The latest “shock” candidate to emerge as a Celtic managerial contender isn’t really a shock at all; in fact, it’s the candidate I said should have gotten the gig back in November, on an interim basis until the end of the season, with no guarantee he’d get the job.
I firmly believe that had said candidate – and the candidate is Steve Clarke – been offered it then that he’d have taken it and not only that, but he would have won us the title and given the board a real and difficult decision to make on whether to leave him in the post.
I don’t think it should be Steve Clarke.
I am hoping for a continental manager who brings with him every modern idea about how to play the game and build a squad, a tactician and a motivator. There are good managers out there who tick those boxes.
Clarke ticks a lot of those boxes, but there’s one I didn’t mention; a proven, trophy winning, track record. That’s where he comes up short … but he would have ticked those boxes had he been hired in November, I think, because he’d have proved himself one.
Do I think Steve Clarke could come in and win the title next season? Absolutely.
But I thought Lennon would almost certainly be able to get Gerrard’s number and secure nine and ten in a row; I never wanted him as manager in spite of that, because I believed then, and now, that we should be aiming higher than that sort of appointment.
Clarke isn’t the calibre of manager we should be trying to get, and although I have not got the slightest doubt in my mind that he would be a success, at least in domestic football terms, I don’t know that he’s the kind of forward thinking stand-out coach we need if we’re to reach that next level. I knew that Lennon wasn’t. Clarke at least only has a question mark over him.
If our focus is on domestic football only – precisely the mistake we made this time – then not only is Clarke a possibility, but he’s a damned good shout.
The decision facing this board is about what kind of club they want this to be … one that stays a step ahead of our domestic challengers or one that reaches for greater things on a bigger stage?
The idea isn’t completely stupid. I also think we could depend on Clarke to take the gig, because although he’s talked about not liking the atmosphere that surrounds football in Glasgow he is a strong guy and this would be the offer of his dreams.
I wouldn’t be rending my garments and pulling out my hair if Clarke got the gig.
Of the second tier candidates, I’d rather have him than one of those guys who’s pin-ponged around English football getting sacked every two years, and I’d far rather Clarke than a Keane or Lambert or some equally shocking suggestion from our past of the Desmond’s Irish contacts book. He’s a better manager than Neil Lennon as well, and I’ve never doubted that.
But it will sum this board up; one that thinks small, and acts that way as well.
We’re a club with very limited horizons and a very limited field of vision, which is why almost all of our managers in the modern era – Ronny being the exception – were from our immediate vicinity.
It’s high time we looked beyond that, and we have a chance to do it … if Lennon’s going.
If we’re not going to hit that mark, then Clarke remains the best of the rest.