I’m writing this after having been on the Endless Celts podcast last week, and saying pretty much what I’m about to say now, except that I want to write this in more detail and place it in the proper context.
I also want to correct one big error, about our financial position in the early years, and one modest one from that discussion.
The financial error is over how much we were making at the time of Martin O’Neill’s success.
It wasn’t a failure of numbers but comprehension; the person helping me with the piece told me that earnings were broadly comparable to the present day, and I assumed that meant the totals were the same.
But he forgot to mention one important caveat which I will include.
He also made a slight error on the number of trophies the club won in Lawwell’s first eight years in charge. That was because of how he counted the years.
I used a slightly different method and came up with an extra honour. It makes little difference to the argument.
It is important if we’re going to have this debate about Lawwell that we make what you might call a “case for the prosecution.”
The case for the defence is already in the public domain. A club in a strong financial position. Trophies and titles over the last 20 years. A progressive manager in place and doing well.
It all seems to offer a picture of success. Phenomenal success. Unparalleled success.
Well I’m not even going to deny that record, because how can I? It exists.
So let me try and put it in the proper context, and the best way that I can do it is to reach into pop culture and give you the My Cousin Vinny version.
I have honestly tried to think of a better way to put this than using the trick Joe Pesci’s character deploys in that movie, and I cannot come up with one that’s half as good or coherent.
It’s not for nothing that actual legal journals encourage that trainee lawyers study that movie for lessons on precedent, legal procedure, courtroom tactics and the power of rhetoric.
The first time you see Vincent Gambini bring his formidable powers of persuasion and argument to the fore is when he visits his cousin in jail and the kid is trying to ditch him for a public defender on account of his inexperience.
Gambini demonstrates the skill he will use to win the case by lifting up a playing card and showing it to the kid.
Comparing the DA’s case to building a house, he shows his cousin the playing card. A house is just a collection of bricks, and here’s one of the bricks. And as Gambini explains, it looks just a like a brick. It has everything that a brick ought to have.
Except when you tilt it on its side, and then it’s wafer thin.
That, Gambini says, is the government’s case.
And that’s the case for the defence in the trial of Peter Lawwell.
To defend that man’s record, you have to not examine it.
When you actually look it starts to disintegrate.
To understand Lawwell’s record you have to consider that Celtic’s modern history evolved over four distinct phases; the Fergus phase, the Martin O’Neill era, the early Lawwell years and 2012 to the present day. Lawwell was in office since 2003, roughly 18 years.
Tonight we’re going to look at how Celtic developed from Fergus to the present day.
In doing so, we’re going to cast a light on the much vaunted Lawwell record.