If we’re going to discuss worst case scenarios – and it would be foolish to simply approach our current situation with blind faith that things inevitably will get better – then let’s try to do it in a way that is reasonable and rational and sane.
Let’s start from an understanding that we are nowhere near worst case scenarios yet.
Nothing is over, nothing’s been lost, nothing has slipped out of our grasp or beyond our control.
All we’re doing is having a discussion about what happens “if.”
If things continue to deteriorate. If things continue to slip. If things get worse.
Worse is a fairly loose term this afternoon.
The team doesn’t seem to be pulling together at the moment. Performances have been dire.
The manager has slammed want-away footballers, the dressing room is leaking like a sieve and no matter what happens at Lennoxtown some of the players just can’t seem to find full fitness. Eight wins in a row in the league are why we’re not talking about a crisis.
Those eight wins in a row cannot be ignored. Nor can the manner in which some of them have been won though, including a couple where our shots on target quotient was shocking low and where we only triumphed very late on in the game.
Those eight wins have covered a multitude of sins … but they can’t be ignored completely, because they form part of a managerial win ratio which Lennon should be exceptionally proud of. There are two sides to this, as there are to most major debates.
It seems to me that for people above Neil Lennon to ignore all this swirl of discontent and these poor performances would be an act of supreme folly and an abrogation of responsibility so large that they would be in violation of their duties as directors.
I am sure they are watching.
Here’s the big question; when would they be compelled to act?
We face Milan on Thursday. It’s become a huge game. A positive performance would go some of the way towards settling nerves.
Not even a win; a good performance, something that shows the talents of this team and their battling qualities.
A defeat would not be the end of the world provided we were willing to fight.
A meek surrender would be terrible.
A hiding in which the players shows as little interest as they did on Saturday would be a disaster.
From there we’re at Pittodrie, in the league, four points behind albiet with a game in hand. Drop anything there, and the drum-beat against Lennon will be very loud indeed. If it comes on the heels of a truly bad night on Thursday what then?
I think the first major moves would be underway behind the scenes.
Desmond has an investment to protect here. Lawwell has a performance related bonus. Anyone who thinks these guys wouldn’t throw Lennon to the wolves is wrong. I’ve said this from the start; they appointed a guy they thought they could control and if it comes to the crunch they will sacrifice him without a second thought.
They will not do it based on the next two results, or even on the next two performances, which I think is a far more important gauge of where we are. But the questions will be getting asked. Lennon will be under internal scrutiny, perhaps for the first time.
Bear in mind that we’ve never been in a situation during the last nine years where we were quite evidently in dangerous territory. Dermot Desmond decided Ronny Deila’s future after a Scottish Cup semi-final where, frankly, we played a lot better than we have against the Ibrox club in the last three matches.
He didn’t wait until we were in real trouble … he moved when the prospect that we might be, in the following campaign, reared its head.
Lennon was their choice, their first pick.
That’s a problem, but you could say the same about Ronny himself and Tony Mowbray, both of whom were jettisoned when things started to get ugly. They have a good relationship with Lennon, but as the man said, this isn’t show friends, it’s show business and they have jobs to do and that has to come first.
So when does it become critical? Almost certainly by the end of November, if things continue to deteriorate. As I’ve said before, there is no way they will let things get too far beyond our reach. I don’t think ten will have to be a genuine uphill battle, where we’re depending on other clubs, before things would change dramatically.
Right now everything is still in our hands. Improve our standards, improve our performances, and we will win this title. We must not simply assume this will happen though, and the board cannot afford to wait too long to see if it does.
If things remain stagnant we will still be able to beat most of the other teams that come our way, on pure talent terms alone. But that won’t be enough if we then lose the remaining three matches against the Ibrox club whilst dropping the odd point elsewhere.
So for things to remain the same, that in itself puts us in harm’s way.
If things get worse though, if results start to deteriorate, if we look like going on a really bad run, that’s when minds will crystallise and things will start coming into focus in the boardroom. Nobody at Celtic Park can afford for things to get to that stage.
This is the time when everyone needs to get on the same page.
Whatever has gone wrong here, it’s not broken beyond repair.
If it was we’d known, because we’d almost certainly be in an even darker place right now.
This can still be turned around.
But that depends on the manager … and if it starts to look like he’s lost it, that this has slipped beyond his personal control, then conversations will have to take place and a decision – a game changing decision – will certainly be made … and it won’t be all that long before it is because the stakes are too high for anything else.