John Kennedy isn't the first or last Celtic manager to be given media bashing; he's dealt with it superbly

By Euan Davidson

April 16, 2021

It took next to no time for Celtic interim boss John Kennedy to have a quote taken out of context.

If you’ve missed it, it’s been an absolutely daft week of back-and-forth accusations. To be truthful, there’s been a generally muted build-up to what should be an absolutely massive Glasgow Derby. Celtic’s opportunity to restore pride with a Scottish Cup win has been underplayed, if you ask us.

As has the mini-revival taking place under John Kennedy. But rather than focus on tactics, the resurgence of certain players and the actual match, it’s been claim and counter-claim.

All because John Kennedy was bullish enough to suggest his players are good. Ridiculous, really. There’s a long-established history of this, of course, and we’re sure it’s not exclusive to Celtic managers. Pundits and players alike have been lining up to misinterpret the ex-defender, from Kenny Miller to Chris Sutton, via Borna Barisic [BBC].

And all of this has been because of an unwillingness to simply… finish reading a paragraph. If you needed reminding, what Kennedy actually said was [Daily Record]:

“I have full belief in the squad we have here, that on our day we are still the best team in the country. One hundred-per-cent. That’s the reaction you have to have. There was always going to come a point where we had a setback.”

Brendan Rodgers had to deal with this nonsense, too / (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

Celtic managers being wilfully misinterpreted has dangerous precedent

It’s lucky that these were comments about football, because there’s dangerous precedent here. Take, for example, the narrative around Aberdeen defender Shay Logan and Brendan Rodgers’ comments. Rodgers said about the incident (from well before he arrived at the club) [Evening Express]:

“It’s not something that you would ever want to see anywhere.

“There has obviously been an ongoing thing with young Shay since an incident I was made aware of when I first came in.

“So it’s not something I want to go into and it’s not something the Celtic supporters are ever, ever renowned for.

“‘It probably doesn’t help yourself if you walk about after the game and make all sorts of gestures.”

That quote, clearly, represents Brendan Rodgers making reference to Shay Logan’s gesturing towards the Celtic supporters. That whole debacle was a remarkably ugly one, and for what it’s worth I don’t think we came out of it looking great. But the headline for the article? ‘Celtic boss Rodgers says Dons’ Logan ‘doesn’t help himself’ after racial abuse claims’.

What Rodgers said wasn’t in the context of racial abuse claims. That kind of rhetoric helps absolutely nobody.

Ronny Deila got the same treatment, claiming that his comments about Aberdeen (them again!) had been taken out of context [BBC].

It’s classic stuff, and everyone in the Scottish football media (including myself I’m sure) has cherry-picked a line or two from a press conference while taking poetic licence.

John Kennedy has been wilfully misinterpreted / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Lessons to take for John Kennedy, as much as anyone else

John Kennedy will have seen it all over a career spent with Celtic. Working with several managers behind the scenes, he’ll have seen how to play the media and what to avoid.

You could, uncharitably, call this his first “blunder”, but it’s not a blunder whatsoever. Kennedy was simply emphasising the abilities of his players. If that’s a “joke” in the eyes of a Rangers defender then so be it, for his comments today were refreshing. He backed up his point, explained himself and hopefully, we can move on from a ridiculous running story [Glasgow Live].

Because no matter how bad Celtic have been at times this season, the manager shouldn’t be doubting the abilities of his players, least of all in public. If, after a 6-0 win, he had said “aye, but remember Ross County”, it would’ve been utterly daft.

If anything, this is a lesson for him to take. In the words of Limmy, don’t back down, double down. In a brief spell in charge of Celtic’s first-team, he’s already had his first exhausting media row.

And if that doesn’t add to his CV, nothing will. Fair play to John Kennedy.

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