Planning For The Short Term
It is well over a year ago that many of us on here recognised the difficulties that any new manager at Celtic Park was going to face. That a large number of our squad then would not be with us by the end of the summer transfer window,and that many more were simply not good enough.
That a new manager-let’s call him Ange Postecoglou,for that is who we went for-faced horrendous problems in rebuilding our side and the confidence of remaining players and new signings alike. Indeed,I stated often that we should be prepared not to judge him on this season,to be content to write the season off,as long as any improvement showed us as being ready to win back our title in 2022/23.
And yet we can take time during this last international break of the season to reflect on that season so far. And obviously it is going much better than this Cassandra,normally the most optimistic of people,could possibly have wished for. So having stated the bloody obvious,why am I writing an article about it?
Well,the simple answer is that I’m not. Not really. I read an article recently in The Set Piece about how some managers seem to suffer from that four year itch,where the first three seasons are successful and the fourth is an anti-climax at best,or a complete failure at worst. The author then turns the argument on its head by comparing the records of some managers who have had continued success after that fourth year-but who changed their approach or playing personnel to do so.
The first manager he refers to is Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds. Despite being hero-worshipped in Leeds,the board decided that events in that fateful fourth season meant he had to go. Bela Guttman,who won European Cups with Benfica and AC Milan,gets a mention. Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho at various clubs,and Pochettino at Spurs. As does Pep Guardiola,whose fourth season at Barcelona saw the wheels come off,and he got out of Bayern Munich before the cycle repeated itself. Even at Man City,his fourth season points tally was significantly lower than the first three-yet who can argue that he is still successful there?
The author argues that Pep changed the style and the personnel to start the cycle again,as Sir Alex Ferguson famously did so frequently across the city,dismantling and rebuilding as required. Measured by different parameters,Big Sam and Dave Moyes at Bolton and Everton did the same.
Not in the article,but touching on a recent topic on this site,Jock Stein decided to have a ruthless clear out of the men who had brought the club such success since his arrival. It is surely no coincidence that it happened after our Partick Thistle humiliation. Yet if you look at the ages of the Lisbon Lions,many of them were still in their prime when Jock made the decision. Tommy Gemmell,John Hughes,Bobby Murdoch,Willie Wallace were all in their mid-to-late twenties,as was Jim Craig when he retired from the game to concentrate on dentistry. Surely all of them still had plenty to offer the club,and certainly none of them,Craig excepted-wanted to leave.
Jock though had his eyes on the dismantle and rebuild that the author argues is essential to maintain success. And he knew that he had The Quality Street Gang to call on,and that the addition of Dixie Deans,Stevie Murray and Ronnie Glavin would bolster that group at a cost of around £150,000. One unforeseen problem is that around six years later,only Danny McGrain would still be with us-and he had missed two years with injuries and illness.
And there,I think,lies one of the problems in the approach which the author fails to mention. That the best laid plans aft go agley! You can’t plan for injuries,you can’t plan for players getting their head turned by approaches from other sides,you can’t plan for loss of form. Or even,in the case of George Connelly,a desire to leave the game entirely. But the good managers know how to get through these,know how to adapt,know who and when to replace and who with.
AP hasn’t just had to rebuild our team and our squad this season,he has frequently had to do so on the hoof when injuries start to bite. He has coped wonderfully well to date,and that inspires confidence that he can do so on a more permanent basis if required in two or three years time. It seems that there is no place for loyalty in football after all,that players-and managers-cannot be judged by what they have given us in the past,but on what they are likely to offer us in the future.
That’s a very unforgiving position to find yourself in. But history has shown that it is a bedrock for success,even if we will inevitably sympathise with those who find themselves moved on in order that the club progresses. No room for loyalty,no room for sentiment. The only thing that matters and the one thing that must take precedence is success on the pitch.
“This is the business we are in!” Nobody ever said it was fair.
Above article by BMCUWP