|Static With Interference|
|Static With Interference|
|Written by James Kelly|
|Tuesday, 01 November 2011 15:28|
I won’t rake over the minutiae of the weekend’s goalless draw but suffice to say after the cause for optimism away to the same opponents in midweek, the topic of Neil Lennon’s future away from Celtic is now officially back on the agenda and increasingly hard for those of us who dearly wish it wasn’t so to ignore. Sadly the position of first team coach at Celtic Park looks increasingly like the classic ‘poisoned chalice’, but the blame for that can only lie with those who have been ever-presents at the club during a slide to a potential hun 4IAR. If we are indeed witnessing the dog days of Lennon’s shot in the hotseat then it strikes me that the least a figure as avowedly devoted to the Celtic cause as he deserves is to have his contribution, however ill-fated, placed in its full context.
That our only meaningful domestic rivals are even odds-on favourites for another championship at the exact same moment they face the realistic prospect of going out of business altogether should give anyone not paying proper attention up until now a full indication of the kind of decline that has arrested Celtic as an organisation in recent years. With a third manager in four seasons now close to being maneuvered through the revolving door as a seemingly inexorable downward path is charted, time and excuses must surely also be running out for those responsible for the hiring and firing itself.
Gone is the siege mentality of last season, the void filled by a truly temperamental assortment of fair-weather performers, few if any with the trophy-gathering pedigree, yet who in many cases have come to believe their own hype, and in the case of the precocious Beram Kayal in particular, that they can opt out of playing duties no less, on the merest of whims. In many respects the toxic combination of complacency and hubris suddenly consuming some of our most important players is symptomatic of a culture which has filtered on down from the boardroom for half a decade, arguably longer now.
Having fallen short last season yet nevertheless finished the campaign with goodwill positively washing over the players from the stands, it would appear that rather than sweat blood to go one better at the next opportunity, a frightening number were contented enough at that. Certainly enough to foster a sense of immediate entitlement, and the striking of an aggressive tone in dealings with management and club, all justified on the basis of unfulfilled promise alone. A handier accompaniment you couldn’t hope to find to the constant “jam tomorrow” rhetoric of the suits, no strangers themselves to self-praise during a period when the club’s football fortunes have been in dramatic reverse, club performance both on and off the park speaking for itself.
Unarguably though, Lennon should be wringing far more out of his group of players instead of repeatedly threatening to wring their necks in the aftermath of another poor outing. Repeat failings have been exposed and he is in broken record territory now, well and truly. Nevertheless, the line that the "players are good enough to be beating [insert SPL opponents] anyway" heard with increasing regularity from supporters focusing their ire on the manager above all else, is a cop out which must give Lawwell cause to burst into a jig every time he hears another paying punter hit out with it. It is no way to run a football club to have the manager third in the pecking order when it comes to deliberating on recruitment. A shambolic state of affairs and almost certainly directly linked to the difficulties currently being experienced in the dugout on game days.
What momentum we did build up last season was achieved via a combination of sheer force of personality in the dugout and a cheaply-sourced hotchpotch of fairly left-field signings, the latter of course thickened out by a bundle of failed punts on EPL surplus and Mexican internationalists who for whatever reason did not fit the new mould. After fashioning a unit from individuals whom in many cases he had no input in recruiting (the same goes for those departing) the very least Lennon deserved ahead of this season – and certainly the least he deserves to be judged on – was increased heeding of his own personal recommendations and an ambitious (within reason) assault on the market from his paymasters.
Producing first team quality operators capable of doing more than merely swelling the ranks would have mitigated the very worst of a bad run of injuries, strengthened our depth, raised the bar for the remainder who did so well but ultimately choked the season prior, and made it far harder for a few primadonnas to start picking fights with their shadow, playing hardball in contract negotiations, and taking their eye off the prize on the pitch. This is not said with hindsight. It should have been obvious from the very start of the process to anyone in a position of influence at Celtic, and if it wasn’t, we should be asking why not, and what on earth we are paying some individuals for.
In the event, even a meaningful stab at Baba Diawara, another choice lower down the pecking order, proved beyond those handsomely rewarded to regularly champion the sound running of the football club whilst gleefully mocking our championship-hoovering rivals whenever the tiniest opportunity presents itself. Again the manager was instead asked to craft a silk purse from a sows ear with a hastily cobbled together handful of randoms he may or may not have even heard of prior to their signing on the dotted line at Celtic Park, but I couldn’t possibly comment for certain on that. What he pulled off last season is looking beyond him this, but asking such a young and inexperienced figure to go back to the well a second time was always going to be a colossal gamble.
Whilst there’s no disputing that many questions remain unanswered in terms of the managerial learning curve, nevertheless were Lennon to pay the ultimate price at this stage it would represent an astonishing betrayal. Not only would he depart without having been granted an honest shot, free of undue interference from above, and with the full capacity to plan, but the whole episode would highlight the folly of placing any sort of young manager of potential, in the hands of this Celtic board, governed by an unofficial and absentee owner and a dangerously unaccountable CEO who has gathered Director of Football powers by stealth, and whose collective incompetence is borne out by a transfer of both finances and silverware to Ibrox that would have been close to inconceivable in the summer of 2008.
Unless the track record of those individuals is brought into sharper focus by all concerned then Lennon’s head on a spike will without doubt be followed merely by the appointment of another patsy doomed to sleepwalk toward career oblivion. The name Mark McGhee already regularly haunts discussions on the forums. Predictably enough Martin O’Neill’s name features equally regularly and in considerably more hopeful tones but it strikes me as the height of wishful thinking to think MON would come back here with a remit of generating more in sales than is spent on transfer fees, with a squad that, beyond half a dozen odd lynchpins of the starting XI is arguably the worst at CP since the junta's days, already packed out with dross we've been unable to shift for in some cases three, four seasons now.
One name which has already been informally discussed by board members as a potential replacement is Darren Ferguson, currently boss at Peterborough United. Despite enjoying success in spells at the club either side of a short-lived and ill-fated tenure at Preston North End, he has never managed at a higher level than the English second tier, and obviously has no particular connection to Celtic. Not that the latter ought to preclude any individual from the job, but worth mentioning given the comparison with Lennon, for whom it was clearly felt an intrinsic connection and ‘understanding’ of the club may compensate at least in part for a lack of experience.
Others can decide for themselves if that brand of alternative gets the juices flowing on the back of half a decade of gradual demise, three seasons of startling underachievement, a seismic shock to the system in this, the fourth since going without a championship, an outbreak of disharmony within the playing squad, and a mammoth rebuilding exercise lying in wait regardless for whoever takes up the reigns. What is most telling and far more likely to deliver chills is the fact that such a name nowadays pops up near the very top of the boardroom wish-list. That is the pretty pass our famously ‘risk-averse’ directors have brought the club to after years of mutual back-slapping. You could not make it up.
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 01 November 2011 15:57|