Four Phases Of Celtic: The Real Story Behind Lawwell’s Record Of “Success.”

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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.

You can watch that episode at this link, or the one at the bottom of this piece.

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.

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  • Brian fitzsimmons says:

    Can’t wait. Try and keep the venom and vitriol to a minimum when mentioning that man Peter Lawell.

  • Auldheid says:

    This article should not be lost in blog land.

    It should be uploaded in a similar way all the steps of Res12 have been at for future reference because the PLs reappointment as Non Exec Chairman either means it’s back to the future which an article like this will challenge


    The appointment is for some bigger picture reason that will emerge in the fullness of time as info we do not have now surfaces or the implications of have been missed in what has surfaced to inform the current narrative.

    A core belief from the off is that UEFA did not know what was going on during the ebt years and on learning of it in 2012 would want to address. What if that is wrong?

  • Martin says:

    A brilliant balancing piece, James, though there is one area I must disagree with in the strongest terms.

    You called Lawwell a competent administrator. He was anything but. I’m sorry, Lawwell apologists, but that man was an unmitigated disaster from the time Strachan left. At that time we could regularly rely on CL group stage income. Since then under Lawwell we *significantly* weakened our squad every year just before the qualifiers. If someone wants to honestly stand up and try to convince me that consistently and often needlessly losing CL qualification revenue is “competent” (I know you’re not saying it is, James) then I’d love to sell them a bridge.

    Your point about Hooper’s sale was demonstrative. Lawwell was a man who saw selling players as the be all and end all. A man who would fail to get us 30 million in CL revenue but see the summer as a success because we sold 15 million worth of players. To me that’s 15 million loss, and someone gets their jotters. I have a few nice things to say about Lawwell, but very few of them date from 2010 or later.

  • Henriksgoldenboot says:

    I bailed out in the 2006/7 season when i could see where it was going then. When we had limited individuals like Gary Caldwell and Chris Killen lining up for us. Players that even just a few years before wouldn’t even get into our reserves.

    That’s when I saw it all coming. The downsizing. The bean counting. The just doing enough. That’s when I knew that no longer was this my club. We have a new era of the Kellys and Whites, and it would only be fools who would deny this.

    I was born and bred into the hoops. Glasgow’s green and white, part of my family for generations, and I thought it would be for my own children too.But with the state of the game now I am glad they are nowhere near it. It was like cutting off my right leg when i made the decision to give up my season ticket. I vowed I’d never go back while the bean counters were back in charge.

    “Our” club is no longer our club. And again you’d be foolish for thinking so. It is a rich man’s play thing pretty much as the whole game is now. A sad shadow of what it used to be. Full of greed, ego and dishonesty which brings me nicely to Lawell and the cartel.

    You spoke of sports washing in your piece James, well that’s exactly what we have going on pretty much at Celtic park right now. Much in the same way as we had Rishi Sunak “reborn” in the political sphere, by at first distancing himself from Bojo and having the ghost government of Liz Truss temporarily installed, so that he could be hailed back in as the Messiah. We have the same happening with Lawell. We’ve had the wonderful (but by luck) minor footballing miracle performed by big Ange, that has ushered the door open again for Lawell to resume where he left off now that the furore and clamour has died down. Don’t you see it had to happen this way!

    So while your excellent piece goes pretty far it’s not comprehensive enough. It simply doesn’t tell the whole truth. This is a setup. Hail! Hail! God bless.

  • Robert Binnie says:

    Got his nose in the honey pot again did he not get enough £million bonuses last time it’s a absolute joke he cost us 10 in a row

  • Ronnie Drysdale says:

    I fear for the direction the club is about to go in. I think there will be disharmony and could lose Ange under Lawell.
    Could be wrong, but don’t think so.

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