Here’s the thing with the smug way in which Peter Lawwell and his apologists have pushed his large frame into the team photo from last season, in an effort to restore his rep.
It convinces people that he’s still around, operating Michael Nicholson by remote control.
The hiring of his son does nothing to dispel the notion that this club is run by a small clique, almost like a family business, in the way it once used to be. But there’s a problem with that.
In the good times, it allows these people to strut about as though they are strategic geniuses after all instead of men who have constantly been bailed out by the manager and the players, and in the case of Ange, gotten extremely lucky.
In bad times, it reveals them for what they are.
It reveals how weak they are, how petty, how small and restricted their outlook is.
That has strangled our forward momentum on prior occasions, and there is still a very real fear in our support that it will do so here.
I don’t think the lack of news on Jota or Carter Vickers is necessarily anything to worry about.
I expect the deals will get done.
The thing is, with both players pretty much on the record as being in support of the move, anything that goes wrong now will be blamed on the club itself, both by the media and by a large section of our support.
I know the board apologists will do everything they can to spin such a scenario, but that won’t matter.
The perception of Lawwell and his cohort, back in their former roles, interfering, second guessing the manager, penny-pinching and failing to get deals over the line is one that will be extremely hard for the club to shake off.
When the same people are still in the building and playing an active role, what other conclusion are people supposed to draw?
Instead of a clean break with that era – which Ange’s hiring should have represented – it’s almost as if the board has doubled down. Even as he’s been blazing a trail on the pitch, the old guard have been cementing their positions off of it.
Since Ange was hired three critical things have occurred.
The first is that the new chief executive, the one who inspired such confidence, has been jettisoned.
Dominic McKay’s departure has never been properly explained, but the board made sure that its hatcher men were on hand to dice the guy’s reputation. He did represent a clean break.
The decision to get shot of him didn’t necessarily have to stop progress though.
The second thing to happen was giving the role on a permanent basis to Michael Nicholson himself.
The surface appearance is that it has been a success.
The January window was the proof that this club can work fast and well when it needs to.
But Nicholson has never once spoken to the fans or the media since starting the gig … that, to me, ignores one of the key requirements of his job. The CEO is supposed to be the front man. Instead, we have the invisible man.
This is why the question naturally arises as to whether this guy is really running anything.
The hiring of Mark Lawwell is the third thing, and that’s been glossed over by some people because of two things; his allegedly impressive CV and the endorsement of the manager. The manager’s endorsement doesn’t impress me one bit. “Man speaks in favour of major decision taken by his bosses” isn’t a new phenomenon.
I prefer going a little deeper, and Joe McHugh at VideoCelts has, at the very least, raised some interesting questions about whether the CV is as good as has been portrayed. Which kind of knocks the central brick out of that particular wall.
From the start with Nicholson and Lawwell Jnr, I’ve said the same thing; do not judge these people on the hype and all this “they are good Celtic men” guff.
Judge them based on how they perform. On how they do in the role.
Only then will we know what’s what.
And this window is the first real test of these people, and for Nicholson (or whoever’s operating him) and the board the opening moves are going to determine how confident some of us are for the rest of it.
The signings of Jota and Carter Vickers would be a sign that the club has learned something from the days when Daddy Lawwell haggled with Hibs over a few hundred grand for Fletcher, lost that game of poker, and learned so much from the three Ibrox titles that followed that he did the same thing all over again when it came to John McGinn.
We either change the way we do things or repeat the same mistakes, and if we’re repeating the same mistakes fans are entitled to ask whether that’s because the same people are still making the decisions.
They are entitled to ask if anything above the manager has really changed at all.
If the answer’s no then perhaps it’s time to dwell on that and then even act on it.
In my view, that boardroom is long overdue a gutting out.
So the club either delivers these guys or creates the perception that all those at the top of the house have done is re-arrange the deck-chairs.
The same faces wanted the credit for last season’s success; fine, provided they are willing to take the blame for the things that don’t get done, and it starts today, and it starts with those two players.
Deliver them, or explain to the fans and the manager why.
And I write that as someone who has no worries about the boss’s eye for replacements if we don’t.
That’s beside the point; he wants these guys and it’s up to those above him to get those deals over the line.
There will be no hiding place for them if they fail.
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