Parkhead. Wim Jansen was a two time Dutch Cup with Feyenoord, though you’d never have known it when he got here and was greeted by despicable headlines.
Liam Brady came to Celtic having never managed a professional club. Likewise John Barnes. Both were absolutely disastrous, which is why the Neil Lennon appointment was such a ghastly and unbelievable risk, which we were fortunate paid off.
Yet Lou Macari had achieved success, and trophies, with lower league teams in England before coming to Celtic Park. Unfortunately, he also brought a lower league manager’s mentality with him and that was manifest in everything he did. He tried to replicate the model at those clubs at ours, right down to signing army recruits and playing long ball football.
Jozef Venglos had won two Czech league titles before arriving at Celtic Park, but they had been secured in the 70’s. He is, without a doubt, the strangest managerial appointment in our history, but at the same time he brought incredibly modern thinking to aspects of the club where we were still stuck in the 60’s, and that stood us in good stead later.
The one I have to swirl back to though is Gordon Strachan. He had an FA Cup runners up medal before coming to Celtic Park, which is hardly a ringing endorsement of his skills, but then his two clubs prior to ours were Coventry and Southampton. His win record at those teams barely got above 30%. He seemed an unusual choice.
But I supported the Strachan appointment, because I remembered certain aspects of his managerial style. His teams were incredibly fit and focussed. His pressing game is what Deila was supposed to have resurrected, and didn’t.
Strachan’s success at Celtic came as no surprise to me. Like the O’Neill appointment, that was an absolute no brainer and was destined to have a happy ending.
If our next manager achieves what he did, we’ll all be very happy people.
I think there’s a case to be made for saying that whoever the next Celtic manager is, he needs to bring with him some kind of track record of success, something we can point to and say “Yes, he’s achieved something in the game and not just cultivated good relationships with the media to boost his image.” So many managers in the modern day have done just that.
Success doesn’t have to be the winning of trophies, although if he has a track record of doing that it’s a further, and inarguable, feather in his cap, and in the same way the winning of a few cups can’t be held up as proof that he’s the right man.
Other criteria are just as important.
I’m going to look at those over the course of the day.