“I have taken from my party everything it thought it believed in … what keeps it together is success. Success and power.” – Tony Blair to Paddy Ashdown.
If, as some believe is likely, Celtic are about to re-appoint Brendan Rodgers as manager, that is obviously an earth-shaking decision which will reverberate through our fan-base, our club and the wider Scottish game.
My own feelings on it were put into words last night for the first time since I first heard these stories … and that predates the departure of our previous boss.
I first properly discussed them amongst my friends over a month ago, when the Spurs story firmed up and I heard the first whisperings on a Rodgers return. The way I saw it then, and now, is that a lot of things have to fall into place before that appointment can happen, and I still think so which is why I don’t yet write about this as if it was a certainty.
First, Rodgers would need to be convinced that returning is a good idea. Dissuade yourself of any notions that he particularly cares what the fans think. This guy believes in himself to a mind-bending degree and at the back of his mind has always been the suspicion that if he needed to turn us around, for whatever purpose, that he could do that.
Rodgers knows our fan-base well enough to know, as Tony Blair did when he made that notorious quip to Ashdown that “success and power” can cover a multitude of sins. We want to continue being the biggest club in this country and to build on that foundation. Most of us are smart enough to realise that a rookie appointment would put that at risk.
And yet there are people inside Celtic Park who are so sure of themselves that they would countenance that. However this goes, a large part of the Celtic fan-base is going to feel thoroughly pissed off by whatever choice is made here … the thing is, those inside the club will expect the rest of us to live with it and keep putting the money up.
Which almost all of will do, of course, because we care about Celtic. My suggestion, and the point of this piece, is that others remember their own responsibilities and set aside whatever ill feelings or ancient grudges they might hold and do the same.
Rodgers will return only if he believes that there will be no interference from certain quarters. I have no doubt that he could, and would, have been at Celtic Park a lot longer than he stayed had he been given the sort of control that Ange Postecoglou had. One of the things being held against Rodgers is his record in the transfer market but we know full damned well that some of those signings were not his at all, and this was a big part of what went wrong.
You only have to look at those final two windows to see where his anger and frustration came from. He wanted McGinn and when we didn’t get him we signed the free transfer footballer Yousef Mulumba. No-one will ever convince me that this was Rodgers’ idea. He openly scorned the signing of Maryan Shved. He had done the same a year before with Daniel Arzani; he clearly believed that the notion of us developing players for The City Group was not on.
It is not for nothing that this site and others had taken to referring to Peter Lawwell as “the unofficial director of football.” You’ve seen how much more smoothly the business of signing players goes now that he’s no longer in charge of that.
The imminent signing of Odin Thiago Holm ably demonstrates the new pace at which we operate; he was identified and signed off on by Postecoglou before he left, and it is virtually certain that the final rubber stamp for this deal was given by whoever the incoming boss is. We don’t mess about anymore. We get on with our business in the right manner now.
Most important, the football professionals are the people who are trusted to make those decisions. If Rodgers comes back, be sure that he has been given those sorts of assurances. He would not be returning to our club without them, it’s as simple as that. This is a man who chafes at those above his head interfering in this stuff … it would be a positive sign that things at our club really have changed, and for the better, if he can be convinced to return.
Still, others will have to be convinced to behave should he end up back in the building. It is comforting to read that he and Nicholson are close. It is equally obvious that Desmond cares a great deal about getting him here and that man is nobody’s fool either. There are giant egos at Celtic Park which will need to be tamed here … but that’s true of any big club.
If certain people in the boardroom are not convinced by the merits of this deal then too bad. If Rodgers accepts, they will have to get behind it just as the fans who aren’t convinced by Rodgers or by Maresca or whoever will have to row in behind the guy, even if reluctantly. We, the fans, can only influence so much … it is those inside Parkhead who can make or break things for a new manager, and all involved should bear that in mind, and put their egos aside.
When Ange Postecoglou was appointed a lot of us held the not unrealistic fear that we had hired a yes man and that the club would treat him as it had others. But whilst I believed that appointment was a lunatic risk to take what I cannot fault Celtic for in any way, shape or form is that we did not mess the guy about at all but allowed him the authority and the resources to shape the club in the manner of his own choosing. They made the call on him and then they backed that judgement in a big, big way and as good as he was in and of himself, that backing was critical to the success of the project. It will be the same with whoever is next.
So if it’s Rodgers, I don’t want to be hearing, and then writing, stories about pique in the boardroom, about disquiet behind the scenes. If the man wants something, he should be accommodated to the best of the club’s ability. He should get exactly the same power as Ange did, and carte blanche to decide on every aspect of the football operation.
It is said that when Rodgers and Lawwell had their initial falling out that Desmond got them both together, read them the riot act and reminded them both that they work for the betterment of the club, and that their egos were putting the club at risk. That one or both of them chose not to honour that most important principle is a clear matter of fact … if Rodgers comes back then something that was broken has been fixed. It is in the power of all those at the club to fix the rest of the relationship and put us on the proper footing for success.
There will be no chance of forgiveness for anyone who does not do that. Rodgers must commit to the role for a minimum period … and others must commit to giving him the backing they gave Ange Postecglou when he needs it, and for the rest of the time to just staying the Hell out of his way and letting him run things the way a manager is supposed to.