The Celtic Fans Reaction To Eddie Howe’s Latest Setback Has Deeper Roots Than It Seems.

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It’s easy to sneer when something goes wrong for someone else.

And it’s even easier for someone jilted at the alter to snigger if their former partner’s new squeeze finds out what slime they are, or if they find out that the grass isn’t always greener elsewhere.

It’s human nature.

But none of that is why Celtic fans are happy today at Newcastle crashing out of the FA Cup last night.

Or at least, they aren’t the main reasons.

Something deeper is going on here.

Something that has nothing – or at least very little – to do with the all-too common tendency towards schadenfreude which every football fan experiences to one degree or another at a time like this.

There are many of us who were banging the Eddie Howe drum from a very early stage.

I was one of them.

On my last sit-down with the guys from the Endless Celts podcast, which took place just before the Howe decision was made public, I expressed my very real fears about what would happen if he turned us down.

My comments that day came from two very real concerns; the first was that it had been months and the deal wasn’t done.

The second was that there was talk that the whole thing would depend on his assistants wanting the move.

Many of us presumed that this was something he’d have sorted out with them beforehand; still, it was a worry at the back of my mind.

If Howe had been looking for a better deal, there had been other options even as talks with Celtic were ongoing.

I couldn’t understand what was taking so long.

Part of it was the incompetence of our directors in closing the deal … but at least part of it had to be to do with Howe himself. Why hadn’t he just signed a damned piece of paper already?

From the minute he was announced as the guy we wanted, people were going over his record.

I thought it held up fairly well, but it wasn’t spectacular.

I had already taken to calling him Steady Eddie, because that’s what his entire persona suggested; he was a guy who was going to bring calm and stability and professionalism back to the club.

Eddie Howe was just what we needed.

A pragmatist rather than a revolutionary.

A guy who would assemble a team in his own image, one that would be hard to beat and well organised.

The adults were finally coming back into the room and taking over.

There was nothing fancy about Howe.

He’s not box office.

He’s not an A-lister or someone known for a football ideology.

He’s a guy who gets results because he follows certain principles but doesn’t try to re-invent the wheel; therein lay the allure.

But as month two turned into three and then finally the denouement came, something else became obvious.

Steady Eddie was a mess of contradictions.

When he turned us down the message seemed to be that he wasn’t coming up because he didn’t get his staff choices. Were they denied to him by Celtic? No, he simply hadn’t sorted it out beforehand.

And that’s … a problem.

The second problem was that he wasn’t prepared to move without his people around him, and that was bad in and of itself, because if you’re one of these guys who needs an entourage folk will ask if you’re incapable of standing on your own two feet and going it alone.

I get why he wanted his people, but following what happened with Rodgers – and then at Ibrox with Gerrard – the risks are as obvious as the benefits.

The first thing that impressed me about Ange was that he had no issues uprooting his family and travelling across the world for our club.

And he didn’t need to bring anyone with him, and didn’t want to.

Ange wanted to know the locals, and get their take on the squad, which is a thousand times smarter than coming in with an entire team and starting from scratch. We might not have approved of that, but Ange had thought it all through and indeed it was simply following the practice that he has stuck to his entire career.

Then he started talking about his football ideology; yes, he was a manager with one of those.

It became apparent that life under Ange wouldn’t be about “steady as she goes” but a revolutionary thrill-ride and that’s exciting to Celtic fans because it’s what we want from our team.

Eddie Howe’s team would have been effective.

But would it have been exhilarating?

Remember that thrill you felt on the night at Celtic Park against AZ, when we saw the early glimpses of what Ange was going to bring?

Eddie Howe was the furthest thing from our minds that night.

Over and over again though, I come back to it; this was a guy who was supposed to be the consummate pro, and Mr Organisation, and a fearless leader … and at the same time, a guy who clearly balked at the size of the job, who didn’t have the commitment of his staff in advance of the negotiations and left it till the last minute and then dithered and turned the job down because without them he didn’t feel enough self-belief to come up here and crack it.

Everything Ange has done has made the gap between them seem wider.

Howe took the Newcastle job knowing he wasn’t in their top ten candidates; by then he was desperate, and lured by more money than he’s probably ever seen in his life.

But I never believed that it was a good career choice for him, or them, because he simply doesn’t have the profile to go to a top player and sell them on Newcastle, no matter how much money is sloshing around the place.

His first signing is a 31-year-old English international full-back.

It’s not sexy, but this is Steady Eddie at work.

A manager’s first big signing should say something about who he is and what he believes.

Our introduction to The Mind Of Ange Postecoglou was Abada.

Two days later, he brought in Kyogo.

Two attack minded players who excited the fans.

In the aftermath of last night’s defeat, Howe praised the “strong team” Cambridge put out.

Cambridge are three divisions below his club, and last season were four divisions down.

They are managed by a guy who never played at a senior level and who’s been coaching for only two years.

It is a momentous achievement by Mark Bonnar and an utter disaster for Howe.

And his response to it, other than to praise the strength of the opposition?

To demand new signings from the board, as if the team of multi-millionaires they had on the park was somehow inadequate to the task at hand.

Nowhere was the suggestion that he should have maybe have been able to get more out of those he has in his charge at the moment.

If Celtic fans are expressing relief, it’s not because Howe is a bad manager or that we’re glad to see him fail.

It’s because it’s already obvious that he would have been the absolute wrong choice for Celtic, especially in light of the guy we did get.

It’s because when Howe turned us down a lot of us formed an impression of him as a guy who wasn’t cut out for the high-wire walk that being the Celtic boss requires.

Newcastle is a club with a huge spotlight shining on it, and in one Hell of a mess.

In many ways it’s a tougher job than Celtic ever would have been … but in some very real ways our job is bigger, harder and more demanding, by far, and he knew that and that he simply wasn’t up to it.

So whilst there’s some schadenfreude – and of course there is – that sense of relief is the truest and rawest of the emotions today.

We have the better manager at the helm.

Because Ange is the right guy, the right sort of guy, and a better fit with our club than Howe could ever have hoped to be.

It’s in everything our manager does, not only in his team building, the way he wants to play but also from how he deals with the media; his views on the fans; his simple human decency and his understanding of what we’re all about.

We bear Eddie Howe no ill will.

We hold no grudges.

This is much more complicated than that.

We’re just glad that Ange Postecoglou is in the dugout instead.

What we feel today is vindication.

What we feel today is gladness at having the right man.

That and the knowledge of how lucky we are.

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  • Johnny mcglinchey says:

    DITO. HH

  • The Great God Pan says:

    What a superb article James and very much what I feel about the situation. We have landed on our feet here with Ange. His profile is exactly what Celtic needed. The is part of your article says it all for me:-

    “Because Ange is the right guy. It’s in everything our manager does, not only in his team building, the way he wants to play but also from how he deals with the media; his views on the fans; his simple human decency and his understanding of what we’re all about.”

    Thank you for this mate. Yours is a proper Celtic blog. There are some awful ones out there.

    • Larsson 7 says:

      Yes great summoning up by James.
      Watched Howe on T V being interviewed,he looks like a guy under real pressure I do not envy him.

  • Roonsa says:

    Perfect read for eating my roll n Lorne out the butchers and big glass a milk.

    Thank you.

  • REBELLIOUS says:

    I’ve heard many say ‘we dodged a bullet with EH appointment’
    For me that should read ‘we dodged a long drawn out war’ can you imagine the anguish and further torture, considering the season we’d just had; that his appointment would almost certainly have caused?

    When a managers instant reaction to getting beaten in a match, is to ask for more players, well, for me, that tells you he would never have succeeded in Paradise, never. That’s the first indication you have someone that’s completely out of his depth.



  • John S says:

    The Cambridge ‘keeper had the game of his life.

  • Paul says:

    Really well said and written. I wish Eddie Howe no malice but thanks for giving us Ange. When Celts take the park now you know it’s gonnae be attack it’s grand. HH everyone!??

  • Paul says:

    Really well said and written. I wish Eddie Howe no malice but thanks for giving us Ange. When Celts take the park now you know it’s gonnae be attack it’s grand. HH everyone!??

  • Jack says:

    Eddie howe is a family man he took time out to be with his young family a week before the headlines broke he was not taking the job sevco fans ran a riot in glasgow George square after Marching from Ipox to city centre when lockdown was on singing anti Irish anti Catholic songs and fighting amongst themselves now imagine Eddie sitting with his wife who were coming to stay in the city no way was there thinking of this hatred and violence no wonder he said no we and that’s there victory celebration glasgow people put up with it every year when anti RC marches are allowed to cost mayhem every year

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