Celtic approached Eddie Howe two months ago, in London. At some point we accepted a “verbal assurance” from him that he wanted the job. But the caveat was that he could get his backroom team in place just as he wanted it.
Now that has proved impossible the deal has collapsed. That is what you will be reading and hearing over the next few hours from newspapers and, in particular, the blogs. To say that it’s an inadequate explanation barely needs pointing out.
Even if you accept that explanation – and I really don’t if I’m being honest, it reads to me like the most pathetic attempt at damage control ever undertaken – the number of questions it raises are vast. Cutting through all of it is the simple fact that Howe isn’t going to be the manager, and that the last three months – time we did not have – has been pissed against the wall.
Tonight we’re a laughing stock, and even the reports that we’re in “advanced talks” with a guy who now knows he was the second choice brings me no succour and they shouldn’t bring anyone else any either. I am not going to even try and spin this, it can’t be done and the board isn’t getting to use anybody as a deflector shield here.
Reputations are going to be destroyed by this, and they deserve to be.
It casts a looming shadow not only over Lawwell, whose tenure as CEO ends with his standing amongst the supporters shredded, ruined utterly, but over McKay as well who cannot escape scrutiny and a share of the blame just because he’s not formally in post yet.
There was always an inherent danger in his “shadowing” these incompetents, whilst not yet in full control of his own destiny. In doing so, his own reputation was inexorably tied to any mess they made of this; his tenure thus begins under a black cloud, whether that’s fair or not. This is the price he pays for the company he keeps … I can’t put it more bluntly than that.
Dermot Desmond’s meeting with Howe was two months ago. When someone in the media suggested that we might still not have a manager in place by the end of May I wrote an excoriating piece about how grossly irresponsible that was. Because that wasted too much time and left too much to chance. I argued that even if the candidate was world class, an elite level boss, we were dicing with death because the less is in your own hands the more things can go wrong.
I’m told that this has broken down over the failure to get Howe’s favoured backroom team. Did we really wait for two months on the whims of people who owed us nothing, and who might have gotten other offers in the meantime? People we didn’t talk to, in order to gauge their level of interest? Good God, have we really risked our rebuild on nothing more than crossing our fingers and hoping that it all just fell into place? Are we really that unprofessional?
Apparently that’s exactly what we did do.
One of the reported issues here is that some of Howe’s backroom team can’t or won’t relocate, as if this isn’t something we could have found out simply by asking them. I am appalled that our club could be so lax as to not even do the most basic stuff.
If the issue is over budgets then didn’t someone move the goal-posts, because isn’t that something that should have been ironed out at some point already in the two months it’s taken to get here? If someone did change that at the last minute, then I know which party my money is on. Lawwell’s penchant for brinksmanship will haunt us long after his departure.
Some people are already trying to suggest that Celtic “acted in good faith” and did everything right; honestly, it’s not going to fly. This is a business, and it’s filled with ruthless people and nobody owes us any favours in it. That’s why you don’t bet everything on a verbal agreement, it’s why you don’t sit around and wait in more hope than expectation even as time slips away from you. It’s why serious professionals in this business do things promptly and efficiently.
We have seen this club do this over and over again, through the years.
We always ask, on this blog, why all business takes so long to do? Why transfers aren’t completed until the clock has ticked down? We do this in the Champions League every year; we fail to prepare by holding off on major decisions until it’s too late.
There’s nothing unusual about this at all … it’s only that this time the stakes are so much higher than before.
The hard-luck story coming out of Celtic Park tonight reeks of the same stale pish we’ve been asked to accept over and over again in the latter years of this doddering regime. It stinks of the same garbage that swamped us when John McGinn similarly about-faced on what Lawwell was sure was a done deal, which led to the schism between Rodgers and the board.
Tonight every enemy of this club is going to come for their pound of flesh, and you know what? I am not standing blocking their way and nobody else should be either. We are going to be mocked and sneered at and ridiculed and the board called every shade of incompetent there is a word for. And I’m not doing spin control on their behalf and no-one else should be either. Tonight I’m done with it. Tonight I’m chucking it. Tomorrow is another day.
And tomorrow we’re all going to have to make a decision about what matters more; the next campaign or devoting our time to running this current regime out of town on a rail, because in my view we cannot have both of those things. If we want this board gone then the tough choices have to start with tens of thousands of people not renewing season tickets.
And yes, that is going to damage us in the short term and if there wasn’t an automatic place in the Champions League Groups available for winning the title I think a lot of people would already have made their decision to sacrifice next season on the altar of changing the Celtic boardroom. That makes things more complicated.
But these people have lost whatever shred of credibility they had left. The greatest threats to Celtic’s regaining the initiative in Scotland are inside our own walls. The directors didn’t just have three months to appoint a candidate, they could have done it in December as Lennon’s failures were already apparent and the need for this was acute.
Anyone blaming this on Howe is not to be trusted. If the people running Celtic were daft enough to leave this to chance then that’s on us, not on his camp, not on his people. Professional organisations, run properly, do not do such reckless things.
We’re a joke tonight, and of course the real joke is on every fan who’s already bought a season ticket on faith. I’ve said it for long enough; this board does not deserve that. This board has not earned that right. Indeed, over and over again we’re reminded that they are unworthy of it.
We’re in a bad, bad place tonight and the really important decisions are now going to be made by the fans themselves. What do you care about? What really matters here? And what are you willing to do, what are you willing to give up, to see things get better?
Tomorrow morning I’ll try and resolve that for myself, but for tonight I’m done with all of it, I don’t want to think about this club until then because I’m heartily sick of every single person in its upper echelon, and I feel very, very sorry for all the poor sods who work under them and will catch no small amount of flak for stuff they had no part in.
There are good people working at Celtic; please do not take out your anger on them.
Friends, this is a catastrophe on every level … and I am so fed up with it all that tonight I don’t even care what comes next.