If the new manager is to be Eddie Howe I hope he is talking to as many people as people and getting a good overview of what the Celtic job actually involves. I hope he is speaking to folk who’ve not only done it but who understand that there is one unique pressure that it comes with which does not apply to any other role in Scottish football.
Martin O’Neill came up here having had legal training.
He used to watch trials in his spare time, so he will have heard a lot of different arguments and counter arguments and he’ll have taken on board a lot of lawyers tricks.
He would have recognised – or thought he recognised – all the ways in which words could be taken out of context and twisted.
The Scottish media gave him lessons he’d never have imagined.
Their mistake with O’Neill was in thinking they could do it with impunity. He sued several of them over the course of his time at Celtic Park. They now speak of him with respect, and even fear.
Martin is the first person Howe should talk to.
The second should be Gordon Strachan. He, too, had seen close quarters combat with the press from his time in England. He, too, was surprised by the way in which the media up here tries to make a controversy out of everything that a Celtic manager says or does. His own verbal skills are legendry. He gave as good as he got.
Tony Mowbray wasn’t here long enough to make much of a splash.
But he also encountered the press at their worst, and because he was in a weak position as manager they were pretty much unrestrained with him. Neil Lennon, well we all know he had it constantly.
Ronny Deila, the media treated with contempt at times.
But as a thoroughly good man he tried to remain on good relations with them.
It didn’t stop them. Rodgers did what he does. He went on a charm offensive.
He took selected journalists out to dinner and wooed them. To be blunt, he came with a sufficient reputation that they saw another O’Neill and were pretty scared of him. His talent for neurolinguistics would have helped.
Still, they twisted his words on more than a few occasions.
John Kennedy has already found out what it’s like. His comments about Celtic being “the better team” were well and truly twisted, and added to and warped beyond anything he meant.
How is it possible that anyone could believe that he was arguing that we’ve been the better team this season? Nobody could seriously believe that … but it’s how the media spun it.
And this is a lesson for Howe, because from the minute he sits down at his first press conference – if it’s him – he’s going to be facing a hack pack that is determined to do him up like a kipper.
He’ll be asked if he was Celtic’s first choice.
If Celtic was his first choice.
If he sees the club as a “stepping stone” to the kind of job he does actually want …
Even if he answers those questions perfectly there is still the risk that they will seize on any minor mistake or simply decide not to report on him accurately.
On top of that is the possibility that they’ll simply dismiss his comments, call him a liar and start the speculation about how long he’s going to last.
The way they’ve twisted what Kennedy said is so egregious, so outrageous, that this has to be one of the thinks Howe or whoever is prepared for right from the start.
If I were him I’d talk to O’Neill, Strachan, Lennon and Rodgers and ask “How do I deal with these people?”
They can give him good advice, and they can tell him broadly what to expect.
They call also tell him who he can trust.
The short answer is “nobody.”