Two summers ago, on 28 May, we were in turmoil. The big ticking clock was ever loud in our ears. The club was spiralling. On that day, we found out that we had just lost Eddie Howe. The bombshell news was dreadful, and its implications obviously horrendous. We had very little time to do the hunt for a new boss and start to rebuild the team.
Back then, I remember the air of celebration on the Ibrox fan sites.
I remember a kind of general acceptance that they would win the following title and build foundations to win the next couple of them. They were joyous, and apparently with every reason to be.
Yet even then, with Howe knocking us back, a lot of us were preaching the value of the fundamentals. One of the reasons that we turned around on Ange so readily, and easily, was that we grasped a number of truths which the media were determined to ignore.
Last season, I thought back to the Scottish Cup semi-final of 2016, and the piece I wrote directly in the aftermath of the game.
Let’s take a step back and recall that time.
Mark Warburton was the Ibrox manager, and he was being touted as the next big thing in English football. He had assembled a team of lower league English players, and was seen as progressive and a coach who valued attacking football.
Is all this sounding familiar?
They beat us in the Scottish Cup semi-final and were on their way to the SPFL and you could not find one of them who wasn’t supremely confident that Celtic were there for the taking.
Ronny Deila then announced that he would not be at Celtic Park when the next campaign kicked off, and that had a seismic impact on our club and everyone in it.
I was writing a blog, at the time, called On Fields Of Green and the piece that I wrote was entitled The Storm Before The Calm.
It told the story of how the Roman senators who murdered Caesar presumed they understood the people and the climate. When they heard that Caesar had named his nephew Octavian, 18 years old, in his will as his successor and not, as many had presumed, his close friend Marc Anthony, they took it for granted that they were in the ascendency.
But Anthony gave a funeral speech that named them murderers and sent them fleeing, and after a spell where he and Octavian duked it out over who would claim leadership of the Caesarean party, or the populares as they were known at the time, they made their peace, formed the Second Triumvate and set about avenging his death and securing total power in the state.
Within a short time, every single one of the assassins was dead.
I ended that article with the famous quote from Yamamoto, following the attack on Pearl Harbour; “I fear all that we have done is awake a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”
I thought that cup semi-final defeat would shake us awake … and it did.
I revisited that article, and republished it almost verbatim, in February 2022, in a piece called “Our Enemies Celebrated Our Summer, But It Was The Storm Before The Calm.”
It was written shortly after we had gone top of the league by winning the big match at home.
That article is the first thing I thought of when I read the gleeful media reports today of Ange being “on the brink” of the Spurs job. Whether he is or isn’t, these people just don’t seem to get it.
We’ve appointed O’Neill, Strachan and Rodgers from the EPL in the past two decades. We almost hired Eddie Howe. We have a top class coach right now. What is it that gives these people the idea that we are staggeringly weak and ripe to collapse?
Bosses leave clubs. This is known.
But the clubs which have the fundamentals right can cope with that. They go out and they hire someone new. It’s not like there won’t be interested parties. There will be plenty of them. The trick, should it become necessary, will be finding the one who causes the least disruption to the club, and it would be tricky but not as hard as the 2021 summer was.
We don’t have a club to rebuild here. We just need to replace the man in the dugout. We don’t have a squad needing a total demolition and restructuring. The squad is as strong as we’ve ever seen it. Players might go, but we’re ready for that anyway and we have plans for dealing with that eventuality. This team does not need major surgery.
There is, in theory, no reason why a new manager with a similar footballing outlook to Ange, cannot come in and have a similar impact on the side.
Off the field, it hardly needs to be pointed out that we’re streets ahead. This is what I wrote in the revised version of that piece, which I published in February last year.
“Our club is immeasurably stronger than theirs is. The resources at our disposal absolutely dwarf what they can bring to bear. Our financial position is rock solid. With the right man in the manager’s office and the right strategy behind him we were always capable of burying any threat they, or anyone else, was likely to pose. This is all about the fundamentals, and when you break down the facts and the figures we are in front of them by every accepted standard. We sometimes appear less than we are as a consequence of appalling management. But this doesn’t offer an accurate picture, and only a complete fool would believe that it does.”
Complete fools are all we have in our media, and that has never been more obvious than with the pronouncements of doom we’ve been hearing for months about what would befall us should the manager be tempted by an offer from England.
I also wrote this;
“We have emerged from a period of turmoil when to the outside world it looked like we’re mired in crisis. To Brutus and Cassius, Marc Anthony’s political manoeuvring must have looked a little like that, like the scrambling of a desperate man, determined to hang on to what little he had left in the world. And all the while they ignored the boy who would become the man. The man who would become the emperor.”
Ibrox fans should get this, considering that they’ve just witnessed a coronation; when one monarch dies or steps down, another takes their place. The empire remains.
They have no clearer idea of what the world will look like when the new emperor takes his seat than Brutus and Cassius did.
But here’s the thing; Martin O’Neill won a treble. Rodgers won two. Even Lennon won two of them. Ange is on the brink of his first. We’ve won four of them in the last six years … so unless we make a very big mistake with the succession – and remember, Lennon, who most of us regard as a huge error – completed one treble and won another before the Season Without Fans.
So really, Celtic in crisis? We’re miles from having to worry about that.
If that’s not a clear enough warning for them not to get their hopes up, nothing will be.