Celtic should keep key figure on, but not as a Director of Football

By Euan Davidson

April 29, 2021

Paper talk this morning seems to suggest that Eddie Howe will join Celtic, and that John Kennedy will be kept on at some level.

That level, it turns out, is a rather surprising one. While Brendan Rodgers has talked the idea up [Scottish Daily Mail [28/02, print edition, page 152]], John Kennedy as Director of Football [Sun] seems an unusual fit for Celtic.

First off, the argument to keep John Kennedy at Celtic. You’re talking about a man with 23 years of experience at the club. While he’s been blamed, unfairly, for some of the disasters we’ve seen in 20-21, Kennedy has six-and-a-half years of coaching experience with the first-team. That includes the glorious seasons of years prior, successes under Brendan Rodgers, Ronny Deila and Neil Lennon alike.

At just 37, Kennedy surely sees himself as a coach, or even a manager. You’d have thought that having his tactical and technical expertise would help to bridge a gap between now and the next regime. That, he might even be an asset to Eddie Howe in the dugout, someone with excellent player relationships who gets the club.

It makes total sense that the club would want to hold on to someone like that. For his tender years (in managerial terms), he’s served one club for most of his life, and it’s Celtic. To jettison him entirely feels harsh, even if he hasn’t set the world alight as interim manager.

But as a Director of Football? Frankly, we don’t know anything about Kennedy’s skills in negotiation, team building and identifying players. Compared to someone like Fergal Harkin, Matteo Tognozzi or even Richard Hughes, Kennedy doesn’t stack up favourably.

Brendan Rodgers with John Kennedy / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Why appoint a rookie for a brand new Celtic role?

If Celtic were looking to expand their footballing operations, it doesn’t make sense to hire someone with no experience in that role. It just doesn’t. There are worlds between coaching the first-team and moulding the identity of the club from a recruitment perspective. While Kennedy could no doubt influence the culture, and be extremely useful, that doesn’t necessarily need to be as the head honcho.

Ideally, you’d want someone with their fingerprints on success at a big club, who has a proven track record of building successful sides. Or, at least, being part of the scouting and development side of that. Kennedy’s skills are in people management, running drills and talking to players. While yes, he has worked as a scout prior to taking a coaching role, that’s where his experience starts and ends.

Would it be the worst hire in the world? No, of course not, but it would represent a “jobs for the boys” culture that, by all indications, Celtic were looking to extinguish. Surely there are better candidates for this, who the club have already identified and spoken to.

There’s value in keeping John Kennedy around. He provides some positive continuity, and that’s valuable. But to have him in charge of so much more seems a risk not worth taking.

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