Amidst all the rumours over who the next manager is going to be, one thing stands out; the vast majority of those who’ve been named have some prior connection with Celtic.
Celtic’s appointments outwith the Family goes as far back as Liam Brady. He was followed by Wim Jansen, Jozef Venglos, John Barnes, Gordon Strachan and Ronny.
Brady and Barnes were a disaster.
Venglos was moved to a scouting role after a frustrating season where we alternated between blinding football and stuff that was a turgid, uninspiring bore.
The appointment of Wim Jansen was a success that lasted only a season, but a glorious one where we stopped Smith’s ten in a row ambitions. Gordon Strachan was a hit. He left Celtic devoted to the club, and most definitely one of our own. And then there was Ronny, who delivered two league titles and a League Cup … success, yes, but not enough.
Our club’s biggest successes have come when we’ve had men at the helm who understood our traditions and our supporters. But is this strictly necessary?
In fact, has the game evolved so much that such ideas are actually counter-productive? Would Celtic benefit more from a continental coach, or simply someone with different thinking than we’re used to?
Ronny wasn’t the answer; few would say he failed though because he wasn’t “one of us”.
Some have argued that with a Celtic background he’d have got more time; that didn’t save Tony Mowbray though, and it didn’t save Tommy Burns under Fergus.
Is it harder to sack a club legend? Ally McCoist lasted longer and he wasn’t the only person at Ibrox to get more time than he aught, but Celtic has never been shy about slaughtering its sacred cows. We sacked Billy McNeil during his second spell as boss. The sacking of Tommy was one of Fergus’ more notorious moments. It leaves a bitter taste, but Celtic never balked when it came to doing what had to be done.
There is a clear disconnect at the moment between the boardroom and the fans in the stands. Bringing in a “Celtic minded” boss would help bridge that gap somewhat; it was the reason for Neil’s immense popularity and the affection he enjoyed from the troops. The same could be said about Martin O’Neill.
The candidates who’ve got the most ink, and who the fans are most excited about, all have Celtic connections. Some aren’t terribly popular; Owen Coyle and Malky Mackay would, for one reason or another, be viewed with enormous trepidation. Others, like Paul Lambert and Roy Keane, have the fans split right down the middle. For giggles someone occasionally throws the name Mark McGhee at me, knowing how crazy I get at the mere suggestion.
Celtic minded doesn’t mean accepting any old dross.
Lambert, Keane, Moyes and Rodgers are clearly out in front.
Moyes played for us. So too did Keane. They were both Celtic fans before they pulled on the Hooped jersey. Rodgers is not a former Celt, but he’s a lifelong Celtic supporter and would not need an education seminar before taking the hot-seat. Lambert gave us the longest service, as club captain, and was a phenomenal footballer before becoming a boss. They’ve all got varying degrees of credibility, and past success.
Are they more important, or just as important, as appointing someone who just “gets it”?
Dermot Desmond is said to be leading this hunt; it’s no surprise that the two main contenders right now are Rodgers and Keane, Irishmen like the majority shareholder. He does appear to believe that some affection for the club is as necessary as the right CV.
Of course, all this could be a mere smokescreen from the club; knowing how our media reads things, knowing how they think, this steam of “Celtic minded” names could be getting putting out there simply to blindside them.
After all, our last manager was appointing amidst much of the same and he turned out to be a Scandinavian with no prior link to us at all.
When it all went wrong, Ronny Deila had nothing to fall back on. Despite his best efforts, he never formed a real bond with the fans, but then neither did Gordon Strachan who seemed almost to go out of his way to antagonise them at times. Nevertheless. If he was offered as the next Celtic boss there would be a lot of support for the idea.
Knowing the Celtic board none of this will matter. The guy might have a Celtic connection, and it may, indeed, be a strong one … but his name may not be amongst those we’ve already looked at here. I pray it’s not Larsson; his time might well come, but at the moment this is a job too big for him, at a time when the next boss is going to get precious little of it to put things right.