The announcement that Ian Bankier is to retire as Celtic chairman on 1 January should be a moment for celebrations from all connected to the club. He has been lamentable.
He will go down as one of the chairmen of our club furthest removed from the mood in the stands. His leadership might have garnered a lot of trophies, but it cannot be judged on that alone.
Bankier was almost utterly anonymous when he was not gratuitously offending and insulting our supporters.
Frankly, any senior executive of our club who called a section of our fan-base anti-Semitic because it takes a stand against the policies of austerity and Israel is grotesquely unsuited to the post because he fundamentally does not understand the supporters and has made no effort to. For a self-described “lifelong fan” – he wasn’t and that was understood from the moment he was appointed – that would be an unforgivable oversight.
I will not be sad to see him go.
The utter shambles he and the rest of them presided over, from the decision to appoint Lennon onwards – even the appointment of Ange looks more like a happy accident than a product of strategic thought – has tainted the reputations and tarnished the legacies of every single one of them.
The appointment strategy since Ange – an internal appointment as CEO and the hiring of Mark Lawwell – has proved that they learned nothing and continue to run Celtic as an insular wee member’s club rather than as a serious undertaking determined to be all that it could be. This is why this news will not comfort some folk but will trouble them instead.
They will fear another internal appointment, another example of the cronyism culture which permeates so much of what Celtic does these days. We are not terribly far removed from the days of the White’s and the Kelly’s that a small group of unaccountable people believe that they have some divine right to run Celtic. It is intolerable.
One name will dominate our fears; Peter Lawwell.
His time at the club should be well and truly over and the idea that he would return as chairman is an awful one even to contemplate.
If the board makes such a soul-crushing appointment it will be a dangerous moment for all involved. I cannot think of a decision which would be more divisive.
And I don’t think it will happen, first because I don’t believe Lawwell wants it and second because even these people have to know how unacceptable it would be.
The next chairman of Celtic should be someone with no overt connection to those who run the club at the present time. He or she should bring with them a fresh perspective and new ideas, and not just about the club itself but the environment in which it exists.
Perhaps just as importantly, if the current CEO intends to maintain his invisible persona then the next chairman of Celtic should be willing to fill that gaping void, and step up and be both visible and communicative.
We cannot afford the two most senior people at this club to be completely silent, not when our rivals are involved in an orgy of self-promotion and useful idiots like the chairman of Hibs flirt with the dangerous fantasy that their club represents the possibility of leadership.
If we do not step up to lead this game there is a danger that they will, and if they do then all the so-called normative behaviours are in the bin and it’s every club for itself.
There are some within Celtic who might see some narrow advantage in such a scenario; they are wrong.
Our club needs to be forward thinking and forward facing.
It needs to lead, and in order to do so it has to have a leader at the helm, not some yes-man for an absentee shareholder, not some nodding donkey content to avoid the limelight but bask in the reflective glory.
This will not please some of the fundamentalist battalion at Celtic Park, but the last time this club was led in that fashion its chairman was a guy called John Reid.
No matter how much they might despise him and his politics – and I’m no lover of his politics either – they cannot deny (or they are lying) that he was not only an effective leader but one who put our club centre stage.
It was Reid who boasted that we would no longer “sit at the back of the bus” nor be treated as such.
It was Reid who made sure that the Famine Song and the disgusting characters who sung it were held up to the condemnation of the rest of the world. Had he been chairmen during the collapse of Rangers, and not this anonymous coward, our club’s position on that would have been far more forceful and far less conciliatory.
John Reid should not have been the man leading our club, but he was the sort of man who should be leading our club; someone who knows the strength of this institution and acts as if we’re strong and not weak.
Someone who recognises our significant role not only within football but within society as a whole and promotes that aggressively.
For too long, Celtic has been led like that other private member’s club with which we’ve had so many disagreements and fallings out; the SFA. When you promote from within, when every internal discussion is a debate inside an echo chamber, then new thinking is snuffed out and you fall back on the same old tired ideas. We cannot afford that.
Bankier’s replacement has to be more than just some emeritus position, some hand-me-down role to the next yes-man or one of the clique. We need someone with a new way of thinking and perhaps even a new way of operating within Scottish football, an environment which itself has become stale and lifeless and weak and cowardly … as evidenced by the craven surrender to Ibrox.
The Celtic fans will support that sort of appointment.
The proof of it is in how we embraced Ange and how, initially, the blogs and podcasts reacted with delight to the appointment of Dominic McKay. It’s the reason the Nicholson appointment was not universally acclaimed nor the Lawwell Jnr appointment, in spite of his endorsement from Ange.
Fans want to see fresh thinking.
For the love of God, Celtic, when you claim that this appointment will be a consequence of looking for the right person to take us forward we hope you mean it.
If that, to you, is another piece of cronyism or nepotism … well, a lot of us are going to have a big, big problem with that and we will let you know it.