3 things permanent Celtic CEO Michael Nicholson needs to get right straight away
So there you go, then; Michael Nicholson has been appointed permanent CEO of Celtic Football Club.
No huge shock there. As acting and de facto Chief Executive after Dom McKay’s shock departure, it was Nicholson running the show anyway. Ange Postecoglou said he was enjoying the working relationship between himself and the CEO, and that Nicholson had been instrumental to the completion of signings.
Of course, even his short acting reign hasn’t been without controversy. The speculation over Bernard Higgins will likely have a lasting impact. That and, going by social media reaction at least, the suspicion that Nicholson is some kind of “yes man” for the board.
Leaving opinion – positive or negative – out of the equation, it’s a massive job Nicholson has got.
Being CEO of a football club as big as Celtic is going to bring with it unique challenges. And, after he got a taste of supporter opinion from the AGM, he’ll know it can be tough going.
What can he do, though, to get fans onside right away? As CEO, what measures can he take to ensure some goodwill for himself and the club?
Let’s have a look at 3 things Michael Nicholson could do to get his official reign as CEO off to a good start.
As CEO, Michael Nicholson needs to have Ange Postecoglou’s back in the transfer market
The first one is simple: continue to back Ange Postecoglou.
In the summer, Nicholson was important in ensuring a new wave of talent came through Parkhead’s gates. According to Postecoglou, the new Celtic CEO was intimately involved in much of the good stuff that happened when Ange took over.
Now, of course, it’s about adding to that. Given how closely associated he turned out to be with our transfer dealings, and how well he knows Ange by this stage, it should really be a case of the manager providing targets and Nicholson getting it done.
The squad needs a boost, that’s for sure. Last night was evidence of that, and with so many injured players out, a careful strategy needs to be in place.
It’s not just first-team transfers, though; Ange has spoken of the structural and technical changes he wants to make. A focus on the Celtic Academy, nurturing talent, and ensuring Celtic are able to attract promising young players. Bosun Lawal and Joey Dawson are good examples of who can be brought in. Tobi Oluwayemi, Luca Connell et al were also shrewd signings in years prior.
Ange needs to feel as if Nicholson has his back. That seems to be the vibe so far, so let it continue.
Michael Nicholson needs to get Celtic Supporters’ Groups back on side
Given the utter lack of trust that major Celtic supporters’ groups have in the board, the culture of protest is alive and well.
In some respects, it’s a good thing; an institution as big as Celtic needs people holding the club to account at all times, and that shouldn’t stop. But what’s clear is the schism between a lot of supporters’ expectations of the club, and how it’s being run.
The Bernard Higgins situation is a clear example. That came about through hearsay and rumour, with the board – Nicholson included – refusing to speak to fans. The protests were righteous, brilliant and ultimately successful. But for a more holistic relationship and to ease tensions between camps, it’s important the club start getting this right.
The atmosphere of the AGM is something the club clearly want to avoid in the future. It was testy, combative and, for the board, a hard afternoon’s work. Celtic supporters don’t want to be angry.
Just improving the communication, allowing Celtic supporters the opportunity to be heard, and not giving stories oxygen and conjecture through silence is imperative.
Build for the future – in a literal sense
About a month ago, Celtic got the green light to extend the facilities at Barrowfield.
Now, that excited supporters. Infrastructure can sometimes be a boring subject, but when it comes to our football club, it’s a tangible sign of the club planning for the future. We could probably stand to do more, with Celtic using Airdrie’s Penny Cars Stadium for B Team and Women’s Team games.
Now, we’re not suggesting Celtic build a multi-million pound facility here. A Celtic Park II, of sorts. But it’d be great to have access to the B Team and Women’s Team within Glasgow, and would give attendances a massive lift. It’d also provide some further legitimacy for Celtic’s funding of the Women’s Team, who are Cup Winners in their own right, and competed in the Champions League qualifiers this season.
It’d be amazing. Obviously, it’s a lot to ask, but it’s just an example. We’re already seeing Celtic building from an infrastructure point of view, and it’s encouraging. Michael Nicholson, if he wants a legacy a la Peter Lawwell and Lennoxtown, needs to think big.