It feels like a weird day to be defending the Celtic board, and although I know I’m right to do it in this case these feel like weird grounds on which to be doing so.
But Charlie Nicholas has analysed our club’s current situation and has, as per usual, drew the wrong conclusions.
He is closer than he usually gets, but it’s like that old West Wing episode I’ve referenced from time to time, where Leo is trying to sell Bartlett on the ballistic missile shield and they attend a test where the defensive weapons miss the target.
“By how much?” Leo asks. “One-three-seven,” the general tells him.
But it’s miles, not feet. Leo seems dispirited by that, until Bartlett points out later that when you’re talking about a nuclear warhead coming to hit you, nobody really cares whether the system designed to stop it misses by feet or miles.
Well I feel that way about Nicholas. You don’t judge him on how close he came, you just sigh and think to yourself, “Yeah, he’s maintained his perfect score of missing every time.”
He says that we underestimated Ibrox and assumed that they would never have the financial muscle to challenge us.
But he’s wrong, of course, because Ibrox doesn’t have the financial muscle to challenge us; the Ibrox club is doing what it’s always done, it’s subsisting on debt.
It’s spending Other People’s Money.
Celtic’s board wasn’t wrong to assume that Ibrox wouldn’t catch us if they were relying on the money that comes into the club through the traditional means.
We are a bigger club than the one Ibrox.
By quite a considerable margin.
We have more money to spend. We have more resources at our disposal.
The problems at Celtic are problems of leadership.
They are not a result of us having been “caught” or overcome by some kind of revival across the city.
Their form on the park might have improved, but the Ibrox operation remains an absolute shambles off the field, and that’s where Nicholas is wrong, wrong, wrong.
Our board has been asleep at the wheel.
But the problems are that we’ve failed to push for Financial Fair Play.
We’ve failed to implement reforms at the governing bodies.
We hired the wrong manager, on the assumption that Gerrard was not really that great.
But Gerrard has spent thirty million quid to look good, and that’s a conservative estimate.
Had we enacted the right reforms at the right time there’s no question that he would have had less money to play with and would not be looking quite so grand.
But Nicholas has fallen into the same trap so many others have, the trap of assuming the league table is a representation of the relative strengths of the clubs.
The truth is that it isn’t, which is why so many Celtic fans are furious with the directors and Lennon.
We are the biggest football club in the country.
Bad leadership does not change the structural fact of that.
We have a bigger stadium, a bigger global fan-base, greater revenue streams and, and I still write this knowing it’s true, a better overall business strategy. Business strategy, not footballing strategy.
Once we get the leadership problem solved, once we have some fresh thinking at the top of the house, the next inheritors of Celtic will take over a machine that needs an oil change, a quick swap out of some rusty parts and a quick paintjob … but a machine, nevertheless, vastly superior to the one at Ibrox in every way, shape and form.
Nicholas got close this time, but it’s a relative term for him.
This is the cost of having a little knowledge, but not enough to actually make sense.