When I’m writing something about a subject like this I always need to be careful that I don’t overdo the analogies and drag people off the point. This was going to be a sprawling piece about movies and the great genius directors – a sort of tribute, in a sense, to the late William Friedkin who died last week and who made two films regarded as masterpieces by the mainstream and one lesser know picture which I also think was a cinematic standout.
I was going to write about what happens when great directors are allowed to direct, or great architects allowed to work, but I disappeared down the rabbit hole of discussing what they produced rather than about how they did it.
And whilst I was writing it, a much better, and easier to grasp, analogy presented itself. That gave me the idea to discuss what we have here in those specific terms.
Ange Postecoglou was an architect. He custom built this Celtic side to meet his specifications. Remember that piece I wrote recently about building my PC, which is now sat on my desk beside me, all its fancy LED lights on and the water cooler rumbling away soothingly?
I bought that from one of those places where you can specifically craft every single part, and I made sure that each bit complimented every other bit, to eliminate system bottlenecks and performance issues. That’s how Ange built Celtic, like a mechanic constructing a car engine or a PC geek handpicking all the various components of his rig, from the case to the little flashy light-strips.
That is why it performed perfectly. Nobody looked over his shoulder and suggested that he buy an SD card reader which he didn’t require, or find room in there for a Blu-Ray drive he’d never use, or, more importantly, that he downgrade, that he replace a top-of-the-line DDR5 memory stick with a cheaper, and thus much slower, DDR4 one.
A DDR4 memory stick won’t make a top spec PC stop functioning, but it will function differently, and there’s no point marrying DDR4 memory with a lightning-fast processer and a top spec graphics card because DDR4 will simply not be able to match the speeds those components are capable of, so the money you spend on those top-of-the-line components is nothing but a waste.
That’s Ange’s Celtic team. If you want to know the difference between Tony Ralston and Greg Taylor now and when they were here under Ange, it’s easy enough to understand. They were doing a different job under Ange than they’re expected to do here. He had a specific system in mind for Celtic and all he wanted to know is if they fit that system.
Once he found out that he could utilise those guys in his grand design he was good to go with them, although you’ll notice that he also backed up both positions and, it seems to me, intended to upgrade on both players … with Bernabei that has been less successful, because we all agree that Johnston is an outstanding footballer.
But Ange wanted these guys to do something very different from what Rodgers does. In fact, I had never heard of inverted full-backs before Ange Postecoglou played these guys in that position. To me that was like someone suggesting that you put a graphic card on the outside of the case. It was a mad concept. But it worked and these guys were great at it.
I don’t know if either player has a future under Rodgers, and you guys know that I raved about Taylor last season and recognise that we need them both for the Champions League registration purposes. But that is not a catch-all. That system does not mean we would, or should, ever simply register mediocre footballers for the sake of ticking a box.
My last PC had DDR4 memory, clocked as fast as DDR4 was capable of. I could have put that into the new machine rather than spend money on DDR5 chips. But all I’d have done was impose a limit on a system which I wanted to be top of the line. To save a few quid? No architect would allow his building to be perfect except for white chipboard on the walls … he would want that ripped out and the proper materials used. That’s how Rodgers feels.
There are jobs where chipboard on the walls is appropriate, and sometimes very high-end jobs. But that’s up to the architect to make that call.
When you’re building a PC on the site where I got mine (PC Specialist, look them up if you want a brand new machine) the first choice they ask you to make is about what you want the machine to do.
There are media machines, which are mid-range, quick spec, designed to run programs that stream video and play music. There are business machines, which are predominantly built to handle several different tasks, but they are lower spec than media machines and only if you’re building a server or something would you spend serious cash on them.
These are the sorts of players Celtic has been signing lately; they do a good job, but you don’t kid yourself that you are buying the best.
At the high end are the performance machines and the gaming rigs.
Gaming machines are generally high spec beasts; I never look at anything else because I love gaming in my spare time. They generally start at £1000 up to about £4000 if you are really set on maxing out the possibilities.
A gaming rig is a Premier League footballer, just below the absolute elite level.
But performance machines leave even them in the dirt. Also called workstation computers, they are exactly what they sound like; ultra-high performance machines purchased for use in design studios and used for top end video editing and all that other stuff which requires hefty processing power of a sort you simply do not need if all you want to do is played the Total War series. The budget for those is pretty much out of sight; you could spend £20,000 on one and still not hit every top tier if that is what you are trying to do. (And why wouldn’t you be?)
These are the world class footballers who are well out of our reach.
So the first question a Celtic manager would ask when buying a new player is simply this; what are we spending this money for? Where does he fit in the grand design?
If you’re a manager building a team your team is only as good as the weakest member of it … that’s true for almost every custom build project, and if you’ve done online gaming, you’ll know that if one of you has blazing fast internet and the other is on straightforward no frills broadband that the guy with the superfast technology will have to play at the same speed as the other guy.
Ange built one kind of Celtic, specifically tailored to do specific job. I’m not saying all the components of his rig will not fit into this one; it’s very possible that most will.
Kyogo, Carter Vickers, Hatate, McGregor … these guys will be able to function at a high level in Brendan Rodgers’ team. But other players are not going to adapt to it and we will have to consider what to do with them and probably we will have to move them on. See, guys like Taylor and Ralson and others … these guys didn’t just go from being good players to bad players overnight.
They’re just being asked to do different things, and either they can do those things or they won’t be able to and if not, they’ll be moved on somewhere else. Someone said to me today “if it isn’t broke don’t fix it,” but it’s not about that. A media machine will do what it was built for, perfectly. You can’t make a gaming rig out of it because that’s a different sort of setup. We can’t expect Brendan Rodgers to work with this team constructed to someone else’s design.
The other thing is this; if someone at our club wants to interfere with the grand design, that would be like someone trying to build a gaming rig who doesn’t know what they are doing or how each individual component reacts to, and compliments or limits, every other one. You really need to know this stuff, not just think you do, to get it right.
I spoke about DDR4 versus DDR5 earlier. But it could just as easily be pairing a high-end graphics card to a low-end processor, or buying a motherboard which doesn’t have enough PCE slots for all the things you want in the machine, or picking a case for a high-end machine which doesn’t have enough fan-slots to properly keep the components cool … I’ve made all those mistakes over the years and its only through diligent research that I learned to do it better.
All those machines worked … but none of them could ever do what I had thought they could do when I started to build them, and I probably wasted a lot of money because I had built my own limitations into the system. This is why the manager, the architect, should always be trusted to do the job. He knows what he wants the machine for, he knows where the bottlenecks in the system are and his signing targets are designed to fix those particular problems.
This summer we’ve just piled players into the squad. I see no sign that these guys were bought to fit the Rodgers design. Six players are here. Four of them were deals in progress before he ever got on the scene, they aren’t his and we’ll be very lucky to fit into his system.
That is incoherent and in hindsight nonsensical. One of the two others was a deal to replace a player he didn’t expect to lose. So, you could argue – and you’d be right – that Rodgers has brought one player to this club to fit his own specific needs.
That’s like me letting someone else build me a rig and giving me the chance to take one piece out of it and put my own in there. They might build me something that does just fine, but the chances are I’d use my one option fixing an obvious problem and still not getting there.
As such, when he pulls the case open and peers in a lot of components in this machine just don’t make any sense and certainly don’t fit what he wants to do. If you think about the motherboard as the engine room of a team, he might need to rip that whole thing out in order to evolve this team because it may not be what he’s looking for.
And if you’re replacing a motherboard you’re already starting from scratch.
I think the need for a full scale rebuild is not out of the question here and maybe we should prepare for that. It also means this machine is not going to hit peak performance until this guy has the components in it which he wants – which he needs – to get it to do what he wants it to do.
Right now, that’s a scary thought. But there is time left in this window to take us at least some way towards a fix, and one that leaves us with something new.
I trust Rodgers, but he has to fight now to do this his way.
If he lets other people pick the components, he’ll get a lot of shiny lights and something that runs Word, but he will never get it to play a major strategy title with all the settings on ultra.