The two forgotten Celtic candidates who still represent good value

By Euan Davidson

April 27, 2021

Celtic need a manager, don’t you know?

It’s been a whole few hours since anyone last made wild Celtic manager speculation. Actually, we can’t say that with certainty, as it’s not as if we’re writing articles live in real-time. Regardless, the wheels of speculation grind on, undeterred by fact, logic or reason.

Everyone was all in on Eddie Howe, myself included, and it’s very likely that the ex-Bournemouth man is still the number 1 candidate. Also, we realise the board have taken their time in the past, and will do so again.

That’s all fine and well, but it’s just a bit… well, it’s boring, isn’t it? As days become weeks become months, the waiting has got a bit tedious, and equally, quite worrying. In the fast-paced world of modern football, it feels like we’re moving at the rate of a glacier while other clubs have identified targets, hired them and played matches since Neil Lennon left Celtic.

There’s a chance we don’t get Eddie Howe. I know, it’s negative, but it’s a reality we need to consider. But that being the case, it’s not like he’s the only manager in the world with the pedigree or ideas to invigorate Celtic. There are two key names, both who could feasibly take the Hoops job, who were front-runners early on but have faded away to a degree.

Enzo Maresca and Shaun Maloney.

Let’s talk about both, and the latest regarding their Celtic chances.

Celtic-linked manager Enzo Maresca / (Photo by Matt McNulty – Manchester City/Manchester City FC via Getty Images)

Enzo Maresca: once a Celtic-front runner

Manchester City’s Elite Development Squad coach Enzo Maresca doesn’t have a job title you could easily fit on a pin-badge. However, he was once front-runner for the vacancy left by Neil Lennon, and his CV continues to improve with time. Most recently, he’s led his Man City Young Team to the PL2 title [Man City], and with some style, too.

The Citizens’ Under-23s, who have produced talents like Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho and old Celtic favourite Jeremie Frimpong, only lost 2 games in their pursuit of the Premier League 2 this season [Flashscore]. With Scottish talents like Ciaran Slicker, Celtic-linked Felix Nmecha and the scorching form of Liam Delap, this Manchester City side have some prodigious wonderkids on their books.

It’s never as easy as getting talented players together and saying “on you go”. If that were the case, Real Madrid’s Galactico project would’ve been more successful. No, regardless of the talent at a manager’s disposal, it takes craft and cunning to build a title-winning side. Enzo Maresca has done that, and deserves plaudits for doing so.

Fine, he hasn’t managed at senior level. But he does have experience as an assistant at La Liga giants Sevilla and Premier League outfit West Ham.

Maresca may lack the big-name clout of some of his competitors. But, were he to be brought in with the right infrastructure around him, and a colleague of sorts in Fergal Harkin, it might only take a few good results to get supporters on board.

Former Celtic star Shaun Maloney / (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

Shaun Maloney

Maybe it’s historic bias, but there’ll be a certain group of supporters, mostly around my age (late-20s-ish) who love Shaun Maloney. An absolute wrecking ball of a player in his early days, Maloney was speedy, creative and clinical from set pieces. He represented the Celtic dream of coming through the Academy and making an impact.

His playing career is well-known, of course, but his stock continues to rise as a coach. It’s established that Maloney has the wherewithal to coach at a very high level, specifically with Roberto Martinez at Belgium. Tasked with taking training for a ‘golden generation’ of Belgian talent, Maloney has been a big part of why the nation are number 1 in the FIFA rankings.

It’s difficult to know what constitutes a better qualification. For his part, Maloney has been talking to Scottish media outlets a fair bit recently. He’s a smart, fantastically articulate guy, the kind “Football hipsters” would love to have at Celtic. More than that though, his vision for the game and the way he believes Celtic should play make him worthy of consideration.

It seems inevitable he’ll be a top manager. So why not begin his managerial career where he started playing? Again, this is heavily reliant on having a structure around him, and he’ll need a seasoned assistant or first team coach to help him along in the early stages. But supporters are clear; most want a young, ambitious manager with an attacking footballing mentality.

So, surely the answer is under our nose, if it isn’t Eddie Howe?

READ MORE: A potential gift from UEFA for two Scottish talents at Celtic