Michael Stewart is smarter than he’s acting right now. I understand that Ange’s dramatic improvement of this team has shaken up a lot of presumptions and made a lot of people in the media feel and look stupid, but the real stupidity is to persist with it.
Michael Stewart has seen enough of Starfelt, apparently, to wonder who signed him.
“Is he a Postecoglou signing? I find it hard to imagine that’s the case. So who involved in recruitment inside Parkhead has landed a player like Starfelt?” he’s quoting as having asked.
The trouble with this narrative is three-fold.
First it presumes that Stewart understand what constitutes an Ange Postecoglou signing. I am betting he has no clear idea what that means. It sounds loaded down with meaning and weight, but if you actually asked him to nail down the specifics which make “a Postecoglou signing” I bet he would struggle to get any words out at all.
Secondly, this is a lazy and intellectually dishonest narrative because it takes no account of changing circumstances within Celtic. There was a time when you could easily have questioned who was making signing decisions, because it was clear that one man – Peter Lawwell – had a far greater hand in that than he was ever meant to have.
Thirdly, it makes Ange Postecoglou himself a liar.
He has been crystal clear on this matter; he signs off on every deal done. He is given scouting information and analytical data and, I daresay, certain recommendations, but he is the ultimate decision maker.
There is plenty of proof that this is the case, if Stewart has the intellectual integrity to look for it.
Just about every player we were scouting last season was intended either for a Lennon rebuild or one that involved Eddie Howe. Ange was offered those lists and he turned down almost every player on them.
Some of them would have been cheaper solutions than Starfelt.
He knows what he expects from the player. You can actually see what Starfelt brings already; he is powerful in the air, for starters, which for all the honey poured on Kris Ajer he never was, not for one minute.
Has he started poorly? In a sense yes, but nor has his start been a litany of disasters as some people have tried to make out.
I try to think of this, at times, as an example of what Warren Buffet said; “If you put a police car on anyone’s tail for 500 miles, they are gonna get a ticket.”
In other words, if you are looking for mistakes in any player’s game you will find them.
Loads of them. Any player, anywhere in the world.
I watched Arsenal’s defence concede five goals today, with top players in that back-line and there is nobody suggesting that Arsenal’s problem can be solved by buying a new backline.
Starfelt is getting unfair scrutiny by a media some of which is dying to see him fail.
The same applies to Hart and some of the nonsense written about him.
Ange is right; players make mistakes.
It’s not about highlighting that as much as how they recover from them and carry on. Starfelt’s performance was better in the second half. He is growing into the role, slowly perhaps, but you can see it happen.
Ange’s judgement on players will not be flawless.
Nobody’s judgement is flawless.
But he will live and die by his own decisions.
He will not let anyone make them for him.
You just have to look over our summer scouting list to see what he won’t tolerate.
Take Declan Gallagher; there is no doubt whatsoever that a Lennon rebuild would have started with his being signed. The same is true of Ali McCann of St Johnstone. In anticipation of Howe coming in, we were three quarters of the way to signing Charlie Wyke.
The minute Ange was presented with those options he rejected them utterly.
I would have put money on all three of those guys signing for Celtic under Lennon or Howe.
Not one of them was deemed good enough for Ange’s plans.
Nor was a loan deal for Ben Davies ever more than a fantasy, and for the same reason.
It Is such lazy “journalism” to question who is making these decisions and especially now that Lawwell is no longer in the building. There are a lot of Celtic fans who do this too, every time someone has a bad game.
“Oh I wonder who signed him,” is the cry that goes up.
Honestly, it’s such a tiresome and stupid argument to make most of the time.
I’ve had doubts about one player signed in this window, just one, and having spoken to some people my fears on that front have been allayed; it’s the signing of Liam Scales, who looked for all the world like a Dermot Desmond decision.
In fact, I’m told that Ange likes him specifically because he’s predominantly a left sided central defender.
In short, there is more than a little logic behind this.
Indeed, I’ll tell you what I rather suspect to have been the case; Starfelt was signed to play on the right side of the central defence and he hasn’t been able to.
The original intent behind the move was, I think, to replace Stephen Welsh.
But crucially, Welsh has proven himself in that role and now is much more difficult to shift.
It’s no coincidence, though, that Starfelt blundered it into his own net in midweek with his weaker foot or that the manager swapped their positions at half time, leading to a better second half.
Our problem in recent years is that more and more Lawwell started to see himself in the role of Jerry Krause – a name which will be recognisable instantly to anyone who watched The Last Dance on Netflix, about the Chicago Bulls dynasty.
Krause famously told the media after their fifth title win that “Players and coaches don’t win championships; organizations win championships.”
And if he you hear, in that, the arrogance that drove Rodgers out the door at Parkhead you aren’t alone.
Krause later said that the word “alone” had been left out of the quote by the press – “Players and coaches alone don’t win championships …” – but the point remained basically the same.
He was tired of seeing the credit go to those on the sharp end and thought that he, as general manager, should have had some of the love too.
He, after all, was the “genius” who had built the team … which is the GM’s job in American sports, but is something that rightly should have no place in football.
Lawwell’s problem was arrogance.
Any attempt by Dominic McKay to assume the same role would not be arrogant as much as it would be stone stupid and he is not a stupid man.
But Stewart evidently believes that someone inside Celtic is that daft, and that it may even be Ange Postecoglou himself.
My money is on another theory entirely.
Which is that Michael Stewart himself is just wrong, wrong, wrong this time.