Last night’s result notwithstanding, as we approach the anniversary of Neil Lennon being fired we are in an entirely different place. To say that there has been a momentous change in a year is a vast understatement.
We’re in a much better place than we were.
When we got rid of Lennon I thought we were facing enormous challenges which we would struggle to overcome. We knew we were facing a painful summer, and one that would be somewhat chaotic.
We had no idea what chaos was.
We were still months away from a managerial appointment and the utter humiliation of losing out on our first choice.
12 months after Lennon was fired, what is the situation?
There are three areas to look at in order to tell us where we are.
First, is the football situation. This time last year we were out of the title race. The League Cup had been surrendered in appalling fashion. The Scottish Cup was looming but we were not confident. In fact, we would be out of that shortly thereafter. Europe had been an unpardonable disgrace which ought to have seen the manager gone sooner.
Second is the situation with the squad. This time last year we were facing a complete disaster in the summer as our best players looked to depart without the machinery in place to assure that we were bringing in equally talented footballers to replace them.
Third is the situation with the fans. This time last year they were in open revolt. The management team was almost universally despised. I do not use that word lightly. The fans would have been uproarious had Lennon continued much longer. A season ticket draw-down was a very real threat, and so was a revolving series of protests which would have put every senior member of the board under threat. Lawwell had already announced his departure.
I have never seen a more toxic brew in all my life supporting this club, and the thing is, the fans were entirely right to be that furious considering what was going on.
The football situation as it stands right now is vastly improved.
We’re sitting at the top of the league. We’re a Scottish Cup quarter finalists. We’ve already won the League Cup. By any definition this is a success of such enormity that it’s sort of breath-taking. The domestic situation is utterly transformed. Even the European defeat last night is not enough to take the shine off this … our performances in Europe have been excellent for the most part.
The squad situation is also vastly improved, with a number of new players in the team like Juranovic, Abada, Hatate and Kyogo who have obvious sell-on value on top of what they provide on the pitch, which is one Hell of a lot.
I don’t think there’s any dispute that this is a better Celtic squad than the one from last season, with depth in every position. The miracle is that we’ve done it all; that we’ve done it without breaking the bank is incredible.
Third is that the fans, for the most part, have embraced Ange and his team and what he’s trying to do. Moreover, the relationship between the club and the fans has changed as fan media has become more welcome at club press events.
The new CEO has yet to make a major statement, but most folk think he’s doing a good job. Certainly, transfer business is being done more quickly and skilfully than at any time most of us can remember.
The departure of Neil Lennon did not set off this chain of events, but it was necessary for this club to move from one era into another.
I know that his dismissal hurt a lot of people, people who think we owed something to the man, but nobody can dispute that we are better off for it. The last 12 months have seen an incredible change at Celtic Park.
That’s why tonight I’m relatively calm in spite of yesterday’s result.
This club is in a much better place than it was just a year ago.