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An EPL Success Story Casts Huge Doubt On The Media’s Celtic “Worst Case Scenario.”

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There is a school of thought in our mainstream media that our club is well and truly screwed if Ange Postecoglou decides to depart for England or some other top footballing nation.

That narrative is so threaded through every media interview and editorial you would think that it was a stone-cold, unalterable fact of life. But it simply isn’t the case.

Ange is the best manager of the club I’ve seen in my lifetime, probably. I qualify the statement only because we don’t know what the final trophy haul will be or whether he’ll win three in a row. If he does he becomes only the fourth manager in our history to ever do that. If he wins four in a row, that’s an even smaller group again.

Willie Maley, Jock Stein, Gordon Strachan and Neil Lennon are our three in a row bosses.

Neither Lennon nor Strachan won a fourth title on the bounce.

Ange can rewrite the record books here, and if he stays then he will.

But think about what I just wrote for a minute about three in a row. You’ll notice that there are two bosses not on that list.

Neither O’Neill nor Rodgers did it, although Rodgers would have but for the greatest dummy spitting of all time. (His or Lawwell’s; take your pick, really.) Martin O’Neill should have but is regarded by most of my generation as the best boss of the lot for getting us to Seville and making us credible on the continent again. It’s a great debating point.

But the fact that there so many top class Celtic coaches in the last 20-odd years – Strachan came to us with an excellent managerial pedigree as well – strongly suggests that we’ve got these things right more than we have got them wrong.

Two stand out as strange; the twin appointments of Lennon when he wasn’t qualified either time and the appointment of Ronny Deila. As far as I’m concerned history has more than justified that one.

He, like Ange, is a title winner on three continents. If he wins a Belgian title he will have won championships in four countries. That’s the mark of a quality boss. That’s the mark of someone who knows his business and can get his business done.

Lennon’s own record isn’t to be sneezed at, as his position on the list of managers to win three titles on the bounce proves.

He too had a happy knack for winning things.

So it’s not like we were struggling before Ange came along.

In the past 20 odd years we’ve managed to attract three EPL calibre bosses in O’Neill, Strachan and Rodgers.

If you conclude that Ronny was a sound experiment, made at a time when we badly needed to modernise, the record is actually pretty damned fine. Ange himself is obviously an elite level boss.

But in between Lennon’s second spell and Ange is, of course, the final piece of evidence that our club simply has to show ambition and we’ll have nothing to worry about, and not even an exceptional level of ambition – and I use that in relative terms.

No, I simply mean a level of ambition consistent with that which we’ve shown before, the sort that was able to attract the likes of Strachan, O’Neill and Rodgers.

The level of ambition we showed to very nearly secure the signature of Steady Eddie Howe.

All of us, I think, were pretty scornful of Howe’s decision not to come to Parkhead because he wouldn’t have his mates with him, especially when Ange Postecoglou took on the momentous Celtic rebuilding job full of confidence and energy without a single backroom team member of his own. But what none of us ever doubted was that Howe was a top boss.

And Howe has proved it. Leading Newcastle to the Champions League?

They were relegation fodder not that long ago, and whilst there’s been big spending there has been big spending at other clubs in that league too, like Chelsea, and they are nowhere.

Ange’s contention that having money and spending it right are two different things is a mantra being echoed at Newcastle in the way Howe has done his own rebuild.

Nearly every deal he’s done has been on the nose. His eye for a player was already legendry. It is exceptional now, with the vast wealth of that club at his disposal and a top class talent spotting team who knows where that man might yet take their team?

Yet this guy came within cold inches of becoming our manager.

Our judgement in going for him was spot on. We knew exactly what we were doing and the pitch we made to him must have been exceptional that he was doing more than just giving it thought.

A verbal agreement was reached.

The guy was on the brink, and although we dithered and delayed and gave him too much time to think it over there’s a part of me that understands why … he is, after all, an elite boss himself and now that he’s proving it you can see what our thinking was.

But that we were in for this guy, that we made such a pitch, and that we very nearly pulled it off is all the evidence you need that we’re a much bigger and more ambitious club when we shake ourselves off and decide to be than this media will ever give us credit for. Had we got Howe there would have been no appointing Ange, but we’d still have gotten a top man.

Ange is about to make history by winning our eight treble.

But it’s worth remembering that seven of them preceded his time at the club, and so when people in the media talk about how it will be a great disaster for Celtic if and when Ange leaves, I sometimes wonder what they are talking about and how they can have failed to notice that five of the seven trebles that we’ve won in our history prior to now were won in the last 20 odd years … and four of them in the last six.

All without his being here.

Ange spoke yesterday about Howe and what he’s done at Newcastle, and about the prospect of getting them in the Champions League Groups. It would be a very interesting draw, and the kind of game that would fire the imaginations of people on both sides of the border, and not just because it would be a Scotland-England encounter but also for the strange backstory involving the two bosses.

I think we’d all enjoy seeing it happen.

In the meantime, the media will continue to push its dire narrative that without Ange our club would collapse. If they want to live in that Dave King-esque fantasy that’s up to them, but it’s a dangerous delusion and one they’ve laboured under before.

If Ange went, yes, it would be wrenching, it would be tough, it would give us all a sleepless night or two along the way, but we would replace him… and having made three appointments from England’s top flight in the last two decades who would rule out a fourth?

Only a complete fool.

The thing of it is, we have a media here full of those.

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  • Roonsa says:

    I think Celtic have, at long last, got it going on at Senior Mgmt Level. This new CEO doesn’t say much (if anything) but I actually prefer that to Lawwell who is clearly in love with himself.

    If Ange leaves, as you say, it will be a wrencher. But I have confidence that Celtic will know about this well in advance and have the options lined up. As much as we thought the process was chaotic when Lennon was pushed, ach I can’t be bothered writing any more.

    Good article. I agree. Cheers.

  • Jimmy R says:

    We dodged a bullet when we missed out on Howe. Not because he is a poor manager, but because his English heart is in the EPL. Ange has other roots and other ambitions which is why I reckon we are safe from the predators for a while yet. If Howe had come to us, I am certain he would have done a Rogers at the first opportunity.

  • Johnno says:

    Never bought into this nonsense that we dodged a bullet over the howe fiasco.
    Howe is a very respected coach/manager in his own right, as currently proving.
    Was all in favour of having him at the time, as believed he could restructure the club at the time, even if it was only going to potentially be short term as the draw of the EPL would always be there, especially with any success gained.
    Admit now Ange was a better appointment now as club and himself are made for each other.
    Of course we will never know the answer, but with the time involved with Howe, did he actually identify any of the players who ended up joining ourselves?
    Of course our Asian players is the work of Ange, yet with the time involved did he have the time to identify the players he really wanted at the time or had a shortlist already been prepared with an imput from howe beforehand?

  • John S says:

    Everyone has to depart at some point. No-one is bigger than the club. That said, I’d be happier if the manager was on a contract that allows him to finish his project(s).

  • S Thomas says:

    Eddie Howe I’ve always felt was a nice , decent guy. and a very good coach. I’m actually glad he is doing well.. as he likes to play football the right way.. the job he did at Bournemouth was terrrific. I am not surprised in the slightest that Ange is a big fan of his work, as they are actually very similar in the way they set up teams. Ange has been phenomenal in his time here.. and long may it continue.

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