If Eddie Howe takes over as Celtic manager, and the announcement is expected this week, he will want total control, and he will expect to get it.
But I have no doubt that Brendan Rodgers wanted the same thing, and he ended up frustrated in his efforts. That was down to one man.
Peter Lawwell was not the bogeyman of Celtic Park. In order for him to have taken so much control it must have suited the directors to give him that kind of power. The indicators are that they realise now what a mistake that was, which is why the new football structure is being built.
This structure will separate the football department from the commercial team. The CEO will defer to the Director of Football on matters related to the game.
It helps that McKay is coming quicker than we expected; is this one of the conditions for Howe, that he gets to start that relationship early? It helps too that he is coming to work in football for the first time and doesn’t have detailed knowledge of how the marketplace works; it will be a case of his having to understand the things he doesn’t know.
This man will not be tempted to lowball clubs, agents and players. He will not be tempted to interfere in those areas where he has no experience … simply because he lacks the experience to do so. He will learn. Hopefully, when he does, he can keep his ego in check.
That was the other thing. It was Lawwell’s ego that got us into bother.
There are some who think the Director of Football will be hired to curtail the excesses of a powerful manager; actually, even with such a presence above him, it is likely that the two will work as a team and have a hand-shake agreement to keep the bean-counters at bay as much as possible. Lawwell’s departure is a game-changer in that regard.
I think it is more than possible that Eddie Howe will have more autonomy over the football operation at Celtic than any manager since Martin O’Neill.
Remember, O’Neill was the last manager who was brought in with the remit of rebuilding the club, the last to be there for Lawwell was hired.
Strachan was brought in explicitly to preside over a downsizing; his remit was to do more with less. He was superbly good at hitting those targets. From Lawwell’s hiring onward, a Celtic manager’s job has been a mixture of reviving the squad and reducing it. Lennon was allowed to spend money in both his terms, but he was also expected to sell to finance it.
How ironic it is that it was in Lawwell’s final year when all the prudence and discipline he had long preached was cast aside. This is what happens when you have to prop up a bad manager with money. It is not a surprise that it ended in disaster, and part of it was that Lawwell still thought he was the best judge of transfer deals although he couldn’t close the ones that mattered.
At no time either in Lennon’s first or second spell was he given carte blanche to rebuild the team precisely in the manner he chose. Always there were other considerations, always there was a powerful figure above him, leaning over his shoulder.
Howe will, without dispute, be the most influential man at Parkhead if he takes the gig. With the total authority to rebuild the club, he will be the first manager since O’Neill who will not have to answer to anyone about what his priorities are. He will be the decider. The rest of the structure will be there to translate his wishes into action.
I am not sure that our rivals realise the danger they are in, or the true significance of Lawwell being gone. Think of what our club could have been had Rodgers been able to get Castagne and McGinn and the other top talents he wanted, and who were well inside our wage budget.
Think of what might have happened at Ibrox much sooner had Lawwell not haggled over a few hundred grand for Steven Fletcher back when we wanted him from Hibs.
Looking back there have been others. James McCarthy was a man Celtic’s management team wanted when he was at Hamilton; it was Lawwell and the rest who thought they could get him on the cheap and in the end let him slip away.
The so-called “Sharp Suited Man” was still playing these ridiculous games in the last two windows. This is how we let targets like Alfie Doughty and Ben Davies get away from us, and you can say what you like about those players and how little they’ve done since they rejected moves to Parkhead, but that doesn’t change the fact that Lawwell failed to get those deals over the line.
This has been the pattern all the way through the Lawwell years. Top talents allowed to sign for other clubs for reasonably modest fees because he haggled over a few quid. If he was staying at Parkhead I really do believe we’d have ended up with a Jack Ross type managerial appointment; anything so that Lawwell didn’t have to give up some of his own power.
That power is ebbing away with every day the clock moves forward. By the time Lawwell is gone, the new manager will be working away on the rebuild. Without Lawwell hanging over him it will go more smoothly than any has gone in a long, long time.