This season has been like watching a car crash in slow motion,and I think we can all agree on that. A shambles on the park and off it,and in what should have been a memorable season for us-perhaps the most memorable ever for most of us under the age of about sixty. Oh,it will be memorable alright-but for all the wrong reasons,as we hand our title to the huns while turning ourselves into a laughing stock and political whipping boys.
We can all see the symptoms and perhaps agree on many of the causes,but where do the underlying causes lie-and when did they first appear? And how did they come about?
Let’s rewind a few years to when First Rangers were challenging for and occasionally beating us to titles in the 2000s. Around the middle of that decade,the big spending over there was cut right back,and Minty put up £50m as a share issue for the fans to purchase. That club clearly needed the money,but got the finger instead-which led to Murray having to purchase the shares via his holding company with money borrowed,as ever,from the bank. If it hadn’t been obvious to Celtic that their rivals were in trouble,it certainly would have been at that time.
However,Murray was never too bothered about debts,as long as he could service them. And that was always possible,with Scotland having two entrants to the Champions League at the time,and all the financial advantages which that entailed. However,that would stop for the 2007/08 season-and it was by then imperative to get hands on the income. To that end,in came The Cardigan at the start of 2007 to overturn a league deficit. He spent big-money which the club didn’t have-but failed. And he spent considerably more the following season,but failed again. And the failure in 2007/08 was to have serious repercussions-as it was soon followed by The Financial Crash. That crash led to the failure of Murray’s lenders and a demand for their money back.
The only way to get the money was still via the Champions League,so the title was a necessity. And even though we saw some very strange refereeing decisions that season,there was still a big gap to Celtic by New Year. Celtic spent a paltry £50,000 and threw Rangers a lifeline.
We should have thrown them an anchor,and Gordon Strachan left at the end of the season.
He was replaced,first by Tony Mowbray and then by Neil Lennon,as we contrived to throw away a further two league titles. I say contrived,but the refereeing decisions-particularly in the first of them-simply beggared belief! Celtic chose to say and do nothing while our managers were vilified by the media,cheated by the refs and hounded by the authorities-who took a particular delight in hauling Neil Lennon up before them. It was all to no avail,with the bills and final demands piling up and Murray desperate to get out.
He succeeded too-being “duped” into selling the club for a pound. With of course,all debts still outstanding.
Celtic though,during this period,hadn’t been content to stand still on the pitch. No,they decided to move into a different gear altogether. Reverse,as the fans to their astonishment saw the quality of player on offer decline markedly in favour of an entirely new concept in football. The Project Player. Paying peanuts gets you monkeys,said The Doc-and our new Director of Football was intent on proving him correct. Most of them were so bad that they couldn’t even get into a team which was itself truly awful. And that only made it harder for the manager to bring through younger players-because there weren’t enough seasoned pros who could help them along the way!
But even with those three seasons of CL entry,even with Celtic’s strange policies,even with Murray getting the hell outa Dodge,the bills and final demands were only piling up. Administration came in February 2012,Rangers imploded,and liquidation was decided for them in June of that year. Celtic had won the league,and Rangers were no more. There was much joy and celebration in the Celtic support,but that turned to consternation and anger when they were allowed to phoenix in time-almost!-for the new season.
How was this permitted? Rules and regulations were subverted,ignored,manipulated. Or made up as they went along. The law of the land was circumvented,breached,made a bloody laughing stock out of at times. All to keep alive an entity which had spent years cheating and stealing from clubs and from the taxpayer.
So how did Celtic respond? Well,this is where it gets interesting. “Guaranteed”,in the absence of genuine challengers,access to CL cash,they decided not to finance a side good enough to achieve that-and one which too would be good enough to educate our better youngsters as they were introduced. Despite the latter saving money on transfer fees-and the former bringing in much desired cash to build further-the quality of signings took a further drop,although in fairness one or two of them did come off. In general,the sheer uselessness of the signings led to them not being played-which led to more signings,who tended to be even worse.
And so it continued until,coincidentally,Rangers made it to the SPL in 2016. We brought in a top manager,signed a couple of the players that he wanted. He introduced the full range of up to date technological assistance to improve the players fitness,new coaching techniques,new ideas of all kinds. And Celtic went through the season as undefeated invincible Treble Winners! The improvement in the style of play was matched by the improvement in the performances of many who had been underperforming for years,and it had been done on a shoestring-as the flow of Project Players was stopped.
“Rangers” pulled out all the stops to prevent this,including running up huge debts in the same way that their predecessors had. Couldn’t get near us. We recorded our first ever £100m financial results. They were IN the same league,but really they weren’t. There was only one possible response to this. Go back to Plan A,Project Players. And after four successive windows of it,there was only one possible response from the manager too.
He walked out. And with him went any chance of us properly utilising the full range of up to date technological assistance to improve the players fitness,new coaching techniques,new ideas of all kinds-see above-as our new man decided they only cluttered the place up. Out too went the improvement in the style of play and the improvement in the performances of many who had been underperforming for years,as those players were no longer coached,drilled or even interested.
And here we are in 2020 as I said at the start-about to hand our title to the huns while turning ourselves into a laughing stock and political whipping boys. But the failure didn’t begin in the summer or the autumn-IMO,it began in summer 2017. Brendan Rodgers had us too far ahead,and his plans to continue that and to improve were clearly unpalatable to someone with the power to thwart them.
But the road to it all began with that failed share issue from the huns when we realised for certain that they were in trouble,was added to by the loss of a second CL place for Scotland,and was confirmed by The Financial Crash in 2008. There are only two people who had the power at the club to decide our strategy at every step,and as one of them has bankrolled two of our highest paid players and also persuaded Brendan Rodgers to sign up,I’ll pretty much absolve him from blame except by omission.
The blame for it all,every decision during those years,lies with one man. I’ll deal with continuing problems with him tomorrow.
Above article by BMCUWP