Like him or not, Brendan Rodgers was a huge success while at Celtic. One of his key quotes, amongst some particularly cringeworthy ones, was ‘the strength of Celtic is being together and what we have proven this year is the fusion between the players, the management and the supporters- when that is together Celtic are a powerful force.’ This was true at the time. Now, only a few years later, the clubs ‘Holy Trinity’ is as separate in thought as they’ve ever been. The trinity in question this time is the board, the fans and the manager. They may all want success for Celtic, but their ideas of how to get that are very different.
The replacement of Peter Lawwell as CEO was always going to be in a difficult position. Not only would they be replacing a largely successful, if unambitious, figurehead who, while divisive, had overseen domestic dominance that will likely never be repeated, they would also oversee the transformation of the clubs internal structure and rebuilding of the playing staff. When Dom McKay arrived it seemed that they had got their man. Ambitious, driven and engaging, McKay seemed like the man to take the club into a new era. 72 days later he is gone. All talk of modernisation, fan engagement, European success and long term stability has suddenly stopped. While there is a temporary CEO in place in the form of Michael Nicholson, there has been radio silence on the matters which initially excited fans. The Celtic support, who backed the club in a period of both financial and sporting uncertainty, are left to wonder when, or if, a new modern structure will be in place. At the moment the club has no director of football, head of recruitment, chief scout, pathway manager or even a proper coaching system in place for the first team (Ange, as of writing, still has no official assistant manager). The board has shown, thus far, that the previous risk averse strategy remains in place and the progressive ideas McKay spoke of look to be in limbo. It could, of course, be the case they are regrouping and still planning to implement this top level sporting infrastructure but, if not, where does that leave the man McKay unveiled as Celtic manager? It would seem, on the face of it, that if McKay’s ideas of forward thinking football aligned with Postecoglou’s, and those ideas are on the proverbial ‘back burner’ there is a disconnect between the hierarchy and the man tasked with bringing success back to Paradise.
When Ange Postecoglou arrived at Celtic there was a mix of optimism, excitement and curiosity. He spoke of an attacking style of play that would have fans on their feet. He spoke of the need for Celtic to challenge at the highest of levels and forget the ‘underdog’ tag that has been labelled at the club whenever they compete against an established name in Europe. He spoke of the need for players, and fans, to believe in him. Now that he is a few months into the job and has seen the man who offered him the position leave, the previous optimism and excitement has already started to fade. Despite all the issues he has faced, like those listed above and the massive squad overhaul, Postecoglou seems determined to stick to his initial promises and his own footballing philosophy. This has resulted in three domestic losses already and a home draw this past weekend. He is looking more and more forlorn and his frustrations are becoming more apparent with every interview. Even at this stage of the season there are questions being asked; Is he the right man for the job after all? Will he have a say in the new structure if there even is one? How long does the circumstances he’s faced excuse a poor run of results? Ange Postecoglou has a record of success at every club he has been in charge of, he has international pedigree and has earned plaudits from some of the biggest names in the game. However, those successes have never came instantly. At club level it has taken at least one season to get his style, and results, consistently. With Celtic needing to almost reinvent, and certainly reinvigorate, themselves as a club, the fans are being asked to trust a manager and a board who’s outlooks seems completely at odds.
At the beginning of the season Celtic fans showed their desire to back the club they love yet again. Season ticket sales were expected to take a slump but instead, despite the disastrous campaign last year and the pandemic affecting peoples finances, they sold out in record time. The fans done their part. It was Celtics move now. As listed above, fans were promised change at all levels while playing a brand of football they’d adore and wrenching the title back from their city rivals. So far the new CEO has departed, there has been no internal changes and the team sit mid table. To say that the fans expectations have not been met is an understatement. The fury that was on display after Celtic dropped more points against Dundee Utd was to be expected. The desire to give the manager the benefit of the doubt has already dwindled and there is even more resentment to the board as there has ever been. They wanted modernisation and instant success and now have a board who seem happy to rest on their laurels and a manager who needs at least a season to improve.
When the three most important aspects of a football club, corporate, sporting and supporters, are so unaligned in their needs and wants, something has to give or the division and disconnect will grow. Either the board changes tact, the manager gets results, or the fans become more patient. If things continue as they are then last season exasperated sighs of ‘It can possibly get any worse’ will seem sadly, ironically, prophetic. As Brendan Rodgers had said, ‘the strength of Celtic is being together’ and yet, years later, they couldn’t be further apart.