There is a reason that, in the initial years of my spoof Keith Jackass articles, the intrepid writer would always call Celtic Park for a comment, and always end up talking to someone “who would only identify himself as …”; it was never explicitly “Lawwell”. “Pete.” “Peter”. “The Big Man”. Not even a nod and wink to the wise, much clearer.
I was always obvious, and meant to be. Just never direct.
There’s a reason that in almost all of these fictional conversations Jackass’s Parkhead “source” would end up spinning shamelessly in his own – not Celtic’s, his own – favour and with his own self-aggrandisement at the heart of the matter.
I sometimes think I’m never more severe, or as pointed in my criticism, than when I am taking the piss or turning something into a joke.
All of those pieces are supposed to be funny, but they are also deadly serious comments on how ridiculous the pro-Ibrox and anti-Celtic spin out in the media gets sometimes. And they are a commentary on our relationship with the hacks.
Jackson is an idiot. We all know that. And we all know that he has been used by both Celtic and the club at Ibrox at times to get across whatever point they wanted in the public discourse.
He might not have spun for Lawwell as often as he has for whichever incumbent of the Blue Room has a hand up his arse, but he has done it and we know he has.
That’s all he’s doing today in his column where he has managed to get his tongue so far down Lawwell’s throat that he could polish the inside of his shoes with it.
It’s worth noting that this article paints the Celtic support, or rather the section of it which is troubled by this development, as ungrateful children or rabid loons “foaming mouthed” – a direct quote – over the collapse of the ten in a row campaign, as though that was our only issue.
He tells a little story about meeting Lawwell, one that I can confirm has the ring of truth to it. He says that Lawwell once told him, in “a little room off the boardroom”, that “What you have to realise is we’ll be hammered if we don’t win the ten.”
Note the use of the word “we.” The Royal We. Celtic.
But what Lawwell actually meant is that he and his idiotic managerial pick would be hammered.
But especially him, for ever having made such an indefensible decision in the first place. To Lawwell, you see, an attack on him was an attack on Celtic itself. He has long struggled to separate the two.
When Jackson suggested that this was daft, Lawwell said to him, ““Yeah but the rules are different for us.” Again, meaning himself. The rules are different for him.
Jackson is too stupid to have read into that what he claims to. In fact, I know Lawwell steered him towards a clearer understanding of who exactly Lawwell thought would be “hammering” him. Not the media; that goes without saying. Us.
I’ve heard Lawwell talk this way about our fans.
It probably happened in that same room Jackson describes, although I felt none of Jackson’s trepidation going up there to meet the man. It certainly didn’t feel “like a summons”, a ridiculous thing for a journalist ever to write. If you’re a writer on a national newspaper going into a room to meet someone you cover, feeling like a kid visiting the head-teacher you are in the wrong profession.
Lawwell brooded to me over his resentment that the Ibrox support believes almost every word that comes out of the boardroom over there. He expressed his frustration that they are trusted and respected whereas he felt sometimes as if he was hard done by.
I thought it was self-pitying and pretty ridiculous.
What he was essentially lamenting is that we didn’t just accept the good, ignore the bad and give the guy a free ride.
That was never, ever, ever going to happen.
That subservient sort of boot-licking, the sort he’s talking about, is what blinded the fans over there to the death of their first club and in my view blinds them even now to the danger their current one is in.
Their AGM is tomorrow. People are expecting it to be stormy. They’re in for a surprise.
There will be a few tough questions, sure, but that board has already secured safe passage through the choppy waters by dispatching the manager. They’ll call for unity, say mistakes have been made and lessons learned and that will be that.
They are the support that believes in being “subjects”, in fawning and scraping to an unelected crown. Their fetishizing of the military is another manifestation of a culture and mind-set which paradoxically strives for dominance but loves to be dominated. They want to kiss up to strong leaders, and to stamp on everyone else.
That’s not us, that’s never going to be us.
Lawwell, on the most fundamental level, does not understand us at all, although he claims to be a lifelong “Celtic supporter.” Which is either a mis-speaking or a flagrant mis-leading, because he’s not been that in years when you consider that a supporter is one who gives to a club whereas someone estimated recently that over the course of his tenure as CEO he took home at least £12 million.
Jackson’s piece is absurd. Lawwell “effectively had to leave the premises out of the back door with a blanket over his head,” he said. Garbage. Even Tony Blair didn’t have a “long goodbye” like Lawwell did, and when he finally did leave the post, early, it was nothing to do with Celtic fans. I know that story, and it’s not for dredging up on here.
He repeats the same guff about 17 years and 29 trophies, as if Lawwell masterminded every single one of those triumphs himself, rendering the managers and players who actually did win them entirely superfluous. This only feeds Lawwell’s ego, of course, and makes him believe that none of it would have happened without him.
This is my favourite line, though, containing such contradictions that I would be amazed it ever got past an editor, except that Record editors have allowed far worse.
“So it now seems perfectly fitting that he is to return to the nerve centre as newly appointed chairman now that Celtic’s situation has been stabilised, as a direct result of his last major act as the outgoing CEO.”
So it was Lawwell, not Ange, who “stabilised” the club, was it?
And why did the club need to be “stabilised” in the first place if Lawwell’s 17 years were so glorious and without fault? The club needed “stabilised” because his decision making was so farcical and wrong-headed that it had rendered us a shambles.
And he gets credit for appointing Ange, but not blamed for the debacle with Eddie Howe leaving us in the lurch after months of negotiations? Are you kidding me?
Lawwell’s judgement in appointing managers is only one area where he is seriously flawed. Ange worked out, just as Ronny Deila worked out, but I’ve never subscribed to the view that we should have hired either man in the first place.
Whatever way you want to dress it up, the appointment of a boss in his 50’s who had never managed in a top flight league in Europe and who was brought here in a last ditch punt, without a single member of his backroom team, was a wild gamble which 99 times out of 100 would have ended in disaster. I don’t think Lawwell deserves credit for that.
I’ve always believed that you should base your response to the Ange appointment by thinking about how you’d feel if you were standing beside your partner as he or she bet everything you collectively owned on the last community card in a big no limits Texas Hold Em hand.
If your card comes up, you’ll be perfectly entitled to feel relief and maybe even elation. But if it was me, I would not then congratulate my other half for the accomplishment.
Instead, I might well conclude that she was a reckless, inveterate risk-taker who, if I stuck around at all, it might be better to keep away from the bank cards, savings accounts and the mortgage papers.
I’d certainly never willingly walk with her into a casino again.
And if I were Lawwell, I would stop getting my “mates” in the media to lay it on so thick.
The last person any of us are going to listen to for an endorsement is Keith Jackson.