Billy Stark has weighed into the Celtic manager debate with an interesting, and honest, interview where he gets to what might just be at the heart of the matter.
Celtic’s next boss needs to be an established name, someone who can command the instant respect of a dressing room.
Billy should know. He was at Celtic under one of the greatest such men our club has ever known; Big Billy McNeill, Caesar himself.
I once read an interview with a famous manager (his name escapes me) who said he realised his time was up at a club when he was shouting at a disinterested bunch of footballers at half time one afternoon and realised “Nobody’s listening to me. Nobody cares. I’m talking to a room full of millionaires here.”
That must be a challenge for any boss.
We’ve all heard stuff about the factionalised nature of the Celtic dressing room. You might think this sounds pretty serious but in actual fact, it’s no different to the situation faced by managers across the country every day. If Leicester’s dressing room was all sweetness and light, and no clashing egos and no dividing lines it’ll be the only one in football which was and that might go some way to explaining how the impossible happened this season.
But I suspect it’s the same as every other.
Ranieri just handled it better.
That takes experience, years of it, dealing with every conceivable challenge and obstacle. Ranieri had the CV to prove he could deal with that.
Billy Stark is the first high profile ex player to talk about the need for a genuine leader, for a man of experience, and to insist that the next Celtic boss needs gravitas to get the job done. I welcome his comments, and his intervention.
This isn’t to say that our next boss has to be a screaming loony.
Those who think Ronny was “too nice” to be a top manager are only on to something up to a point; Ranieri himself is the quintessential “nice guy”. One journalist who heard a story that he’d asked his club to put the pictures of every other top league manager in his office so they would feel welcome when they came to visit freely admits thinking that was the gesture of someone who wouldn’t be inhabiting that office for very long.
How wrong can you be? Ranieri’s natural charm was a huge asset.
I’ll tell you something Ranieri did, or rather that he didn’t do. He didn’t challenge the dressing room cliques, and those big names in them. He had enough experience and savvy to bring them on board with him, to make them part of the revolution, to let their voices be heard … even if, ultimately, he did things his own way.
It’s an ancient, and winning, technique; let people feel important.
Give them the illusion of having some control.
Then you can make all the decisions without cheesing anybody off.
It takes experience. Years of it.
Ronny just didn’t have that, although anyone who’s seen his famous YouTube talk on leadership knows that he has all the right instincts about how these things should be done. Perhaps he moved too fast too soon. That was another thing Ranieri didn’t do. He didn’t immediately set about ripping up the training manual. He kept those aspects of Nigel Pearson’s style that worked for the team, that the players enjoyed, and he tweaked things around the margins.
I always felt Ronny was right to challenge the Scottish culture the way he did, but he perhaps went about it too rashly, and in the wrong way. Perhaps it’s just that our dressing room egos are bigger than his efforts to deal with them. I know that a Moyes type manager would have been able to get his ideas across more easily, because that respect was already there before he walked in the door. Ronny, on the other hand, was almost completely unknown.
I don’t buy the idea that certain players didn’t want to play for Ronny. Professional footballers are just that; professionals. We can all name examples of those who don’t act like it but none of our current crop are in that mould. But having little respect for a manager can translate easily into having little respect for his ideas, and not necessarily following them through whilst out on the pitch. The guys who’ve spent the season defending Ronny have said, above all things, that there were times when it was the attitude of our players that should have been questioned, and I agreed with that to an extent but found it hard to separate one thing from the other.
A stronger manager, who felt secure in his position, would have dealt with those things better.
For all I love Kris Commons and hope he gets to score his 100th Celtic goal, I would never have let him pull on a Celtic shirt again after his Europa League outburst.
But that’s easy for me to say, and it’s easy for any of us to say. Ronny would have faced enormous public flak for making a decision like that, and whilst a more established manager would have faced that down (or had his decision respected in the first place) that was never going to happen here. That was a miserable situation for the manager to have been in – one of many – and it all suggests he was the wrong appointment from the get-go.
The criteria has to be different this time.
What Billy’s done is give our board the truth; the Stark truth.
Experience is everything. This is why we need a name, somebody who already has that respect, the minute they walk through the door. Someone with the personal strength and the mandate to change everything as he sees fit, and Billy thinks the first priority is to take a wrecking ball to the squad.
There’s a lot of “filler” in there that definitely has to go, and that’s for sure.
What I’m not worried about is finding such a person. They are out there, and Celtic still holds a huge allure for them.
I trust we have some such names on the shortlist.