Eddie Howe probably doesn’t care what the media north of the border thinks of him. Yet.
But there’s a steadily growing idea about him taking hold up here which risks spreading south, and he would do well to consider the damage it could do him if it hardens into something people start accepting as fact.
We know this is possible. We’ve seen it happen.
The allegation is that he is afraid of taking the job at Parkhead on.
There are several different variants of this argument, but they all boil down to the same thing; the pressure up here is unlike anything he’s ever dealt with before, and only a strong character can handle it.
Some in the media started pushing this when the talks were confirmed and it looked as if Eddie Howe might be on his way to Celtic within days. It was easy to dismiss then, as he seemed ready to make the leap and take on the task. It’s not so easy to dismiss now as the clock ticks on, and speculation is rife that he wants a softer seat in the EPL.
I wrote a lengthy piece earlier asking who, realistically, might challenge us to sign Howe up, or keep him in the scenario where he joins us and starts to do well.
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I said that if we’re being honest the number of clubs who might be interested in him and who he might, in turn, be interested in going to is vanishingly small unless this is only going to come down to money.
But of course, another possibility raises its head; that Howe either turns the job down because he lacks the self-belief to take on such a momentous institution or that he does it and then finds that it crushes him.
In either scenario, you can greatly expand the number of clubs he might end up at … but in the process do irreparable damage to his reputation.
Howe cannot afford to be pegged as a manager for whom a mid-table finish and low expectations is a comfort zone he daren’t step out of.
If this perception gains wide credence – and he should not, for one second, underestimate the abilities of certain mischief makers up here to see that it does – then he’s got a real problem which won’t be easy to solve.
Our media would love to paint that picture of Howe, not because it reflects badly on him but because it reflects badly on us for making him our first choice when he had feet of clay.
It makes our board look clueless and incompetent, and if it damages him in the process then some of them might see that as an added bonus, and these people are already lining up to have a go.
Even if Howe’s reasons for not taking the job already are legitimate ones, they can be spun by people who want to do so, and that includes the Celtic board if they decide to cover their own backsides in the event that they can’t close this deal.
Imagine, for example, that this is about his coaches. Here’s how I’d frame it.
“Are we really to believe that Howe doesn’t have the confidence in his own ability to come up here and succeed with nobody to hold his hand?”
Now, I don’t believe that’s a legitimate argument … but the question is already being asked and the longer this goes on the more people will demand an answer to it.
On top of that there’s already going to be sniping, including from our fans, if Howe does take the job but decides not to start right away.
If he’d accepted it last week and not signed on to start at once people would have said he was running from the cup game at Ibrox. If he has agreed to take it already but won’t start right away it’s possible that nobody is announcing it to avoid exactly that charge.
But holding off doesn’t stop that from being brought up … it just brings it up in a different way and that question would be waiting for him regardless.
These delays don’t really help either side of this.
Speculation runs wild.
Spinning is being done whether by the official parties or not.
Everyone has an opinion and a lot of them are voicing it, and some of them are going to be ignorant nonsense, but even some of that will cut through, and whatever Howe and his people might think, not all of those opinions are going to come down on his side of this.
Their decision to tweet that stuff about his having plenty of offers has inspired a lot of us to look at what those offers are likely to be; that kind of scrutiny might not be of the sort that he will enjoy.
People will understand that if he goes to a Palace or a Newcastle it will be for money, because there’s no football logic to it. That allegation is bad enough; it suggests that he has limited ambition.
The bigger problem will be if these options are perceived to be safe.
The thing is, Howe never has had a job the size of Celtic.
Rodgers came here from Anfield. He had never won anything either, but he had managed a massive club with enormous pressure and the huge weight of expectation on his shoulders.
Howe hasn’t done anything remotely comparable to it in his career before and whilst I think he will certainly handle it well you just never know. I think there’s a lot of mystical bullshit talked about the pressures involved, but the job does come with a certain level of scrutiny he’ll never have seen and I can imagine that some people might find it uncomfortable.
Others might melt under it and we’re kidding ourselves not to recognise that.
Eddie Howe has a massive decision to make, and whether he likes it or not, if he chooses not to take the Celtic job there are some who will spin that against him.
Some of those people will do it because they don’t rate him and others will do it just to make mischief.
Some will do it to harm our club and its standing in the eyes of the fans.
Others will do it because they love Celtic and want some payback and the charges are easy to level and hard to refute.
But this is a controversy largely of his and his agents own making; they are the ones who went public with the idea that he was playing “wait and see.”
It was a foolish move, and the rumour factory is now doing its worst.
Much more ominously, it has people asking an obvious question which they maybe overlooked in their calculations.
“Eddie Howe is doing WHAT? He’s waiting for … Crystal Palace?”
To use the local lingo, and a joke which most of you will recognise and all of you will get, “So is the job at Dukla Pumpherston Sawmill and Tannery unavailable or what? Where is the man’s ambition?”