The strange Celtic manager pre-requisite that board must forget

By Euan Davidson

March 4, 2021

Remember when Celtic hired a manager on the basis that they knew Glasgow?

Oh, it happened. Back in 2019, Peter Lawwell explained his reasons for hiring Neil Lennon. Yes, he’d done well in an interim spell, after Brendan Rodgers left. Admittedly, there were other factors, too. But it’s one of those quotes that will follow Lawwell around, and exemplifies the “eh… that’ll do” attitude at Celtic over the last few years.

Upon appointing Neil Lennon, Lawwell said [Daily Record]:

“I think
 that’s the point. He knows the club
 inside out, he knows the city, he knows what’s required.

“He’s a great coach. [Lennon] has got the strength of character to take it 
through. He’s a great coach, has a
great eye for a player. We’re delighted to have him.”

According to Google Analytics, that means a large part of our readership are also qualified to manage Celtic. If you fancy it, you know exactly where to send a CV.

The point here? The point is that for too long, standards at Celtic have been low. It might seem like sour grapes, given that we had a top coach only two-and-a-bit years ago. Still, those standards were undoubtedly a factor in Rodgers seeking employment elsewhere.

With Neil Lennon gone, what now for Celtic? Well, first things first, we need to reassert our priorities.

Eddie Howe: talented, but doesn’t know the Glasgow Subway / (Photo by James Gill – Danehouse/Getty Images)

Knowing the city is not a pre-requisite for a Celtic manager

This may be over-analysing a small part of what Lawwell actually said, but it points to a bigger culture at Celtic. It’s certainly enough to concern supporters regarding the vacancy left by Neil Lennon.

Plenty of “Celtic men”, or “Celtic adjacent men” are being linked to the job. Mick McCarthy used to play for Celtic. John Kennedy, the interim boss, knows the city. Gordon Strachan and Martin O’Neill were already approached mid-season. These are all people who, you assume, at least have a pocket map of Glasgow.

Most concerning, Roy Keane is an ex-Celt, and has been offered the job before. But if you ask me, these names are all wrong. Each name listed is a regressive step. If Lawwell’s legacy is defined by finding Lennon’s successor, he can’t go with what’s comfortable to him.

I honestly don’t care if we hire someone who’s never been through the Clyde Tunnel. As long as they’re decent and get us back to where we need to be. If in doubt, talk your Glasgow history up while you’re in the job, a la “breath of fresh air” Brendan Rodgers [Scotsman].

If Eddie Howe doesn’t own a Glen Daly CD, it matters little. Rafa Benitez probably doesn’t have a favourite Billy Connolly routine, but it’s unimportant. Other clubs don’t rely on their pre-established relationships as much as we do. It’s incredibly small-time to limit your pool of recruits to ex-players, or people tangentially associated with the club.

Yes, it’s a long-established thing. Names like Willie Malley, Jock Stein, Jimmy McGrory, Tommy Burns, Billy McNeill. To a far lesser extent, Lou Macari. These are all men who had relationships with the club before joining as manager. Ditto Neil Lennon, of course.

But just because it’s been that way, it doesn’t need to be forever. Absolutely, there’s sentimental value. If Pep Guardiola or Julien Nagelsmann collected Celtic tops growing up, then that’d be class. Hire either as the next Celtic manager immediately.

Sentiment doesn’t win titles though.

This season is the purest reflection of that.

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