Principals needed by forgotten fans
Last game: Ross County 2 – 0 Celtic
Celtic form after 5 games: WLWWL
By Séan Walsh (twitter.com/walshybhoy)
Make no mistake about it, Celtic are in dark times and drastically need to be pulled out of deep waters if they ever hope to escape the whirlpool of problems they are currently caught in. For nearly ten years the Celtic board has persisted with balancing the books and treating the fans as customers. Too often we have heard that “football is a business”, and sure that’s true. Equally, I am pleased with the excellent work we have done behind the scenes – particularly during the recession, but although a business, Celtic, like any business, is in an industry – and we are failing to deliver in ours.
The board has managed several titles, cameos in Europe’s last 16 and produced a nice set of financial reports. Throughout that we have seen some genuine players in Artur Boruc and Shunsuke Nakamura come through and expand our brand internationally as well as producing some highlights on the world’s largest stage – the UEFA Champions League. But, at the same time the Celtic PLC has managed to alienate its very own fans through shoddy customer relations -see ticket office, official website and marketing department’s efforts to flog gear hours after embarrassing defeats. As ticket prices have risen, so has the price of inedible food within the stadium. Celtics famous and primarily working class support has been snubbed and gradually pushed out to make room for ‘football tourists’ willing to pay overinflated prices to sample what was once an ‘electric atmosphere’. Now, it annoys me to see folk not support the team, leave with 15 minutes to go and fail to support the team but they have every right to be there if they pay and fair play to them contributing financially when locations such as Old Trafford, Anfield and Stamford Bridge will probably produce better football, but, somewhere in the process of getting these type of ‘tourists’ in, Celtic have removed the element that make Celtic Park what it is reputable for.
Anyone in the Celtic message board scene will know of the ongoing feud between fan groups such as the Green Brigade and Celtic PLC. Groups such as the Green Brigade, aim to bring atmosphere to Parkhead through their singing, displays and colours. For large stretches of games, the only audible sounds are that of the Green Brigade and punters complaining about Evander Sno. So why then, does the Celtic board persist to try alienate these fans by heavy handed stewarding, CCTV recording and removing banners and flags that obviously took hours to create?
The answer is the same in regards to why Celtic has seen fit to fill our club with mediocrity and lack of ambition – because we are fickle to accept it.
Since the even the final season of Martin O’Neill’s squad, Celtic have adopted a policy of “use what you have”. O’Neill’s ‘Black Sunday’ team of 2005 was filled with great players but aging and tired players. The board refused to keep the squad fresh by refusing to give the necessary transfer fee’s instead opting to placate the mob with short term fixes (Loan signings anyone?). Gordon Strachan very much received the same treatment, although he spent just as much on players as O’Neill – he was never given money when he direly needed it to really take the club to the next level. We relied on hunting SPL pro’s and taking risks on players who never had (or never would) fulfil their potential. Even the appointment of Strachan (A manager I personally found deplorable in his tactics, signings and acceptance of mediocrity) was a cheap fix, a ‘yes-man’ who wouldn’t kick up a fuss even when the board signed players for him. Tony Mowbray’s endeavour was simply the board trying to rectify its problems in the wrong places at the wrong time. Anyone who watches football knows that to build a team you rely on a good manager with success (Mowbray had only shown that at Championship level), then you move onto your defence – ensure that at the very worst you’ll drag out bore-draws and then finally you mould your footballing philosophy. The Celtic board yet again picked a ‘yes-man’, tried to play up they were fixing the defence by taking risks on new unknown players rather than solid and reliable answers and then throwing money half way through the season in desperation that should have been made available in July.
And yet, we all saw this, but our hopes ruled our head and in typical fashion – Celtic delivered disappointment where we hoped. Drastic measures are needed and we all need to stick by our principals.
My recipe for success is this and one that I will continue to stick by:
1) The manager needs to be ambitious; he needs to understand what the job is (See my previous article on this here http://thecelticway.net/wordpress/2010/02/who-would-want-to-manage-celtic/) and he needs to have his own way. The Celtic board need to put someone in charge that can take ownership of the football and remember that their job is to facilitate the manager’s job.
2) Aim to rectify Celtic’s confidence issues, how can we possibly aspire to play in Europe when we won’t even try to. The SPL is dire as are the teams regularly beating us – so whats changed? Well, we have lost our confidence that we deserve to be one of the biggest clubs in Europe, let alone our own league. Too often we have seen Celtic play to our opponents; we rarely set the tempo or set the standards. How can a team that gives Manchester United a run for its money, then struggle against Hibs? Because, we never go onto the pitch looking and believing that we must set a standard.
3) Build from the back. We are lucky enough to have a brilliant goalkeeper so let’s help him out and ensure no one can score against us. For the time being, we need confidence and consistency, bring in someone tried and tested to steady the ship. Create an unforgiving defence that does its job first and then all the ball distribution and tempo setting second. To think of all our failed attempts at centre backs and how much we spent – we could have bought a really good player for that who could form the foundations of a strong defensive spine.
4) Continue to scout youth. It’s easy to mock “projects” and criticise Celtic for pursuing younger players but it’s a cheap way of catching stars and giving the squad more depth and diversity. Where Celtic is failing is that we fail to actually give youngsters a real chance. Too often we throw on youngsters when we are losing – talk about a confidence boost. Instead we should be rotating our teams in lesser matches such as the league cup or against weaker competition. Making only one change for 60 minutes shouldn’t affect a well formed unit.
5) Win and develop. Celtic and its fans need to understand that when we win something that shouldn’t be an excuse to turn off the gas and sit back and let it eventually come down to a simmer. We should always win the league, that’s a given, so when we have won that we should be aiming to win it in less games next season. There is nothing wrong with having a winner’s mentality – even if it’s unrealistic. As the saying goes, if you aim for the stars, you’ll get the moon. Too many fans only view things in regards to trophies – which are fine, but how can you expect to keep winning trophies without looking to develop and progress?
In essence, the next move by the Celtic board – choosing a new manager – may prove to be one of the most influential acts in several decades. It has all but killed off the fanatical fan base. If it doesn’t make changes to how it does business and fails to bring in the right man – then all will be lost at Parkhead.