Last week, in an extensive interview, Ange Postecoglou confirmed something I’ve long suspected, and written about several times; we got lucky with this guy. This wasn’t some brilliant piece of out of the box thinking. It was a lazy appointment, one we stumbled onto by accident, because his was the only credible name left in our “contact book.”
In that interview, Ange laid out how Celtic knew of him through Lawwell’s City Group connection. His son works for them. We didn’t do some global search to arrive at the right guy and I never believed for one minute that we did.
We took the only credible candidate from an organisation we had way too many links. It was the last throw of the dice from a desperate board.
How lucky they got. How lucky we got.
When I was looking into Ange’s background when he was hired the Lawwell connection was the first thing that jumped off the page at me; it was there in black and white and it was obvious where his name had come from.
The City Group has clubs all over the world. I looked through their managerial roster. Only three people on the list had ever won major honours; Guardiola, Ange and Ronny Deila.
There was never any prospect of us bringing back Ronny.
So we got the guy who was left. The only one of the remaining lot this board believed that it could sell. He was a moon-shot, a last ditch “who the Hell can we ask who will do it?” hire, done in one big hurry with the clock ticking down.
A few weeks ago, in a sit down he did with the Australian press, he basically said that he got the job in a single interview over Skype.
I have no doubt that he put on one Hell of a show and seemed worthy, but I thought then, and think now, of the articles I wrote when I heard that Pedro Caixinha’s interview process at Ibrox amounted to something pretty similar.
It was not for nothing – and certainly not to be nasty – that I initially believed that this could be our equivalent of that disastrous deal. It had so many of the hallmarks of the Caixinha appointment, first and foremost that it seemed slapdash and panicked.
There is no doubt whatsoever that we got the right guy, the perfect guy, in both his attitude and outlook and in how he manages the team. He can spot a player, he has the right ideas about team building and structure, he understands what it means to be a fan and his background, as an immigrant, gives him a perspective on our background and culture.
Had our board known who Ange was – had they genuinely, actually properly understood what they were getting – he wouldn’t have been second or third or fourth choice or whatever he was.
And yet, today there are suggestions that the hiring of Ange might go some way towards rehabilitating Peter Lawwell.
The idea that it’s this, a left-field hire made in utter desperation and which just happens to have been a spectacular success, that fans might one day remember him for, rather than being the guy at the helm when we lost ten in a row.
The lengths the keepers of the Lawwell flame will go to in order to recast this guy as some totemic saviour of our club are extraordinary.
But his legacy is secure.
It was secure on the day he made his final actual managerial hire in a Hampden shower.
It was secure in the day that a financially doped club from Ibrox won a league title because we allowed them to spend their way to it in exactly the same way Murray had one done at Rangers.
Lawwell’s legacy was secure in the giant clash of egos which led Rodgers to leave the club, and the way in which we grabbed the first warm body off the street to replace him.
To those who say Lennon rode to the rescue, my riposte has always been that he was convenient, and available, and we snatched him off a dole queue. I have never wondered what the Plan B was. We didn’t have one, any more than we had a proper one when Howe turned us down. We threw together a solution in the Howe case.
I dread to think what Celtic would have been landed with had Lennon still been in a job; he was a thoroughly bad option but he was certainly not the worst case scenario.
That was Lawwell in action. It is no surprise whatsoever that the club chose Ange in the same manner. It was the way he built the machine.
Lawwell’s legacy is in the state he left our club in.
It is the unreformed SFA in spite of the need for major changes being obvious in 2012.
It is a risk averse strategy that somehow still exposes us to the downside of risks taken elsewhere.
It is in the names of two players, one near the middle of his tenure and one at the end; Steven Fletcher and John McGinn.
It is a legacy of penny-pinching and dragging out deals which should have been swiftly closed.
He has never been short of people to burnish his reputation.
But the best thing Lawwell did in the last ten years was to realise that the gig was up, that his position was untenable and that he had, to paraphrase Cromwell, been “in the job too long for any good (he) was doing.”
His departure, he at least got right, and he’s stayed out of the limelight ever since.
Of greater concern to me is that anyone could believe that the Ange appointment reflects well on him.
If he looks back on it at all, it will be like a gambler who, after a losing streak, bets everything he has left on a single number on the roulette wheel and is as amazed as anyone in the casino to see that it’s come up.
It was luck, nothing more.
And that worries me, and that’s why it worries me when we see revisionism such as this.
Because the same slipshod manner of hiring and firing is evident in the way we replaced him with a guy we got rid of in short order and replaced him with an internal appointment.
We should be worried because this club hasn’t learned anything except on a superficial level, and neither have some of the people who continue to applaud those running it for their foresight and vision when it’s pretty clear if you really look that they don’t have any of either.