There is always talk across Celtic cyberspace that some of us are entitled brats squealing about everything and nothing. But I’m from the generation that grew up whilst Rangers was winning nine in a row. I am not one of those who grew up seeing only success and thus cannot imagine what life would be like if we were perennial runners-up.
There was a spell during the 90’s when “runners up” was a great leap forward. There was a season where we finished fourth and our top scorer was Pat McGinlay, a former Hibs midfielder, who scored 12 goals in total and 10 in the league. It is so fresh in my memory, like a traumatic experience, that I only had to make sure I had the year right; 1993-94, the season where we started with Liam Brady in the dugout and finished it with Lou Macari there.
If you didn’t see it, if you didn’t live through it, you really have no way of understand what that was like. Far from not knowing how lucky we are to be living through this spell of riches and dominance, people from my generation know it for a fact, in a way the current generation never will. And it’s because we know it, and remember those other times with such vivid recollection and horror, that we will never accept our club shambling into mediocrity.
Not long after I posted my last piece, the detail of Brendan Rodgers’ latest press conference hit the headlines. He has admitted not being happy with the transfer business we did in the last window, but he sort of hand-waved that by talking about how he’s already engaging with people at the club not only for January but for next summer as well.
I don’t want to keep banging the drum on this. We need to get behind the players currently at Celtic, as he has pointed out. This is what we have to work with until the next window opens, and I have few fears about another title. We should have the strength in depth even if we don’t spend another penny.
But that still leaves a lot of us as unsatisfied as the boss is.
It’s his latest comments – which echo some he’s made already – which settle this debate once and for all; this is not a bunch of self-entitled supporters grumping about what they perceive as a lack of ambition by the higher-ups at the club; we reflect the views of the manager himself, who had very specific expectations for the summer which those at the club did not fulfil. They carried on with “their” policy as if they didn’t care what his priorities were.
That’s dysfunctional. That is, in fact, self-destructive. This board knows that with a top-class manager in the dugout and the quality he has at his disposal that we should have enough about us to win the title; that some of us expect more, that the manager himself wants more, appears not to concern them one bit, but it should because Rodgers will not be treated like a mug.
This is not like last time. The fans have a very different take on this.
If that man walks out of this club for a second time the people running things here will not escape scrutiny the way they did before. It was the timing of his departure more than anything else which infuriated people and saw him scorned as a “rat” and as a fraud. Had he left at the end of that campaign I can assure you that my own response would have been very different and pointed the finger of blame at someone other than him, and furthermore, I think that would have been the response of almost every blog and fan media outlet.
Because we all know what went on that summer, we all saw it with our own eyes. The manager had a list of targets which those above him at the club ignored. This is why I, personally, was so shocked when it became clear they were doing the same thing again this time around.
The one player whose signing seemed to be non-negotiable that year was John McGinn and we allowed that to become a clash of egos, in part because Lawwell made the appalling presumption that we could low-ball Hibs and still get the player on a free the following summer … which neither Rodgers nor, as it turned out, McGinn himself found remotely acceptable.
That window was a shambles which should have seen certain people at the club removed on the spot. In the January window they further insulted Rodgers by forcing on him a player he had not wanted, in a deal he pointedly refused to endorse. He was gone a month later.
The biggest mistake Rodgers ever made was to go in February instead of at the end of the season, because that made him look like the bad guy when, in fact, it was a lot more complicated than that. He compounded it by pulling half the backroom team with him. Sure, he put himself first and acted selfishly … but in his position you or I might have done the same.
There is no suggestion that Rodgers is angry enough to be considering his future. In fact, as I said earlier in the week, the accounts, when they came out, had more than numbers and peacock strutting in the chairman’s statement; there was a tacit acknowledgement in there that the club needs to blend youth with experience and that our signing policy has to change slightly to include some players who don’t quite fit the identikit.
Rodgers’ own statements today are without histrionics and, in spite of the headlines, are for the most part measured and calm. He isn’t making a big song and dance over this, but he wants his feelings public and his views a part of the record. He would rather focus on what he has to work with at the moment and then correct matters come January … both he and Lawwell appear to be on the same page this time with what’s required not just in the here and now but going forward, and it would be wrong not to wait and see how that pans out.
But as I said, the argument over whether some of us are spoiled is now at an end. This is more than just a few malcontents in the stand or enemies of Celtic in the media trying to stir things up. This is more than just people misreading the situation and getting it wrong … Brendan Rodgers himself has said as good as said that the club must do better.
He will handle his business. It is up to those above him to handle theirs.