Michael Nicholson today became one of the most influential figures in Scottish football. He became one of the most influential figures at Celtic Park, and arguably the most influential figure outside of Dermot Desmond. And we have no idea who he is.
Oh we know all the usual fluff which the board thinks they can palm us off with.
If you go down the list, you see that he checks all the boxes that the directors think matter to plebs like us; he’s “one of our own.” “He knows the club.” “He wants the best for Celtic.”
You could say that about any one of us; there aren’t but a handful who have acted in a senior executive capacity far less have held the fate of a £75 million business in our hands.
His nine years with the club already and his “commitment” to Celtic don’t impress me even close to what a half-decent CV with the kind of experience that is necessary to do a job this size would.
The board says he’s important for continuity; talk about damning him with faint praise.
Continuity with how this board operates, as a short-term enterprise restricted in its thinking and resistant to outside ideas is the last thing we want to hear he’s being hired to provide.
All day long I’ve been getting told that the Celtic board is brilliant because they haven’t run us into the ground. That’s the bare minimum test of competence that any organisation should be able to boast. It is not, in and of itself, impressive. They have presided over a trophy laden period. So did the White’s and Kelly’s before them. Big deal.
We are the biggest club in the country. We have the biggest stadium, the best social footprint, a global fan-base and an iconic name. This board didn’t create any of that. That’s what they have to work with. It would have taken a thoroughly dreadful board to mess that up, and they have come damned close to blowing all of those advantages.
At the time of writing, the Ibrox board presides over the title winning club and have a six-point lead at the top of the league; are they well run? Every single one of us knows that they are not. Their good fortune was to be going head to head with our directors who appointed their last manager in the shower after he’d been sacked by Bolton and Hibs.
The current manager is still trying to clean up the mess that appointment left us with. The directors have failed to provide him the support network we were told, this time last year, was critical to the long term plan. They hired a CEO to provide us with one, and then personality clashes did for him and now that office is occupied by the third person this year.
Our board gets by. At times of calm seas, they look, to outsiders, like geniuses.
But those of us who’ve watched them this past decade knew that a crisis would test them and find them wanting, because of the number of critical things they didn’t do that would have changed the landscape we play in and made it better for everyone.
Our directors have made two good decisions in the last six years; the hiring of Rodgers – and they messed that up – and the hiring of Ange. And I believe that was a panic appointment, made blind, and the greatest luck we’ve ever had.
Michael Nicholson’s last role was as club secretary. Quite how that qualifies him to be the head of a £75 million business I do not know, and neither does this board which is why at the same time it has promoted another insider, Chris McKay, to “chief financial officer” – which, by the way, is a smart move because he at least has some knowledge in that field.
It’s a move that should have been made whilst Lawwell was at the club, and if it’s something Nicholson himself insisted on then it’s a better sign that most of us could have hoped for, because under Lawwell the CEO at Parkhead was over-mighty.
One of Nicholson’s roles will be to act as the “public face of Celtic” and that’s where he’s already going to have some big problems because you cannot do that whilst bunkering up as he has spent the last few months doing. Lawwell clearly loved that part of the job, and you know what? People all over football respected him in that role.
It is not a post for a shrinking violet, and if Nicholson doesn’t fancy that part of it well too bad because it’s in the job description; indeed, some would say it is the job.
His larger role is to represent us at every level. At least part of that role has been taken from him by McKay. Another part has been hoovered by Lawwell who will continue to represent us at the ECA and UEFA, for all the good he’s ever done us there. (Not one bit, by the way, not one bit and I will argue the toss on that one with anybody.)
Because of Nicholson’s role in the pursuit of Resolution 12 he is not trusted by those who are aware of it to deal directly with the SFA. In fact, various Celtic fan groups expressly said that they would no longer be willing to deal with him or Lawwell face to face following that, so those are fences he either mends or problems that he lets fester.
But he can no longer hide, and he won’t be allowed to. The media will want him in front of them, and although there should be hard questions put to him I rather think that the Celtic media department and PR team will insist on making that as soft an audience as possible and some of the tamer hacks will lap it up and ask only what they are supposed to.
Celtic fan media will do no such thing. The hardest questions Nicholson gets are going to come from us and it is imperative that he subjects himself to that ordeal as soon as possible after the New Year. There is an entire three-week period in which there will be no football in which he will have time to get before us and answer some of our questions.
I did not want Ange Postecoglou as manager. I was not alone. That man had a hell of a job to do to convince his doubters, but he did that in part because he talked straight, shared his philosophy, spelled out his plans and made it clear that he was far better qualified and far sharper and more ambitious than his career CV suggested.
But I was willing to be convinced, and I’m willing to be convinced here. Lennon, like this guy, ticked all the fluffy boxes, none of which were in any way connected to the central question; of all the possible candidates out there, why should you have this job?
If there is more to Michael Nicholson than we’re aware, then let’s see it and hear it and find out what the plan is. Let’s find out what his long-term goals are and how he intends to reach them. Let’s find out whether or not he intends to conduct a strategic review. Let’s find out what his intentions are for the SFA and the SPFL and the needed reforms.
And let’s find out what his plans are for improving the team and helping Ange be all he can be. That, after all, is what the CEO of a football club does in the absence of a director of football. And whilst he’s answering those questions he can answer that one as well.
What this guy cannot do is hide. He might not realise it, but he’s the board’s lightning rod now.
When things go wrong he is where the finger of blame will point.
It is time that this guy came out from under the bed and told us what he’s all about.