For many people, the Champions League Final will be a contest between two sides with which they have no relationship or connection. It will be a match for the neutral. Yet, for many of us the idea of viewing it through that prism is crazy. I’m one of those people. I cannot, for the life of me, pretend to view this match as a neutral; in a very real sense, I think we have “skin in the game.”
For a lot of people inside the club that is doubly true.
They proudly boast of the “Celtic-City” connection as though this was a real thing and not simply the product of over-indulgent imaginations. Certainly, this is something a lot of folk at our club seem incredibly happy to promote, and having “gotten” our last manager from The City Group we may be about to do it again.
This ought be the point where this mad fantasy, this delusion which has, up until now merely been somewhat cringey, morphs into something truly dangerous. This is why I cannot, and will not, sit and watch tomorrow’s final as a neutral observer.
On the contrary; I will be watching it in a Tenerife Irish bar, wearing my Hoops, and cheering on Inter Milan. I think it’s important for European football that the bloated EPL does not get to boast of two triumphs in continental competition this season and whilst I hold out no hope that an Inter win is anything more than a temporary triumph and the putting off a day which seems to be grimly inevitable I think the longer it is delayed the better … especially as City might feel that this is their last chance fo a while with a raft of sanctions about to come down.
The “Celtic-City connection” is a bad dream which has lingered too long. The so-called benefits of it are debatable at best.
We no longer take their players on loan, and nor should we. The idea that we “got” our last manager from there is a pure fantasy; it suggests that we would not have been able to do so had we not known people in their structure, as though he would have been somehow out of reach otherwise. Likewise with the players; perhaps Ange knew Asia better than the club did, but that’s a failing of ours which has surely been corrected now … and none of those benefits were derived from our alleged “special relationship” with their club.
Likewise with this knowledge we’ve gleaned about scouting and analytics; did we not possess this knowledge before? Was there some barrier to us acquiring it which proximity to their club offers us? Once you conclude that the answer to that question is no, then what possible reason could people inside Celtic have for punting this absolute nonsense?
We are not a part of the City Group of clubs, and I don’t see how it would benefit us if we were. Their structure is blatantly, and quite deliberately, pushing the boundaries of UEFA joint ownership regulations and to pretend otherwise is frankly nonsensical. Every one of their clubs acts as an unofficial feeder for the big one in Manchester … and one day UEFA is going to properly investigate the movement of players between those clubs and they will unpick the lot of it.
Even if you were willing to ignore all that, there’s the status of the City Group itself. The whole organisation is nothing but a sports washing plaything for a ruthless and vicious petro-state and I am appalled that anyone at Celtic can think cosying up to them is a good idea, or reflects well on us in any way, shape or form. It’s unconscionable.
As a symbol of artificial status and the grotesque effects of big money in the sport their only rival is the bloated league they come from and which they’ve won five times out of the last six; if they are capable of serving any function it might be to reduce that league’s global image as it more and more starts to look like the kind of one horse race we’re always told should embarrass Scotland.
Finally, and let’s not beat about the bush here, they stand accused of a litany of offences and charges in relation to their finances … I cannot put it more simply than this; their sins are not that much different to those which utterly destroyed OldCo Rangers and if I was a supporter of another club in that league I would want them to suffer the maximum penalties for every single one of those offences whether that’s points deductions, relegations or title stripping.
This is not a club we have the slightest thing in common with. Sports-washing owners, corrupt practices, the bending of rules, financial sleight of hand … they remind me of another team, one that doesn’t play that far from Celtic Park.
And yet it’s this ludicrous link which is being used in partial explanation for why we might want to hire Maresca as our next boss. It’s as if this employment with that organisation has made him somehow more credible, although if we were considering hiring a mere coach with 14 games of management experience (and disastrous at that) from any other club there would have been a large scale social media melt-down from across Celtic cyberspace.
Yet I’ve seen sites trying to glitter this up because of “the things he must have learned” from working in and around the Great Guardiola. I have just one question in that regard; City owns a dozen clubs all over the world. If he’s that good why would they be so sanguine about letting him go? Wouldn’t they be putting him in situ at one of those other clubs where they could monitor his progress properly and work him steadily towards the top job itself?
They haven’t done that, and that should concern everyone who is promoting this mad idea. It’s as if saying he works at The City Group is supposed to act as a magical spell to blind us to the risks of going down this road, this lazy, unimaginative road which should, if it happens, be the final indictment of this board of directors who gambled last time, got away with it and where some evidently drew the wrong lessons entirely from that and are ready to go again.
The City Group. It’s as if you are supposed to say it in a low, respectful voice, the way daisy fresh law students speak of their profession as though it were some hallowed field of endeavour. But in fact, it’s one super-club and a number of smaller ones … and the super-club looks as if it might well be built on the kind of financial doping and illegitimacy which Ibrox could only dream of, and I hope that if they are guilty that they suffer the highest penalties available.
Either way, I’m cheering on Inter Milan tomorrow night, wearing my Hoops lest any “neutral” get the idea that I’m on the other side of the fence. I suspect others will do the same.