Date: 9th August 2018 at 10:59am
Written by:

So, last night, before the Celtic game kicked off, BBC Radio Scotland’s Chris McLaughlin told their listeners that members of the Celtic board were unhappy with the press conference Brendan Rodgers gave the day before. “Surprised and angry,” he said. At the same time, he offered a version of what happened in the John McGinn transfer that could only have come from inside the club; I have good reason to believe it was a fictional version at that.

People asked me last night if I was now believing the BBC. I will do a fuller piece on the media and its relationship with Celtic later today but the simple, and short, answer to that question is yes. Last night I believed what I heard, and I have no reason, this morning, to change that view. If over the course of the day Celtic bans Chris McLaughlin from our ground, if we tell the BBC that they are on a warning and that all of them will be banned, then I’ll believe different.

The reason I believe what I heard is two-fold; first, is the obvious spin in relation to the McGinn offer we are alleged to have made. This idea that he was “guaranteed first team football” at Villa and not at Celtic Park is transparent nonsense, a complete fiction which stretches credulity to the snapping point.

John McGinn is a good player but no-one would ever have made him such a guarantee at either club; Celtic and Aston Villa are not Hibs, where he was a big fish in a small pond. Numerous Scottish players of the modern age have gone down to England and flopped … Steve Bruce would not, in a million years, have offered him any such assurance.

And nor would Celtic, as McGinn would have known quite well and for a long time.

There is no way being told he would be a squad player came as a shock to him.

I also don’t believe we made our improved bid before Villa came in. If we did Brendan Rodgers was unaware of it when he spoke to the media on Tuesday. Neil Lennon was equally sure that we had “matched” Villa’s offer, late in the day, when he spoke to the press yesterday.

I am convinced that we only improved the offer for McGinn after Brendan very publicly made it known that he considered the player important to his plans. Celtic had actually withdrawn our offer for McGinn in the apparent belief he would wait until January and until Brendan’s comments we had no intention of revisiting the issue.

Someone at our club, in order to deflect from the embarrassment of our last minute scrambling and failure to succeed with it, made sure the BBC, and others, were furnished with that story. I know that person works inside Celtic Park, in a senior role, or McLaughlin would not have believed what he heard.

Was that the same person who criticised our manager?

McLaughlin was asked outright if he had spoken to a source or sources in the Celtic boardroom and he said yes.

For Chris McLaughlin to be asked that question and to lie about it, for him to have simply made this up, would be an act of deception that nobody inside Celtic Park would tolerate. He would never be allowed inside the stadium again, and his bosses would be on notice that the organisation itself would be excluded from media events if they defended him.

Those sort of lies destroy journalistic careers, and whilst I believe members of our media are prone to writing and broadcasting the most flagrant nonsense at times I do not believe that every word they report is made up or spun. This is too big an issue for the reporter to be playing games with, and so I do believe that he spoke to a Celtic boardroom source.

Others are entitled to believe whatever they like, but sticking your head in the sand because what you’re hearing isn’t to your liking isn’t a trait I associate with Celtic fans. It’s one that belongs elsewhere in this city though, and it has not served them well.

This is a real situation, and it’s a bad one and if it’s going to be fixed it’s important to first acknowledge that it is happening. The manager’s comments were not the invention of a media that dislikes us. They reported them, some with glee, because he said them.

The person who spoke to McLaughlin last night said those things. McLaughlin may have been delighted to hear them and to get them into the public domain, but that’s where his source wanted them to be and I will not criticise a journalist for doing the news.

It’s sort of “in the job description.”

In fact, it is the job description.

It’s in mine as well.

It is not my role to write spin on behalf of the club, and it gives me no pleasure to write this kind of article.

Unlike some people, I want to know what’s going on inside my club, however unpleasant or upsetting that knowledge might be. I want to know if there’s trouble in the wind, or that the garden is rosy and bright. I want to know if the manager and those above him are on the same page and if the players are happy or haggling for moves away. Moreover, I want you to know those things, because you buy season tickets and shirts and CelticTV packages and you love this club as much as me.

You are entitled to know them.

And because all of that is true, I want to know if the person who spoke to the press last night did so on behalf of the board as a whole or was speaking for himself. Because he did it in the name of Celtic regardless, and so it’s now on the record that the board and the manager are at loggerheads because that person put it there.

If that person spoke for the board, we’re probably in a lot of bother.

If that person didn’t speak for the board I trust that person is going to be in a lot of bother, because his fellow directors should be fuming about this.

Celtic has always conducted its affairs in a private manner.

Is it now the policy of our club to behave like the mob across the city, with anonymous briefings and the settling of issues in public instead of private?

If you think Brendan Rodgers was wrong to speak out – and I do not believe he would have done so except at the end of a long period of frustrated head-banging inside the club itself; in short, he did it because he’s at the end of his rope – then the person who briefed against him was equally wrong to have done so. That person is wrong anyway, because they did it in a destructive fashion on the night of a massive game which the board already stands accused of having done nothing to help the manager prepare for.

This is where we are today, and I would be happier if I believed there is some understanding inside our club as to how serious this situation is and if moves were afoot to resolve these matters in private, and to the satisfaction of all.

These things can be positive for a club because they clear the air and clarify people’s positions and respective roles.

That will depend on how much damage has been done.