The search is on and as everyone knows that always excites me because I love it when we hire a new manager. You don’t know what you’re going to get, and so there’s fear as well as anticipation. A lot of people think the hire will be uninspiring. I suggest they look at O’Neill, Strachan, Rodgers, the attempt to get Howe and the appointment of Postecoglou himself.
I also suggest that they take a look at Ronny Deila. That one, the media never saw coming at all and it was imaginative and intelligent. That’s why the idea of Knutsen is not being readily dismissed although his record was forged in Norway; we’ve learned something from bringing in the Aussie. Our snobbery about this stuff is not as acute as it used to be.
The board is under pressure. That much is clear. The reason for the pressure is obvious enough; Neil Lennon, the appointment that will haunt these people for the rest of their times at our club, a mistake of incomprehensible folly and know-all arrogance. If people wonder if these guys are capable of getting this right, that’s part of it.
The suspicion that something changed at Celtic to “force Ange out the door” is also doing the rounds. It is sheer nonsense, but that so many believe it should serve as a warning to our directors that the departure of the man has torn away their human shield. As long as Postecoglou was at the club and being backed few people cared about those in the upper echelon.
They have to get this right, and they have to do it quickly. There are good candidates out there, far better candidates than some of the tired options being discussed in the press; Celtic fans are not going to accept a Clarke type appointment, or a complete novice like Scott Brown. One of the names allegedly on the shortlist is Maresca; he has done nothing whatsoever to suggest that he should be entrusted with the keys to Lennoxtown and our future.
I don’t care how many times Mark Lawwell has said hi to him in the corridors around the City Group; this guy has one half season’s experience as a coach and it was a disaster. He is also not, as some people are claiming, Guardiola’s right hand man. He’s a mere coach at City, and the last time I looked we were not part of that organisation and I damned well don’t want us to be.
Besides; working for Guardiola does not make you Guardiola. Close proximity to the prince does not mean that you can climb the steps to the throne and rule the kingdom. It would an appalling risk, and wholly un-necessary. I repeat; there are good candidates out there if our club takes care to look and do a proper analysis of their respective merits.
This appointment cannot come from the narrow knowledge of a handful of people. Our club’s incestuous hiring policies are dangerous for precisely this reason. They limit thinking. If someone doesn’t appear in the contacts books of a Lawwell or a Desmond there is a risk of them being completely overlooked. The longer you rely on that the more chance of mistakes.
I believe that our board wants to see this club be its best. I believe that this board is dedicated to the task at hand. I do not believe, and I never have, the moon-howling theory that there are people at Parkhead, namely the chairman, who has some vested interest in seeing that Ibrox is not too far behind us. It is ludicrous, it makes no sense, and it flies in the face of what I know from personal experience; Lawwell hates that club as much as any of us does.
He understands the implications of our overtaking the Lie, and he wants that as much as we do. No matter what lunacy other people are trying to punt, Ange Postecoglou was not forced out of Celtic. He talked a good game but ultimately was loyal only to himself. People can deify him as much as they want and look for evidence of the dark arts as they like … disappearing down that rabbit hole will do us no good whatsoever and its a dead end anyway.
Our former manager is 57 and this is his shot at the big time.
I don’t like how he’s gone about it at all but recognise why he did it. His reasons are wholly reasonable and uncomplicated. Once you accept that he didn’t feel any deep seated loyalty to the club you don’t need to go trawling for theories and finding people to blame. Blame the manager himself. Or don’t. But this is not the fault of anyone at Parkhead.
The problem is not that our board will deliberately sabotage our progress by hiring some raging mediocrity. It’s that they will limit their search to a narrow range of candidates and that will result in us missing out on some outstanding possibilities who would build on what’s already here. There are good reasons to fear that … but there are good reasons to have faith too.
One way or another though, this is the decision this board will be judged on. This one, right here. There will be no do-overs or chances, no resetting the dial some other time. Lawwell’s appointment as chairman, the club’s decision to appoint his son in a key role, the hiring of Michael Nicholson … all of it was tolerable, and tolerated, because of the manager.
That’s over with. These people are now under the white hot light for real, and for some of them it’s the first time and for others it will almost certainly be the last, however this decision ends up. This is the most important decision of their lives at Celtic Park … failure is possible, of course it is. But it is not an option and every single one of them is well aware of it.