Loyalty is a rare thing these days in football, isn’t it? That’s why it gladdens the heart to see that the Ibrox board is standing by their man tonight. Granted, that’s only a small part of the reason, but it’s in there, somewhere, maybe 1% of how I’m feeling.
The real reason for my happiness, of course, is that the club’s decision only puts off the day of reckoning, does more short term damage and may even inflict some long term scars.
Their AGM is in December; it is impossible to imagine the man being in post when those directors sit down in front of the fans. But it was hard to imagine him being in post tonight too.
The truth is, I don’t think they can sack him, not yet anyway. All talk of Sean Dyche or some other out of work EPL boss is bonkers. None of those guys will come to Scotland without serious cash to spend and they aren’t going to get that.
Their club is floundering and there are no easy answers to their problems. As satisfying as it would feel to jettison Van Bronckhorst and his coaching team, it’s not that simple and those holding the purse strings at Ibrox know it full well.
Who takes over if he goes tonight? Who leads the team into Wednesday night’s game? A seven-point lead could, possibly, be clawed back. When you start falling behind by double-digit margins the risk is that morale collapses completely, players stop performing altogether and the stuttering of the engine gives way to a full-scale death spiral.
Their fans don’t want to hear a word of it.
They want him gone, which is why the word from Jim White today, that the board has no plans to move him on, must have hit like a hammer blow. It’s not entirely true, of course, because only crazy people have failed to notice that he’s blowing it and so there have undoubtedly been talks … but for now he’s going nowhere.
The lack of an obvious replacement is one of the reasons why. The need to spend big money to get rid of him is another. Faced with those circumstances, you could understand why their board might want to hold on and leaves things to fate and chance.
Perhaps Celtic will go through a bad spell. Perhaps Ange will be tempted south. Perhaps players will be unsettled and demand moves and upend the dressing room. Perhaps Ryan Kent will find form, Morelos will get the weight down, attitudes at the club will improve across the boards and Van Bronckhorst emerge, after all, as a tactical genius instead of the guy who went three at the back at the weekend when chasing a single goal and promptly conceded another.
I don’t believe any of those things will happen … but you never know, and if their directors decide to rely on one or more of them bailing them out here don’t be surprised. It’s a gamble, a ridiculous and reckless gamble, but they would not be the first board to play those kind of odds. They would not be the first to put off a big decision for fear of making things worse.
I speculated yesterday that it might turn out well for them in the long run, because to fire him now means rushing the appointment of the next boss or writing off this campaign. With the Champions League pot of gold at stake can they afford to do that?
But it would certainly be the sensible solution, and in particular because this season is already slipping through their fingers and with Van Bronckhorst at the helm it’s almost certainly going to completely fall apart.
The clamour in the stands is only going to get louder. He’s passed a point of no return here and everyone from the media to the online fan community knows it. Their board might want to take the chance to think this over and make the right call at the right time but time isn’t on their side because there is only so much the fans will tolerate.
There is already talk of protests, and even they will pale into insignificance next to the carnage that might be unleashed at the AGM itself. That, I would think, is his final deadline.
But in the here and now let us celebrate that he lives to fight another day and that in choosing to leave him in his job their board – which already has their money from season ticket sales and European participation for another year – is seen as thumbing its nose at them, creating more chaos and more division and directing more fury at the dugout.
It’s a perfect storm, and all we have to do is sit back and enjoy the show.