Celtic Fans Cannot Afford To Wait To Fight For Change. “Someday Never Comes.”

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The term gaslighting isn’t new, but in the last decade it has fed into the mainstream. Before that, it was an obscure psychology term which simply put represents “manipulating someone into questioning their own perception of reality.” It takes many forms, one of which is the constant insistence that someone’s concerns are not rooted in the real world but are irrational and overblown. This Celtic board has been treating us that way for years.

I’ve been vocal in my opposition to this board for well over a decade. In that time, my concerns have not receded but grown. I believed they had made a huge mistake in appointing Neil Lennon the first time; he was a rookie, a manager who had never in his life taken a first team game. We gave him the gig on an interim basis, we went out of the Scottish Cup and he somehow got it permanently. That was the first clear signal that these were people who would throw a bone to their mates rather than put the well-being of the club first.

Say what you want about Lennon’s record with Celtic. But that record is pretty much his whole career in management as far as reaching the heights goes. Prior to getting the Celtic job, he had done nothing, literally nothing, in management. The Scottish Cup knockout should have brought down the curtain on Peter Lawwell’s mad punt.

He claimed to have conducted a global hunt for a permanent boss. Can you even imagine how low the standard of candidate was, or how bad the pitch must have been, to arrive at a guy with literally a handful of games under his belt? It was a scandalous choice, and when he failed to win the title in that first full campaign Neil Lennon should have been gone. Winning the Scottish Cup that year should not have made a blind bit of difference to the decision.

The simple fact is that Lennon had mates in the boardroom and they picked their mate over giving Celtic the best possible grounding for success. The Ibrox club made it three in a row. The following season they were well on the way to a fourth consecutive title, but events inside and outside the club were to have a dramatic effect on the outcome.

Lennon had a couple more years, where he built his reputation with no Ibrox club in the league. Which means that our effective challengers were sides we were outspending by ten or twenty to one. The board’s own reputation for being fiscal geniuses began to solidify at around the same time, but it was largely due to player sales to pad out the books.

They drastically cut the budget year on year, even punishing Lennon for his most notable success, the win over Barcelona and qualifying from the Champions League groups when they sold three of his best players in the summer that followed … one before each consecutive Champions League qualifying game, the closest I have ever seen us come to a deliberate policy of self-sabotage because it was hard to believe it could have been anything else.

When Lennon left they gave the job to the guy they had pegged as his assistant. It was one of the most consequential decisions this club has ever made, but it was not supposed to be. The Celtic board made a scandalously low-key appointment, to drastically downgrade (yes, downgrade from Lennon) whilst the new Ibrox club floundered in the lower leagues. We all know what followed. Ronny actually worked a minor miracle and dragged part of the club, the training and health regimen, into the 21st century at last. Without his work there would have been no Brendan Rodgers Invincibles campaign; we owe that guy a lot.

It was not to be the last time this board aimed low and somehow hit the bullseye. But fans knew what they were watching and as we came apart in Europe they had to close the upper tiers of the stands because supporters voted with their feet. And because we forced change they made changes, bringing in Brendan Rodgers after Ronny’s second campaign.

They backed Rodgers for one season, and then they reverted to type. Do you not believe me? Who were the signings we made to kick Rodgers’ second campaign off? Give it a go. Before you read the next paragraph who did we sign and how much did we spend, to take the team to the fabled “next level” on the back of Champions League money and an Invincible campaign?

We spent £5.5 million. Our signings, for cash, were Olivier Ntcham and Jonny Hayes. We brought Patrick Roberts and Odsonne Edouard in on loan. Two good signings, but they didn’t cost us an arm and a leg. That £5.5 million didn’t get us near the next level. And who were the January signings who were supposed to be us prepping the ground work for the next campaign? Who were the next level footballers we signed in that window?

Our “blue chips” were a German called Marvin Compper and Charley Musondo. The latter with a good reputation. The former arrived at Celtic with a sick line and never really left the treatment room. But we signed three other players in that window, to prep us for the next year … Scott Bain, Jack Hendry and Lewis Morgan. Eleven signings in total, for a net spend – for there was a net spend that year – of £8.3 million. Not bad until you consider that four of them were from our domestic league; we’re still expected to believe that these are the guys Rodgers thought might become first team footballers capable of walking onto the Champions League stage.

We were well into the period of people at the club second guessing him and filling the squad with their own punts. Rodgers gets pelters for his “transfer record” at Celtic, but I never believed that those SPFL footballers were Brendan Rodgers signings, it was a transfer policy designed to do everything on the cheap and consequences be damned.

The following year, disaster. We all know the summer window as the greatest single disgrace of sticking two fingers up at the manager in our history. We were told, as we’re going to be told in the next few weeks, as we were told before January that lessons had been learned. The January window opened with the manager being handed a player he hadn’t heard of and didn’t sign off on … and the writing was on the wall. Lawwell was playing director of football and the manager’s wishes were an afterthought. Rodgers quit for Leicester and got blamed for the whole thing.

We were so busy blaming Rodgers and calling him every name under the sun – and I include myself, my article on the day he left was excoriating – that we failed to consider the dire circumstances under which he had to operate, and it wasn’t even the signing of Shved which stands out as the biggest gross insult to Rodgers from that year … it was the signing of Yussef Mulumbu, weeks after Kilmarnock had released him on a free. He was chucked at the manager who had expected John McGinn. We also re-signed Izaguirre on a free and the manager was told he’d be working with a Man City player called Daniel Arzani, who Rodgers immediately dismissed as “a signing the club wanted to make”, putting his own frustrations out there.

Aaah, but the board apologists will say, we also signed Edouard in that window for £9 million. But we had sold Armstrong for £7 million (we didn’t replace him, of course) and Eric Sviatchenko for £1 million more. Which nearly paid for Eddie. And that was early in the window, and it was in that window, on the final day, with no time to buy a replacement, that we sold Moussa Dembele for £20 million. So you tell me who were the mugs there? The manager and the rest of us.

Rodgers went, and his seat wasn’t even cold before Neil Lennon, recently sacked for a spectacular self-destruction at Hibs, was warming it for him. His career since leaving Celtic Park? A double dismissal at Easter Road and Bolton, where he’d fallen out with players and directors and confirmed every negative trait we all suspected he’d had. We all know that he finished that campaign out and got the job, with Lawwell boasting that they’d chucked a bunch of other applications, from much better candidates, right in the bin to once again go with their pal.

This is how Celtic has been run by these guys.

This is it. This is the pattern.

We’ve piled up trophies along the way, and the more we did that the greater the egos in the boardroom grew, believing somehow that their decision making was flawless instead of ridiculous.

There was one year of respite from their form of chaos, and it did not start that way. It is easy to forget that the two years of success under Ange Postecoglou were the result of yet another screw up, and that the appointment itself was panicked and out of left field and came out of the same old contacts book which had produced the others.

For the second time, the first being Ronny, we made an almighty mess and somehow benefited from it. This board has made its reputation out of being lucky rather than good. Twelve years out of the last thirteen have resulted in league titles. Five of them have resulted in trebles. You can look at that and convince yourself that these people are geniuses.

But in that period, they’ve appointed two managers twice, forcing the best of them out the door, given the job to a guy who was initially to be offered the assistants job and made a high-profile public show of themselves by courting a manager for months who then turned them down.

Ange Postecoglou used what influence the timing of his appointment gave him to negotiate for himself a one year rolling contract and total control of the transfer policy. And what do you know? With no Lawwell in the building and his own authority secure, we had the best summer window in all that time, and followed up with a bravura performance in January where the three signings, all for little cash, went right into the team and hit the mark.

We broke with the orthodoxy for one year, and not only did it produce a double winning team which went on to win a treble, but transfer market value and more blue chips footballers on the books that at any time in that ten- or so-year period; Abada, Maeda, Kyogo, Hatate, O’Riley, Carter Vickers and Jota who we sold for a club record. Nothing that had happened before had delivered so much obvious quality in such a short time.

So, what did these people do? Appointed Lawwell junior who changed everything back to the way it was before. And then they doubled down and brought back Lawwell senior as the chairman, claiming the credit for Ange’s revolution whilst he was dismantling it. You could not make that up. They should not have been allowed to do that in the cold light of day.

I was furious and stunned by the brazenness of the Lawwell junior appointment. I published a piece on it which turned the flamethrower up to nine. At best it was an attempt to fix something that not only clearly wasn’t broken but something that was working better than it ever had. I knew what it meant and that it would be a disaster and I said so.

I was devastated by the Lawwell senior appointment as chairman, and even more disbelieving. I had told people who said to me it was a certainty that Celtic could not and would not make such a diabolical decision, that it was unthinkable. I wrote a piece where the torching was turned up to full, knowing that it too didn’t portend anything good.

I had railed against both Lennon appointments.

I supported the Ronny Deila appointment at the time because it looked like a radical change of direction and I thought it had showed imagination. I was horrified to find out he’d been interviewed for the assistant’s job and when Lennon quit they just gave him the top post as if that’s how these things are done. They gave no more thought to it than you would to wiping your nose on a cold day. It wasn’t creative or radical, it reeked of laziness and lack of due diligence.

The Howe fiasco was shocking. The appointment of a guy most people in the UK had never heard of, with no reputation outside of Asia, who had no record of working with big transfer deals (which seems amazing now when you consider it) and who had literally come out of the Lawwell contacts book via the City Group was a gamble of momentous proportions which could just as easily failed as succeeded. In the end it delivered on all fronts, in stunning fashion, and gave these people the best foundation to build on we’d had in a generation.

And now we’re here. It’s taken 12 months from Lawwell senior’s return to where there’s talk of protests and rebellion and banners and calls for directors to quit.

He’s undone everything Ange was able to build in half the time it took to build it, and the reason I’ve given the history lesson is so you can see that this isn’t some shock development but what’s called in finance a “reversion to the mean.” Which is another way of saying that we can consider the last two years as a blip; we’re back to business as usual, with this no more than a bang average year with this bang average leadership. This is just how Celtic runs under these guys.

We’re years overdue for giving these people some stick and a proper look. The systems at Celtic are so antiquated and their hiring practices and patterns and the way non-football people constantly interfere in the manager’s business, and the prioritising of profits before any other consideration, and the hiring of non-qualified people based on personal relationships … it’s all been dragging down the overall standards of governance at Celtic for years.

It’s how we’ve ended up with coaches who are guaranteed gigs no matter the man in the dugout, how we’ve ended up with the chairman’s son running recruitment and the scouting department led by the brother of a coach, both sons of a Lawwell and Desmond crony, with Strachan himself doing some unspecified consultancy work which nobody ever clarified or bothered to tell us about or how much he was being paid for it … and I could go on.

None of this is recent. This goes back a long time, and at every stage myself and others have been complaining about it and saying that the people running Celtic had to either change course or make way for new thinking and a less cosy structure than the one run to reward friends and family of the key personnel, and without advancing us one step towards a better football operation.

And every time we bring this stuff up we’re told to sit down and shut up.

Not one of those articles that I wrote on Lennon, on Lawwell, on Lawwell junior, on the hiring practices or the cronyism or the nepotism were well recieved at the time. It was as if I’d committed heresy by even bringing up the negative aspects to them, and plenty of other people who raised the concerns had to eat the same dirt as me for doing so.

It was because we were “ungrateful.” Or entitled. Pick the word that suits you.

Because weren’t we winning things? Weren’t we making money?

How can Celtic really be that badly run if all those things are true?

Well, you know, it only takes one disaster to show you where the flaws in the superstructure are.

The COVID campaign should have driven it home, that and its aftermath where they fumbled about for an entire summer waiting on a guy to phone them and say yes only to have him waste everyone’s time and say no.

The board’s apologists and their allies gaslight us every time we mention this stuff.

We’re told we have not to trust what our eyes and our brains are telling us, but to follow the herd, to take our seats and just enjoy the show. Because rocking the boat only helps our enemies and rivals … except that our biggest problems are, and have always been, inside our own walls.

If we lose this title, it will not because the club at Ibrox is particularly brilliant or strong. It will be an entirely self-inflicted wound. We are the bigger club. We have more money than any side in Scottish football has ever seen in the bank far less been able to spend. But that confers no advantage at all unless you’re willing to actually spend some of it.

Massive strategic failures, not even relating to the funding of the team – the failure to push on Resolution 12 and reform the SFA, the failure to lead a campaign to implement FFP, the failure to modernise officiating – have contributed to the scenario we’re now in where a financially doped Ibrox team 12 years in existence might win its second title in four years.

When Rodgers left the first time the decision to hire Lennon could have imperilled our title campaign. The decision to give him the job full time automatically risked nine and ten in a row, and I stipulate that we were not relying on Lennon being brilliant but on Ibrox continuing to lurch from crisis to crisis, and there was always a risk that at some point they would get their act together whilst we stumbled through another Lawwell inspired nightmare.

It is not difficult to recognise that the fingerprints of the former CEO are all over this. It’s his son running the signing policy; 22 players in four windows, one of them a first team regular in a fully fit squad, not a single one of them a blue-chip player who looks like he can net us a substantial profit. It’s Lawwell’s former errand boy now in the CEO role, with the chairman himself looking over his shoulder like a schoolteacher checking his homework.

At every stage of previous crises, the same voices have uttered some variation or combination of the same absolute guff; “this is not the time, we have to back the team.” As if you can’t simultaneously cheer the players on the park whilst telling the board to take a hike.

We are implored to leave it until the summer, which coincidently is after the season tickets are already sold and we have no leverage over these people whatsoever. And when the summer comes, what then? “Let’s see if they’ve learned lessons, leave it until the window shuts.” And when it does, it’s “Well, no point in moaning now, but if they don’t deliver in January …”

Manyana, manyana, manyana.

Always tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow.

The timing isn’t right, let’s keep the club united and we’ll tackle this tomorrow, or someday soon. But Hell, it’s like John Fogerty wrote;

“I’m here to tell you now each and ever mother’s son,
You better learn it fast and you better learn it young,
Cause someday never comes.”

And that’s why the record keeps skipping on repeat. That’s why the same tune keeps on in the background, no matter what we do on the pitch.

Off the pitch, behind the scenes, the same group of people keep making bad, even potentially catastrophic, decisions and nothing ever happens because there’s always somebody telling the rest of us not to believe our eyes or the things we know in our heads. Somebody is always gaslighting us with faithful through and through.

But faithful through and through isn’t a suicide pact, and we ought not to let it become one. Today, the same voices that are raised every time this happens are saying the same old stuff to us. Don’t believe the evidence of your eyes, and even if you choose to, think of the team, don’t rock the boat. Not until the summer. We need unity.

But that’s the biggest bit of gaslighting of them all, an appeal for unity by the people whose decisions are what’s divided this fan-base in the first place.

Celtic hasn’t been united since Lawwell returned, and we won’t be healed or come together properly until he and his brood and their buddies are gone.

All we’re really doing is giving them more time to build walls, sew division and thus put off the reckoning, and this time there has to be a reckoning.

Because otherwise we’re not putting this behind us, we’re just setting up the next disaster, either this summer coming or somewhere down the line.

These people long since ceased to have any idea how to progress us beyond this stale environment we’re in. And now they’ve reverted to carving up the pieces to ensure that this club is run by their forebears after they’ve gone.

Nobody wants a responsibility like this, nobody wants to make sacrifices for the greater good, nobody wants to stand outside the ground when you can be supporting the team inside it … but we can’t let this go on any longer.

If not now, when? If not us, who?

This is the time.

Because “someday” never comes and I’m tired of waiting for it.

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  • Ronan says:

    Good article. But again explain how rangers were heading to 4iar until admin struck considering they were 4 points behind and inconsistant?

  • Bunter says:

    This piece doesn’t need any comment at all James. An honest and truthful account of the last few years under this board of 5th columnists. A masterpiece of an article.

  • Jimmy says:

    Terrible state of affairs. We all have to call it out. Saturday came as no surprise whatsoever as it has happened often this season. We are in downfall with mediocrity right through the team. Mcgregor Kyogo Hatate when fit, O Rielly and CCV are the only quality in the team. The rest are mediocre. Scales has been a starting every game. Under Ange he did not get a look in and was at Aberdeen. Why because he is not the quality that we should expect. Managed decline and if Rodgers has any guts he should tell the board to shove it. Lawell and Desmond have proven they don’t give a crap about Celtic and most importantly the fans.

    • Dan says:

      Celtic now has no connection to the legendary statues out front of the stadium, the board only push the history to make more money. We are now an Apple, BP profit grabbing type company where the team does not trump the profit sheet. They know huge crowds will keep coming and act accordingly to not even consider changing their ways. They take advantage of their customers’ (not fans to them) loyalty

  • Eldraco says:

    Brilliant mate. Nails it . We need your skills as that organiser and rouser.

    For indeed.

    This IS the TIME, this IS the place , and WE are the people.

  • Davie says:

    The Board and Rodgers have to go.
    The Board deliver the Status Quo.
    Rodgers again accepts the Status Quo.
    Rodgers brand of football is like watery supermarket cheap brand spaghetti.
    Rodgers is first to go before results are non retrievable.

  • Nicky Bhoy says:

    Well written and well said – a very thought provoking article that states the uncomfortable facts of the inner workings of the Celtic board.

    The Lawwell dynasty are in the process of remoulding Celtic into Desmond’s plaything where the ‘Old-Firm’ are seen as Scottish football regardless of the supporters who invest their lives and hard earned money into the club.

    Its time for the supporters to make their feelings known about the clandestine way the board are imposing measures to undermine the manager with blatant decline tactics which are in all probability Lawwell’s part in the Five Way SECRET Agreement that everyone knows was a stitch-up.
    And why else would a football club’s board be so arrogant in their contempt for the hand that feeds them.
    How we do that is what we need to discuss – but to let matters continue as they are is no longer an option.

    Perhaps we need to talk to Dermot Desmond sometime soon.

  • Kevan McKeown says:

    Exactly right. It is a tried and tested ‘pattern’ that’s continued and as far as this boards concerned WILL continue as long as the Celtic support don’t act. In fact, even again today lennon havin a go at the support and stickin up for his board pals, when he should keep his arrogant mouth shut. Tho imo wouldnae be surprised, if he’s settin himself up tae be shoehorned in again, if the horrible situation arose that BR walked again. Absolutely have nae doubt lawwell, Desmond and lennon, have the brass neck tae pull a stunt like that.

  • JapanCelt says:

    Hi James – 100% perfect summation of just how that conniving, devious shower that are in cherge of the major departments @ our football club, i.e., Player Recruitment & Personnel Recruitment, and finally Business Strategy have been gas-lighting our faithful supporters for decades.
    Nailed it, James. A root & branch clear-out is desperately needed – starting @ the very TOP downwards.
    Time for change is NOW. No more merchandise, food, etc., to be bought.
    Come Summer and ST-renewal time; let ‘them’ stew…
    The global Celtic Family has had enough… HH! KTF!!

  • Kenny67 says:

    Brilliant article James. Nailed the true reality. We need to act as a fanbase in order to have the Celtic we deserve. It’s our club and we can’t let these self serving jobs for the boys lot ruin it any longer. Hail Hail

  • Bob (original) says:

    Good piece.

    And you do think that there has to be – eventually – an end point to all this?

    We have already witnessed supporters’ discontent at Celtic Park;

    before Christmas with assorted chants, and even when winning

    recently against Ross Count, before the window had closed.

    Currently, it looks like the next home match – a week on Saturday –

    could be volatile?

    Meantime, what does PL and MN do?

    Communicate with the disillusioned / deceived paying punters…?

    No chance.

    BR is their buffer. 🙁

  • SSMPM says:

    BR is a buffer Bob and he’s not happy to treated again as he was when he left first time round.
    I reckon he came back to build bridges but he can see that he is not being given what Ange was; an opportunity to build a team with more quality.
    BR should be supported and utilised in a campaign against the board’s inaction but unfortunately that allusion that the fans are united is just that.
    Your version of PL’s history at the club is well set out but so is the other version put out there of a man that has brought success to our cub.
    BR is a good manager, maybe not an elite as you say and should be supported but there are too many idiot fans at our club and on this site that can’t see the wood for the trees.
    Get behind the players, the team and the manager. Fock the board. HH

  • Jim says:

    Excellent James, good to know I’m not going mad after all.

  • Jimmy says:

    We should start by not spending any money on match days. Go to Celtic park, back the team and starve the boards coffers. Buy nothing at all from catering at Celtic park or in any superstore until they are gone.

  • Bigchunkylardass says:

    There’s never the perfect time to act. Take the example of Gordon brown, when he finally got labour party leadership, and so became pm, he hesitated, waiting for the perfect moment to call a ge, to validate and consolidate his position – look how that panned out for him and his party.

    Opportunity is like a seesaw, there are moments when it only needs the slightest push to change things, but hesitate and the moment passes, and it becomes impossible to move.

    The time to act is upon us lads


  • Clachnacuddin and the Hoops says:

    “ If tomorrow never comes”

    Front seats at ever Garth Brooks concert for Desmond, Nicholson and Lawwell…

  • Biffo67 says:

    Forget “sew” please. It’s sow. And it’s “regression to the mean”
    But, yes it’s gaslighting on a constant and huge scale. They think we are powerless, and we are except for season renewals and vocal condemnation of the board and the absentee landlord at every game. Back the team but damn the board, and, for goodness sake let’s give Brendan a break. Don’t let the board use him as a shield to deflect from their unforgivable behaviour.

  • Mickey Whelan says:

    Celtic Trust are way ahead of you for the only solution to this shareholders dilemma. Unfortunately supporters owning a majority shares is a lot of money away from reality but it is a viable solution.

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