Whatever went wrong at Celtic, it started way before the night of 26 August 2020 but in the aftermath of that game the manager lit the spark for the full scale detonation.
In one of the most astonishing, and ill-judged, temper-tantrums I’ve ever witnessed from a manager, Lennon did not create the problems that engulfed us from that night onward; they were already there, or he would never have started ranting like that.
But he lost his ability to control events that night.
Remember about a month ago when I wrote about “three shakes”? A shake is a nanosecond; it’s a term used in physics. I wrote about it in the context of Tom Clancy’s book The Sum Of All Fears. In that book he devotes an entire chapter to the “three shakes” it takes for a nuclear explosion to occur. Everything which happens next is an aftereffect.
We don’t see it, but the explosion has already taken place. What we would see, if we were unlucky enough to be near ground zero, would be the consequences.
In that piece I said that it was obvious that something was ailing the Ibrox club. That “something” had already happened; we were now seeing the first effects of the explosion. On Sunday, in the aftermath of the League Cup semi-final, we saw the flash of brilliant light that observers recognise as the “signature” of a nuclear detonation.
Goldson’s comments sent shockwaves through the Ibrox support. But the crisis didn’t start with his comments any more than Lennon’s own rant precipitated ours. These two only made an existing problem public, and in doing so obviously made it worse.
But it’s possible that we were already holed below the water line. Lennon’s management style wasn’t to everyone’s taste, and I suspect that he’d lost the dressing room long before. Those were the angry remarks of someone who didn’t think there was that great a risk in dragging the dirty laundry out into the public square, because the cause was already lost.
Those who want to continue pretending we have a capable board of directors might want to look away as I make the obvious point; it will forever be a mystery why people inside Parkhead didn’t act sooner, because all of them must have known that we were in big trouble before that night and effectively in freefall after it. They have no excuses whatsoever for not dealing with that in a decisive manner, to prevent the full-scale collapse.
It takes a strong leader – one willing to admit his own faults for a start – to hold a dressing room together when various strands of it are at war with each other. There is no doubt whatsoever that Connor Goldson was opening, in public, wounds have been festering in private since at least the summer and maybe even longer.
Even with that kind of personality in charge, there are times when you just can’t keep it together no matter what you do, and if Goldson is right and the players there have “lost the hunger” and are just going through the motions then there’s no recovering from that at all, especially when that fact has been made public and the infighting has become fierce.
Let’s put it this way; if you were unhappy at work already and someone started criticising your job performance would you be more or less inclined to stay? The answer is obvious.
There were players over there who signed because the manager was there. He’s now gone, and so a little of the lustre that existed at the club is gone. Several of our players would have felt the same way when Rodgers left. That is only natural when you have a big name in charge.
Other players did see it as their duty to deliver the league title, and having done that they probably do think there’s nothing else to prove and they can now seek their moves to England in good conscience. If they’ve mentally checked out that’s why.
But none of these guys will appreciate the way they were called out in public by Goldson, and then again by Scott Arfield who talked about falling standards. These guys, by the way, both have contracts which expire at the end of the season; I would bet that neither of them is going to sign a new deal. That’s what others on long term contracts will find most intolerable; having their commitment questioned by guys who don’t have any.
Too many players over there believe the hype about them; that’s a big problem in itself, and it’s one which the club has gotten itself into with a lot of help from the media. The constant talk about clubs sniffing around and readying massive offers has messed with the heads of some of these guys, who don’t know what’s true and what isn’t, but know what they would like to believe and see the club, rightly or wrongly, as preventing them earning the big bucks down south. The irony is that, as we suspect, this alleged “interest” probably isn’t even real.
But the effects of it are certainly real and they are finally starting to bite.
We saw how easily – and how completely – a public declaration of trouble behind the scenes can start a club on a death spiral, and the reason this happens is that a problem has to already be pretty severe for someone to light the fuse on the bomb this way. Whatever tensions have been building up in private are now spilling over into the public sphere and that means we’re way down the path towards a full-scale collapse, unless someone can hold it together.
We had to watch as everything at Celtic Park fell apart after that night. We may be about to witness the same dynamic play out across town. Have the popcorn ready, because their club is going to blow like Chernobyl.