Why Celtic keeping Kennedy and Strachan isn't a bad idea, regardless of who comes in

By Euan Davidson

April 2, 2021

First of all, to my fellow Celtic supporters: I’m not trying to wind anyone up here.

Earlier today, news from the Daily Mail emerged claiming that Eddie Howe may hold on to John Kennedy and Gavin Strachan. The reaction online has been critical, amongst all the Howe-Mania seen on Twitter today.

First, the case against that idea: John Kennedy and Gavin Strachan have been part of Celtic’s worst season in years. That’s inarguable. They’ve been ever-present during Neil Lennon’s struggles, seemingly unable to keep the ex-manager from damaging results.

Strachan’s laptop has come under significant ire, which is strange when there’s a demand to raise standards and professionalism at the club. Perhaps it’s Strachan himself, the image of a coach on his computer while Celtic fail to meet the high standards we expect. Kennedy, meanwhile, looked full of impotent despondency, a Vice President to a crumbling regime.

I get that, I do. But it’s not a picture that reflects the whole truth. For one thing, John Kennedy has been a coach at Celtic for years, during an era of nearly-unprecedented success. The Quadruple Treble, the 9IAR: you name it, he’s been there.

He’s a coach that’s popular with the players, including Kieran Tierney. Are you really going to argue with KT? It’d take a heart of stone to not listen to the guy.

Strachan’s case for defence is a bit harder. Still, his use of technology in-game could suggest any number of things. It’s possible Lennon wasn’t as into data-driven analysis, and Strachan was an idea from the board to change his mind. Maybe Lenny didn’t take his advice on board. He’s also an experienced coach himself, and his value could be in a different role.

That’s true of both men.

Celtic interim boss John Kennedy / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Celtic supporters’ mood for clean sweep is entirely understandable, but Kennedy and Strachan could be useful elsewhere

John Kennedy and Gavin Strachan are both coaches of at least decent repute. It’s true that Hibs looked to JK first, before appointing Jack Ross [Edinburgh Live]. That doesn’t just imply he’s held in high-regard around Scotland, it outright says it.

While Kennedy may be tempted to try his hand elsewhere, continuity is important. We’ve seen with Scott Brown’s decision that fans and the commentariat alike (myself included) would’ve preferred Broony to stay in order to help the new regime.

John Kennedy knows more than Broony does about the workings of the club beyond the first-team. Surely if Broony had a case, Kennedy does, too?

It also shows Howe’s reported interest in keeping “Celtic men” in the set-up. Absolutely, we can pick and choose which “Celtic men” we prefer to have around the club. Roy Keane’s “Celtic man” credentials were the prime reason for speculation linking him to the job.

Is it such a bad thing that Kennedy and Strachan might stay around in an expanded backroom staff? If the next appointment is in the same vein as Rodgers’ time at Celtic, the dugout will be much fuller than the last couple of seasons. Big names demand big backroom teams. It’s hard to see how poisonous either Kennedy or Strachan could really be in that context.

There’s also a chance that either coach could move further into the background. Both have invaluable experience to pass on to the club’s Academy players. Is it really so outlandish to suggest it might be worth keeping them around to help out the youngsters?

Football is a reactionary business. Believe me, I can be as knee-jerk as anyone else. With a second to look upon it, though, it doesn’t strike me as such a bad idea to hold onto seasoned campaigners in the context of seismic change at Celtic.

You may disagree, and you’re more than entitled to.

That’s what makes all this good fun.

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