Dermot Desmond paid a visit to Celtic Park with his son the other day, a fact which has reverberated around Celtic cyberspace and sparked a lot of theories.
I am going to suggest one of my own; his appearance can only mean good things are happening.
This was not a crisis meeting. He was dressed casually, and that suggests a relaxed and informal atmosphere. We have seen Lawwell sit with Ange on several occasions recently, at youth games and women’s matches. The two men are on good terms. Ange speaks highly of Mark Lawwell. At this moment in time he is the most powerful Celtic boss ever.
There is no sense that Ange is a prima donna behind the scenes.
Rodgers was surrounded by those sort of rumours for ages before coming to Celtic, and I knew when I heard Lawwell openly disdain him that it was more than just a minor falling out.
I think a lot of people at Celtic were plainly sick of the man by that point, and he was just as sick of them.
But Ange, whilst not devoid of ego, is certainly not ruled by ego.
It’s in his Stoic nature to smell the flowers and enjoy life, rather than let himself be bogged down by nonsense such as personality clashes with those he works alongside. The way he sat and chatted amiably with Lawwell in those clips from TV suggested real warmth and a good relationship.
On top of that, we know that Ange is on an annual rolling contract, and that nobody inside Celtic has been in the least bit concerned about that. But it would be silly not to protect ourselves from the inevitable offer from England. If it’s something Ange decides he wants to pursue then Celtic deserve to be well compensated. Ange is, after all, an elite boss.
We’re in changed days here at Celtic.
So it does stand to reason that if Desmond is visiting it’s to tie Ange to a deal which makes him even more wealthy and even more secure. It stands to reason that he is being rewarded for two exceptional campaigns and that we can enter the third confident about the future. For sure, Desmond isn’t there to see him off the premises.
Ange has performed as well as Rodgers, and he deserves a Rodgers level salary. If Celtic is acting to tie him down then everyone at our club deserves the highest possible praise for that, and in particular Desmond and Lawwell.
Those two men screwed up monumentally when they hired Neil Lennon and it was my considered opinion that they should have followed their buddy right out the door. When they couldn’t close a deal for Eddie Howe I feared the worst. I still consider Ange to have been a left-field panic appointment where they took a desperate shot in the dark.
But you know what? From the moment they committed to this man they went all in.
They gave him a level of control, and power, that no manager has enjoyed here since O’Neill, and probably not even him. They tore up a year of planning, all discussions about a director of football, and put everything in Ange’s hands, and that suggests that on some level they were utterly convinced of his talents and acted accordingly.
They didn’t have to do it that way. They could have proceeded with caution, played “wait and see” and given him token backing until he proved himself. Instead they entrusted him with the fate of the whole club, and that cannot have been easy for these men to do … I am mightily impressed by the way they have supported Ange and his plans so far.
As far as I’m concerned, they can redeem themselves entirely over the next couple of years if they continue to support him and what he’s trying to do.
Because I think he’ll take us further than Rodgers ever could have and build something to last so that even if he does go he leaves behind him something much better than what he inherited, and a blueprint for his successor to follow.
The days of some pen-pusher watching the manager’s every move are over; the big man has shown us the value in letting the football people run the football department, and that lesson will stick.
Ange’s impact on this club ought to be felt long after he’s gone.