In 2014, after Neil Lennon departed, most of us thought that the club would go out and bring in a top manager. We brought in Ronny Deila. It should have been a disaster. Looking back at it now the appointment was wholly unacceptable. He had been intended as Lennon’s assistant, not his successor. We never got luckier in our entire history.
Who else were we looking for at that time? Roy Keane was on the list. Like Lennon, and Deila, he wasn’t exactly a top drawer candidate. The club was going through the motions. Everything you learn about the way we do things makes it seem like a minor miracle that we ever had an O’Neill or a Rodgers. Eddie Howe is also aiming high.
The news today that we interviewed Steve Clarke at around that time is not surprising.
Some will say it’s an example of how unambitious and unimaginative we are, but actually it’s one of the smarter things we did. Clarke would have been not long out of the West Brom job at that point, and this is probably what counted against him and I’m glad it did.
But Clarke had learned from so many of the very best in the game that it was obvious he simply needed the right club and the right people around. He would go on to at a spell at Reading before Kilmarnock finally picked him up, and that was a great move for them.
I would have been shocked had we hired him, but I remember at the time my old man talking about Clarke in glowing terms and there were a lot of people in English football doing the same.
He was an ambitious man, and a lot of people rated him highly. Neither of the clubs he was at were particularly ambitious, and his performances weren’t great … but he had something.
I thought he was a real coup for Killie, and so it proved.
So what would have happened had we hired him in 2014?
Those two are the key architects of that success, but Clarke is a more knowledgeable manager than Lennon and would have made us very difficult to beat. Our team and our squad – our club – would look very different today had Steve Clarke been manager.
On balance, it’s probably good he didn’t get it.
But had we offered him the gig back in November last year, on an interim basis, things at Celtic would look better than they do at the moment; I still think we’d have won the title. Had he got in October we’d have won the treble again.
Clarke has proved himself, and will go on to bigger things.
Might he one-day end up at Parkhead? Not for a long time I hope, because I want to see Howe build something special here. But Clarke will do well and win things … and that makes him a candidate one day in the future.