One of the debates that has raged in Celtic cyberspace since I’ve been active on it is the one over whether or not we’d like a sycophantic media like the one at Ibrox. I’ve always said no. Not that we ever would get such a thing in the first place, of course.
But even beyond that, having hacks write nothing but fluff and feel-good stuff doesn’t do a football club any good. Look at the way the story about the “American takeover” is being covered over there at the moment; not one article in the mainstream press has bothered to do the least bit of digging into the person behind it, and it doesn’t take much.
She comes from a background in leveraged buyouts and asset stripping. This does not suggest that she will make hiring a world class coach and throwing money at the SPFL a major priority. But because the story creates a bit of positive buzz around the club, the press here is writing about it as if she were promising to do exactly that.
At a time when there are more pro-Ibrox hacks than ever before – partly because of the number of their players that are making a living in the media – it is always heartening to recall that there are a number of Celtic friendly folks out there as well.
I use that term deliberately. Celtic friendly. Not pro-Celtic. Because that’s about a lack of objectivity and the guys I’m thinking of – Mark Wilson, Chris Sutton, John Hartson, Stan Petrov and others – are capable of looking at our club with an objective eye.
I have no real interest in the outlet to whom Chris Sutton gave his recent interview on how many people he’s managed to annoy since becoming a pundit, but I am interested in what he’s got to say on the subject. I think Chris leans into being a controversialist at times, in contrast to John Hartson who I don’t think does quite so much.
But underneath the occasional bit of bluster, Sutton is a smart guy and one whose opinion is always worth listening to. If you’ve watched him debate McCoist on their BT Sport show you’ll see how sharp he is, never forgetting a fact and never missing a trick.
It is not Chris Sutton’s job to be a pro-Celtic propagandist.
When he criticises our club, most of the time it is because we deserve it.
He rarely goes OTT, and I genuinely think he’s helped frame a lot of important debates within our support, because it is harder to dismiss a guy like Sutton when he offers criticism out of love than it is to take seriously even a serious point from somebody whose usual output is based around how much they hate us.
When Sutton criticises, people at Celtic should take that seriously and it’s the same with Big John and with other Celtic friendly people in the press.
Neil Lennon has never learned that.
Neil Lennon cannot handle criticism, and let’s first differentiate between criticism and abuse because they are different things entirely. But when Sutton spoke about how he and Lennon have fallen out, and how their relationship has changed because he dared do his job, it was obvious, again, that a complete failure to accept scrutiny remains one of Neil’s biggest problems.
Sutton did not abuse Lennon. Sutton went out of his way to acknowledge his former team-mates accomplishments both as a player and as a manager. His respect for him is obvious. It is not Sutton’s job to burnish Lennon’s managerial reputation or tell the world that he can do no wrong. Not only is that not what a pundit is supposed to do, I don’t think it’s what a friend is supposed to do either.
A true friend will tell you when you’re blowing it, when you’re getting something badly wrong. A true friend will try and steer you down the right path. It was obvious that Lennon had lost the dressing room at Celtic and needed to step aside, both for the good of the club and for his own good because every day he stayed in the job harmed his reputation amongst the fans.
And Chris Sutton was right to tell him that.
Lennon has done himself no favours since either.
Almost everyone connected with the ten in a row failure has, to some degree or another, apologised for it and acknowledged their mistakes. He alone of those in the front line has not done so; indeed, when you listen to him it’s as if he doesn’t think that he made any at all. Sutton isn’t the only person he’s fallen out with for telling him different.
What Neil Lennon is guilty of here is not demanding unquestioning loyalty, it’s demanding fealty and that’s an entirely different thing. Sutton has shown him loyalty. He’s also done his job.
But our former manager wants everyone to kiss the ring and that’s not something you demand from your friends, not if you want to keep them. Not if you care about that.