There’s an article doing the rounds today which I will not discuss in any detail save to say that it is a plea for unity which, at the same time, calls those of us asking hard questions “bed wetters.”
Its hectoring tone is only one part of what’s wrong with it.
If you wanted a summation of the arrogant thinking of those who are urging us all to come together you could not get a better one though.
I predict you’re going to get a lot of this now that the club has confirmed it’s giving Lennon until the New Year.
We are constantly told that we live in a world of extremes, where too many people have become polarised.
Yet I never cease to be amazed by how many of us still yearn for the middle ground, and how many manage to find it between two opposing points of view.
Let’s take the current Westminster shit-show over Brexit as an example.
Neil Kinnock is urging Labour to abstain on a vote for any deal that Boris Johnson brings back because to support it means that Labour owns it just as the government does. Which is correct. He’s also pointed out that to vote against it will alienate a lot of people. Which is correct.
But to me this is all positioning to the wrong end. It’s trying to find a middle position where none should exist. Labour is a pro-EU party and any debate that’s going on which considers this issue “settled” is just ridiculous.
The SNP knows exactly what it’s doing; they are expected to vote against the deal on the basis that no form it takes will come close to replacing the benefits of the EU. They’ll vote against it because Brexit itself is a mental proposition.
Which brings me to the board’s statement yesterday, and the article I mentioned at the start. We are now in a place where we’re being told as with Brexit that “the decision is made, get behind it.” The ancillary to that is that now the decision has been made further rocking of the boat can only be damaging. As if the decision itself put us on easy street.
But the decision is clearly ridiculous. The club is in a dire position with no part of it functioning like it should and those responsible for the mess are telling us, not asking us because we have no say in this, they are telling us to trust them. They are not asking for faith but blind faith, unquestioning, without a shred of proof that they know what they are doing.
Please note what the statement doesn’t say; it doesn’t propose that we trust them whilst they pursue a radical course correction, or that we get behind them as they try new ideas … they are asking us to support them whilst they do exactly the same things.
And yet there are people who are willing to do it.
There are some bloggers who are willing to do it, quite obviously.
The trouble is, this is how we got here in the first place; ignoring problems because we were told that there was too much at stake to rock the boat and that we should bide our time and bring these things up when it was more convenient or whatever.
Just not today, but someday.
Well as John Fogerty once pointed out, “someday never comes …”
We knew things were wrong with the club when Lennon was appointed boss after Tony Mowbray. Why did Lennon get it? Giving him that job in the first place was a dereliction of duty. He should have been sacked during his first full season in charge, but survived to provoke a full-on crisis in the second when goals at Rugby Park saved him.
When Lennon left – in part because he banged against the glass ceiling of the transfer policy as imposed by Peter Lawwell – the job was offered to Roy Keane who balked over Lawwell trying to pick his assistant. The club’s response was to appoint the proposed assistant instead; Ronny Deila, a manager from Norway. His own assistant was picked for him. His “first signing” was unveiled on the same day as he was, Collins beside him and a grinning Lawwell.
Brendan Rodgers got to pick his own backroom team, and for a while seemed to have total control over the footballing operation. But by the start of the second season he was having players pushed on him, with Daniel Arzani’s signing baffling him when asked about it, and the third season’s summer transfer window was a fiasco of Lawwell failures … and Rodgers was plainly sick of it. By the January window that year he was having another player signed against his wishes and made his views on that quite plain when asked about it at a press conference.
Lennon was hired as a stop-gap, but got the job full time. He too was told who his assistant was going to be and denied any say in the backroom operation. It’s thought – one newspaper has in fact made the allegation explicit – that at least some of the signings he’s made have been forced on him by those in charge. And this is just the backroom shenanigans.
Questions have persisted about Lennon since the catastrophic loss to Cluj in last year’s Champions League qualifiers, which saw a disastrous series of inexplicable tactical and selection decisions haunt us big time. It wasn’t the only example.
A year ago today we played, and won, the League Cup Final. We started that game with the barely used winger Lewis Morgan as a striker and everyone watching knows that we were outplayed for the whole afternoon. We went into the January game at Celtic Park nervous as a result of that cup final and we were duly played off the park again.
The Lennon fans will point to the league form after January, when a tactical change outfoxed all of our opponents. It did not fool Copenhagen, who inflicted a shocking defeat on us in the Europa League. It didn’t faze Livingston, who took points off us.
This season was barely underway before the nightmare against Ferencvaros where the manager didn’t even start a striker. The following game, against Motherwell, he made the same decision as if to spite those of us who criticised it.
Before the Ibrox club came to Celtic Park there were already signs that we had gone badly off the boil. We needed two late goals to snatch three points at St Johnstone after we’d scored with just 20 minutes left to beat Sarajevo in the Europa League after we had needed a last minute goal to knock Riga out of the round before. You could tell all wasn’t well.
The game against Gerrard’s team was a disaster; we didn’t register a shot on goal. We’ve won a single league game since, sandwiched between three draws. We are out of the League Cup. The Europa League campaign has been a catastrophe.
At every critical stage, from Lennon’s initial appointment and all the way up through Deila’s time and the myriad questions which arose and were shouted down, through Rodgers and his increasing frustration and the reasons for it, through Lennon again and the reversals under him all the way up to the present time the mantra has been the same whenever some of us have questioned the direction of the club, or its leadership.
“This is not the time for this kind of talk. There’s too much at stake.”
Or it was a variation on the old “Well, we’re winning so they aren’t doing it all that badly, are they?”
But these issues were always much bigger than the attention given to them … Lawwell’s interference in areas not his concern was one of the reasons Rodgers left. The CEO jeopordised our success right in the middle of it. He was instrumental in hiring Lennon which risked the nine and the ten.
Our successes are in spite of the bad leadership in the boardroom.
Yet we weren’t allowed to question that leadership because things were going well on the park.
How ungrateful of us, eah?
How “entitled” to enjoy the success but to want it to continue?
The question some of us have repeatedly asked to those urging us to shush and to enjoy what we have is; “Well if not now, when?”
Because, really, if you aren’t asking those questions when things are going well you’re just waiting for a time like this, when it’s too late to change course and the damage is already done.
How much more damage are we supposed to see inflicted before we finally do what has to be done here, and start looking at the situation overall?
The issues which haunt Celtic now have been there for years.
Whenever some tried to raise them we were told to get behind the team.
Now that those issues have swelled to gigantic proportions and we’re reeling under multiple hammer blows the same basic argument is being deployed against us.
We tried asking this stuff when the weather was fair, now we’ve got to wait for some distant day when all is well again before we pursue this stuff?
These problems are not going away until the people responsible for them do.
It’s as simple as that.
All this “get behind the team” crap we’re hearing will accomplish nothing except to delay the reckoning that is long overdue.
When Celtic was doing well on the pitch it was easy to pretend that everything was alright, although it obviously wasn’t.
It’s only now that these issues have finally come into focus and we’re paying the price for them that folk are taking notice.
If we don’t fix this stuff now, if we don’t unify for the purpose of changing the way our club works, and moving on some of those who are holding it back, we are inviting bigger problems somewhere down the road.
The people who hired Lennon will, in all probability, hire his replacement … that alone should give us all grave cause for concern.
Celtic is a well-run business but a badly run football club.
External events have been advantageous to us, but our board is dreadful at strategy and they were not even able to capitalise on the unique circumstances we found ourselves in.
A great historic opportunity has been squandered on their watch and now we’re seeing them for what they really are.
Do not get distracted by all these pleas for unity; the most important business facing us is the business of change.
Without it we’re just waiting for another crisis, even as this one gets progressively worse.
This is the moment to do this; our one mistake was in waiting this long.