From the moment Mark Lawwell was announced as the “head of recruitment” at Celtic, this blog has been castigating the appointment as an unpardonable disgrace. Every step of the way, people have been justifying it on various spurious grounds.
The first justifications came on Day One. He worked for the City Group so he can’t be a mug. He was “Ange Postecoglou’s first choice.” He was an obvious candidate given his status in the game.
None of those stood up to scrutiny then or now.
His job at the City Group was so vague that his allies still can’t agree on what his job title was or what department he worked in. He was most certainly not, as some have suggested, the head of scouting at that club. Yet even if he was, would that really have made him a good fit for Celtic? A job like that is easy when you have more money to spend than any other club in the world. You are working with elite professionals and there is no player anywhere out of your financial reach.
The idea that he was “Ange Postecoglou’s choice” made no sense. First, Ange Postecoglou did what managers have been doing since time immemorial; he backed up a decision his bosses had made. We know now that Ange had no intention of hanging around to work with him either. We know also that the club was at least half aware of that as contract offers had been rebuffed. So the club had serious concerns that Ange was ready to go and Ange himself had made up his mind to go when a decent offer came along … so the idea that Ange picked him and we went with him because it fitted into some grand overall strategy was, and is, nonsensical.
Lawwell’s “status” in the game is highly questionable too. Since we don’t actually know for sure what his remit at the City Group was or what it involved, we have no way of being able to judge how well respected or otherwise he was within football. We can say, for sure, however that as far as our board was concerned a major selling point was his second name.
The case against him was obvious. There were better candidates we could have gotten whose name was not Mark Lawwell. Whatever anyone else might offer in his favour there is nobody who realistically disputes that. The idea that there was an actual process to identify the best candidate is an insult to our collective intelligence. We know better.
The worst thing about this appointment is what it says about the internal process of the club. There is no meritocracy here. You are hired on the basis of who and not what you know. This means that your continued employment with the company does not depend on success because the same patronage which saw you hired will ensure you never get punished for failure.
In any corporate culture where there were measurable results and consequences for failure, Mark Lawwell would have six days to save his job. He is supposed to deliver and meet the needs of the manager and by any serious metric he has failed so far.
The excuses are already being trotted out for him that this is a tough window in which to sign players; I’m afraid that’s absolute rot. Luke Thomas of Leicester, who Rodgers knows well, has just gone on loan to Middlesbrough. He would have been a decent answer to our left-back problem. There are good players around, it’s just that Lawwell has not been able to identify who they are or which of them can be gotten right now for the right price.
But in the culture which prevails at Celtic Park, where he is judged based on which of his signings the manager and coaches can turn into decent footballers – decent to Scottish standards; the idea that they might develop any of these guys into elite European footballers would demand that they are here longer than two or three years – he is perfectly safe.
Who, after all, is going to walk into the office of the son of the chairman and ask him to give a full and frank account of what he’s been doing these many months? Who is going to tell him that he needs to deliver or pack up his pencils and beat it? Who has the authority to over-rule someone like Lawwell, acting with the backing of Desmond?
And at which other serious organisation would an absentee shareholder basically dominate the whole of the board in the manner Desmond does here? It is pathetic. This club may run prudently but that does not mean that it is run particularly well. It may win trophies and honours but that does not mean that those at the top of it know what they are doing in charting a strategic course. There is no indication that they do.
But it’s the hiring practices that really stink to high heaven. This board has appointed two managers twice, promoted a novice and gave him the gig, appointed a guy who was supposed to come in as an assistant manager to the top job and hired a European football novice on a whim when their main candidate strung them along for months.
The CEO is an internal appointment, made in a hurry after they sacked the guy they’d brought in to change the whole culture; he himself had lasted mere months. The coaches are ex-players with emotional connections to the club rather than the best and most qualified people for the job. The chairman is the ex-CEO who had already been at the club for too long, a reward for failure after his managerial pick had self-destructed and cost us ten in a row.
Nobody is going to hold Mark Lawwell to account; that was the biggest problem I had with the appointment right from the start. It stinks of a corporate culture where this club is seen as the personal plaything of a handful of people with no regard whatsoever for professional standards or accountability, and it is we, the fans, who will suffer for it.