Today, whilst perusing the English sports media, I came across a comment from Jorginho, the Chelsea player, which I found highly interesting and which I think offered an insight into the modern player which Celtic should heed for the future.
Unfortunately, the warning has come too late in the day because we have, ourselves, made the mistake which Jorginho has identified at his own club. That mistake has cost us ten in a row, and God knows what else besides over the years.
He was speaking today about Frank Lampard and his regrets over how the former player’s tenure at the club came to an end, and he got right to the heart of the matter.
“Look, I’ll be really sincere here on [Frank] Lampard,” he said. “I believe, given he was a legend at the club, he skipped some steps necessary for learning before moving to a big club … he came without having experience at other clubs. I think he came too soon, skipped a few steps ahead and wasn’t ready for this level, to be honest.”
It is a searing critique, all the more devastating for how recognisable it is.
We have made this mistake with Neil Lennon twice, by allowing his status as a great former player to blind us to his failings as a manager. Romantic notions of the club legend “coming home” should have no place in these decisions; it leads to great mistakes.
Those who talk of Larsson as a “box office” appointment, or who promote people like Keane, even some who talk up Kennedy and even Scott Brown are falling into the same trap, in my view.
These guys don’t have the experience and credentials necessary for a job this size, but their status as people who “get it” is used to endorse them regardless.
I always thought that the Lampard decision was inexplicable, made for reasons that were more sentimental than anything else.
The Chelsea board got so carried away with the concept that they failed to ask the kind of hard questions that might have let them see the reality. He had a spell at Derby –57 games – which yielded a win ratio of just 47%.
He got them to the play-off final.
But Chelsea is a global club with massive expectations and the appointment ran counter to that image. The same thing happened at Celtic Park when Lennon got the job the first time, having not even had Lampard’s experience at another club … we appointed Lennon as a rookie, going up against a team that had won two titles in a row.
They won the third, of course, and then collapsed. Lennon survived two major crises in his first two years in the job. It was a miracle that he did. I’ve never hidden my view that it was also an outrageous abrogation of responsibility on the part of our board.
Even with the benefit of hindsight, including that win over Barcelona, I would not change my view that Lennon should have been sacked at the end of his first full campaign and if not then certainly on that evening at Rugby Park, in spite of us coming back from 3-0 down.
As shocking as Lennon’s first appointment was, the second was worse.
It came on the heels of Brendan Rodgers for God’s sake; any number of managers would have paled in the comparison, but Lennon, who had gone on to Bolton and Hibs and crash landed on both, was so clearly a dreadful choice that it took the air out of one of our greatest days as a club.
Neither Chelsea nor Celtic should ever be run by a rookie, or by someone without the experience to take on such a role.
It’s not even just a matter of their natural ability; Jorginho’s comments make it clear how such appointments go over in the dressing room; high profile players can’t respect them.
The Lennon appointment wasn’t just about a drop of professionalism in the coaching department; his hiring told the dressing room something about the psychology of the whole club.
We had stopped reaching for excellence. We had stopped striving to be better.
This is why this decision needs to be exactly right.
No more aiming low.
We have to get the best man we can and work from there.
Some lessons are important even if you learn them late.