Perhaps the most obvious take-away from Desmond’s interview was that in it he confirms that Celtic actually intended the close-season to be chaotic. The board actually planned that next season was to be a “transitional one” both on and off the pitch.
I’m afraid that there’s simply no way of looking at that which doesn’t fill me with the deepest concern, and in this article I’m going to outline some of the reasons why I believe that to be the case.
A lot of people were pleased to see that Desmond has finally spoken out; I would have been happier if his comments didn’t confirm some of my worst fears.
Over the course of the last few months, one of the most troubling aspects of our current crisis has been that the board has not looked, at any time, as if it had a contingency plan sitting in a drawer somewhere.
That’s even more glaring in light of his comments.
We accuse the Ibrox club of taking ridiculous gambles at times … but surely we have taken one of the biggest here?
We bet everything on Lennon and ten in a row … and yet we allowed obvious problems to go unaddressed an unanswered.
This is our leadership.
This is how we got into such a mess.
Much Of What We Did In The Summer Makes No Sense.
If you take Dermot Desmond at his word, and accept that the next campaign was supposed to involve some major upheaval off the field as well as on it, then so much of what we have done makes no sense whatsoever.
Let’s start from the obvious; it’s only last season that we formalised Hammond’s position at the club and then allowed him to do a full reboot of the scouting system.
Why did we bother if we were going to bring in a Director of Football who, in all probability, would rip it all up and start all over again?
Does that make the least bit of sense to you?
The only way it does is in an even more senseless scenario; Hammond is staying put and the Director of Football is being brought in knowing he has to live with that, and whatever Hammond has built.
Who in their right mind would accept the job under those conditions?
The decision to back Lennon in the transfer market was understandable, but he signed a striker when we had three on the books and no first choice left sided midfielder … we knew, therefore, that it was one of just a number of key areas we were leaving unmanned and which would have to be filled this summer.
We let so many things go undone, and we did so many thinks that we will now have to undo …
I just don’t see that there was logic to much of it.
It Displays A Lack Of Forward Planning
No organisation should ever find itself in a “transitional year” when so much detail is known in advance. We are not operating blind here.
Player contracts have an expiry date. Loan players will return to their clubs. Problems which you slap a sticking plaster on will become bleeding sores a year down the line.
It is unconscionable that we have allowed the job of rebuilding this team to get to the point where we will eight or nine footballers to replace those who have departed or who will go. That is a lack of forward planning to a fare-thee-well and near damned inexcusable.
How has it gotten to this? How can we have so wilfully ignored obvious problems?
I mean, you look, too at the situation in the January window; we had to go out and bring in a loanee because we allowed our first and second choice right backs to depart at the same time … what kind of thinking lies behind that?
What kind of strategy is being followed there? You look at this and you don’t see a plan at all, but rather something people are making up as they go along.
When Rodgers was at the club, one of the most important philosophies he preached was for what he called “succession planning.”
When one top player was nearing the end of his time at the club you knew, in advance, who his replacement was and you had that guy in the building – or you tried to – before the other guy left. This was the plan. That plan went to Hell in the window where we missed Castagne, McGinn and others who the manager had identified beforehand and Lawwell failed to sign. We might also have missed out on Edouard had he not put his foot down.
With Rodgers departure the whole concept went out the window … and instead we got the controlled chaos we’re stuck with today.
The Club Had No Strategic Plan Beyond Winning The Ten
It seems clear that whatever strategy the club thought it was following was completely cast aside to win ten in a row.
This is short-term thinking to a fare-thee-well, but actually reveals that underneath it all there never was any forward planning going on.
The objective seems to have been “get to ten and then take it from there.
As this site and others have pointed out time and time again, if we’d set ourselves up, instead, as a club aiming to be the best in all departments that it could possibly be, had we focussed on horizons beyond our limited local existence, ten in a row would have been a shoe-in because we’d have been far stronger in every department which mattered.
The admission that we would have got to ten and then dismantled this team, with no stratagem for what would replace it, is diabolical. When we sat down to do the last strategic review we didn’t think further than end of this campaign … it almost obscene.
The evidence of that can be seen in everything we’ve done, from the team-building plans which make no sense at all to the decision to hire Neil Lennon.
Nothing was done with any plan beyond this season.
It’s not even clear that we were all that concerned with the winning of the eleventh title if it had come to that; certainly we had planned to go out of our way to make it hard to do.
We Were Willing To Risk An Automatic Champions League Place
It doesn’t matter when a “rip it up and start again” season comes; it is a dangerous thing.
That we went into this campaign with no plan for the following one, even if we’d been victorious, would have been bad enough in most circumstances.
With the prize of an automatic place in the Champions League Groups up for grabs it is indefensible lunacy, and especially as the delay in appointing a new manager risks torpedoing any chance we had of pulling it all together in time to mount a proper challenge.
I’ll tell you this right now; if the board makes the wrong decision as manager we’re already in a lot of trouble.
Give Ibrox two Champions League Group stages in a row and we put ourselves in a needlessly dire position in relation to our immediate future.
The one thing I know about the club over there is that they will put every penny they make on the park.
They don’t care about running up debts or wage bills … they will pay for it in the end, that’s a fact that all we all understand well.
But in the meantime, we will pay for it.
For the board to take decisions which imperil an automatic Champions League place in the manner which they have … it is unconscionable. It is scandalous.
Don’t listen to anyone who tries to convince you that we are well run right now … this offers a glimpse at the utter lack of forward thinking behind the scenes.
That we would pick this summer, of all summers, for a rebuilding job like this … it’s just incredible.
It Reveals A Lack Of Joined Up Thinking At Celtic Park
At a major institution like Celtic, all the parts of the machine should work towards a single goal.
Do you see any sign at all that this machine functions with every piece in unison? What we seem to have is an organisation stumbling through, short termist in outlook, with various pieces working at times at cross purposes to the rest.
There is no evidence of the kind of planning that A takes you to B takes you to C and so on.
Even the smallest organisations now work on the basis that one action feeds into another and that at the end of it all is an overarching objective.
The scouting department has let us down.
The manager and his coaches have let us down.
The board has colossally let us down, because although they backed the manager to the hilt they also did so in a manner which puts us in real trouble next year.
When you don’t have joined up thinking you are making it up as you go along, patching problems as they arise, dealing with things as they come up.
And when things go wrong, because there was no Plan B, because there was no strategy or sense of purpose or direction, it can all fall apart very quickly.
It Casts An Ever Darkening Shadow Over Neil Lennon’s Appointment
The really scary thing about this is that the board had intended to leave this rebuilding job in the hands of their yes-man, Neil Lennon. That might well be the worst element of the whole thing.
I understood, to an extent, the principle of bringing in someone who “got it” in order to get us over the line of ten in a row.
That made sense if that was all you were thinking about and thought you could get away with it.
But it’s now clear that the original plan was to give Lennon years in this job, to allow him to reshape the team as he saw fit, to take us far into the future.
I cannot think of a greater indictment on this board than that they believed he was the person to do a job that size, or that complex.
I cannot believe that they were going to entrust a lot of money to Neil Lennon and our future beyond the immediate horizon.
Desmond talks of how the “process” works at Celtic Park when hiring people; Lennon was hired in a shower room after a scrappy cup final win. It was a spur of the moment decision in the Hampden lounge.
We don’t even know what the level of sobriety was amongst the board.
Desmond has previously said that Lennon had been in their thinking all along when it became clear that Rodgers wasn’t going to stick around to complete the ten.
They genuinely were willing to give Lennon the opportunity to shape Celtic in his own image.
This is a guy who once said that Celtic managers have a short shelf life.
He admitted that last time round he got bored with the job. He blew up the dressing rooms at Bolton and Hibs before returning to our club. There was no merit in the decision at all.
And knowing all that, they were ready to entrust Neil Lennon to the most important Celtic rebuilding job in living memory.
It takes your breath away.