Coming Back To Life
Following on from Monday excellent piece from REBUS67,it may be time to have a look at precedents for a new manager taking over after a dreadful campaign the previous season,paying particular attention to the extent of the overhaul required.
As Jock was only the fourth manager in our history-which was in its 90th year when he was unceremoniously ushered out of the door in 1978-it is only fair to start from there. Jock was famously denied the opportunity to spend a six figure sum by the board,despite our main rivals having done so almost ten years earlier. This simple fact-plus the miserly wages being offered by us at the time-certainly didn’t help the great man when we suffered the most horrendous season of injuries that I can personally recall. Allowed to spend about £60,000 of the £440,000 received from Liverpool for Kenny Dalglish,he manfully tried his best. Jock could work wonders,but sometimes the impossible is simply just that and the lack of self belief from the players-based simply on the results,IMO-was painful to watch.
Jock was well used to planning for the departure of his stars by this time. He was also well-versed in the technique of ushering in a temporary stop gap to cover for the occasional injury. Doing so every week,and in virtually every position was to prove beyond even him. Our double-winning season from the year before flopped across the line and into fifth place in the league,and White was quick to stab him in the back as a result.
Personally I never forgave him for that,but he brought in another legend as a replacement. Billy McNeill had left Celtic in 1975,our most successful captain in history,and he must have been horrified at events that season at his favourites. Probably even more so when he saw the quality of the squad that Jock was forced to choose from. Fresh from a short spell at Clyde then a highly successful year at Aberdeen,he knew the extent of the rebuild required.
He broke our transfer record to bring in Murdo McLeod and Davie Provan,taking his spend to £300,000 with the capture of his Aberdeen stalwart Dom Sullivan. Sums unimaginable to Jock of course,but to put this spend into perspective this was in the same season that Brian Clough bought the world’s first million pound player. (I should add that this is still disputed,as various other “foreigner” players may have been first!)
It was enough to win the league in a crazy season which saw a raft of postponements,resulting in a hectic fixture pile-up and the famous Monday night of 21-5-79. Largely because Billy’s signings were highly effective but also because there was already a strong nucleus of players there,players who had been denied to Jock because of injury. To go from first to fifth in a season looked bloody awful,but to do so in reverse made Billy an even bigger hero!
Billy left with three titles in five years,replaced by David Hay. I doubt anyone gave us better football to watch,with the possible exception of TB. But he was up against it with the emergence of “The New Firm” and the financially doping arrival of Souness at the huns. One title in four years was a meagre reward for him and his players-especially as they were all there for the winning,bar 85 when we blew up in the stalls!-but there weren’t too many gaps in the squad that he inherited. Famously he was denied the right to buy replacements for his problem positions at centre half and in goal for far too long or things may have been different,but the return of Billy for The Centenary Season soon saw that sorted with the arrival of Mick McCarthy for £500,000. How Hay must have wished for money like that when he needed it!
Billy needed a lot more though. We had lost Danny McGrain,Murdo,Provan and our entire front three in close season,and there was a job to do. Well,we all know how that ended,but let’s not take away from those achievements. A rebuild was needed-but again,there was a strong enough core of players there to build around. This was denied to his successor,Liam Brady. A succession of poor signings-with the exception of John Collins-and some truly mediocre promotions from youth saw him really struggling against a financially supercharged hunnery. His own successor fared no better,being denied any funds due to our own financial wasteland.
Welcome to The New Age,with Fergus and TB. The former realised that he had a club to rebuild,but the latter saw that we had a team to rebuild. Fergus wasn’t slow to put his hand in his pocket,with signings like Di Canio,Van Hooijdonk,Cadete,Thom,O’Donnell, Stubbs,MacNamara,Johnston et al. A considerable sum was spent to rebuild a shockingly poor squad inherited from the previous regime,but despite some wonderful football we always came up short. We just couldn’t break that glass ceiling and Tommy was replaced in turn by Wim Jansen.
He in turn had a number of players to replace,whether due to injury or simply leaving the building. He wasn’t slow to do it either,with such as Lambert,Burley,Jackson,Rieper and others joining us for a huge season ahead.
There were enormous holes to be filled in that squad,but WTT succeeded against the heavily stacked odds. And promptly walked out due to his continuous run-ins with a former football commentator ludicrously promoted to the role of General Manager!
Here we go again,four managers in our first ninety years-and already seven in our next twenty! The next two only lasted a year each too,with different levels of success. Dr Jo gave us Riseth,Mjallby,Viduka and also the type of player we had been waiting nearly thirty years for,Lubo. Be still,my beating heart. Barnes gave us Berkovic and Tebily amongst others. Like Scheidt. Bloody hell…
Martin O’Neill arrived with a reputation and determination,not least of which was to bloody win at all costs. I’m not convinced that he did his homework beforehand. I’m pretty sure that he was unaware of the quality already there in the likes of Jackie,Henrik,Lubo,Stan and big Mjallby for starters. He soon found out,of course,but it didn’t stop him making some signature signings. Frontloading,as AULDHEID might say. His last was the following season,with BBJ joining The Evil Genius and Henke up front. Even though he had also proved adept at getting a star from the bargain bin-Didi Agathe for £50,000?-he had little success with the likes of Fernandes and Laursen. For the latter,he might have been better advised to stick with Mahe for instance. Martin never solved the problem at left back or in goal,but by ‘eck,those were rollercoaster days when we rebuilt the club and its reputation both domestically and in Europe.
WGS then frankly inherited a mess. The nucleus of the MON side were either five years older or already gone. Henke and Big Mjallby were joined by Jackie for instance. Lubo too. Others on big contracts were considered surplus to requirements,and our new CEO was in a pissing competition with our star centre half,amongst others. Which didn’t stop him signing Tommy Gravesen,a superstar in his own mind,and who wouldn’t do what he was asked to on the pitch. Or Riordan,who was supremely talented but frankly not in control of his own mind. Model professionals like Jarosik and Nakamura helped the rebuild,but by this time it was rebuild after rebuild. We swiftly became a selling club,happy to hawk our wares at Harrods,then buy replacements at the local flea market.
Not much helped by the capture of Tony Mowbray,who spent his entire budget on a dud in The Season of Honest Mistakes!
Enter Neil Lennon and the lift off of Project Project. Again,we had a decent enough squad available,and the free signing of Joe Ledley,along with The Wall on loan and Hooper88 for £2m propelled us to eventual success-considerably helped of course by the huns going bust,which gave us a free run at the title for a good few years. Instead of using that time to blood youth,or to even bother building a team,we decided to use this as a shop window,selling our best players at the first sight of a grubby fiver while tightly controlling player wages. And when Ronny Deila came in,mainly as the assistant to our Master Of All Things CEO,we bloody nosedived.
Not RD’s fault,I may add. It was time for a change of direction. We got one in Brendan Rodgers,a top coach who knew his own mind. And one who realised that there wasn’t much needed really-except to do his job! He inherited a 40 goals a season striker-and promptly dropped him in favour of a raw teenager signed for a pittance from Fulham! That takes balls,but again much of the squad was already there. And when he walked out,disgusted at NOT being allowed to do his job,he had won back to back trebles,a magnificent seven trophies in a row,and leaving behind a side filled with players who knew how to do their job,and were fully focused on it.
To see that legacy trashed in the two years or so since is shameful. The person inheriting this mess has my utmost sympathy. Likely and confirmed departures will leave us with very few quality performers,even from those who failed us last season. Who will fill the role of goalkeeper,given that none impressed much last season? Right back? We have two centre halves,a newbie and a huge injury prone shrinking violet. A left back who is decent enough,but never anywhere near a KT nor an Izzy.
Our midfield is CalMac and maybe Rogic. Wide right we have the perennial-a problem in itself!-Jamesie while wide left we have nothing. And up front it is Ajeti and Griff,who will no doubt be squabbling over the pies this summer.
I think the above shows that we have come back from disaster before. It’s what we do. But also that we have always been the architects of our own destruction. Who knows,AP may well be the unknown quantity like WTT was,he may even have the pragmatism of WGS,or the fire and drive of MON. He might even be the superb coach that our club has been crying out for since BR left.
Sadly,I think he is going to need to be all of that and more to be successful,given the few cards our departing CEO has offered him to play with. And while I’ll find it difficult to get the smile off my face if he succeeds,I’ll know where the blame lies if he doesn’t.
And so too does every Celtic supporter. Not with the newest recruit,but with its long-serving self-serving and thankfully departing CEO.
Good luck,Ange. You’re gonna need it.
Above article by BMCUWP