Monday, May 26, 2014

Who will direct our football?

You will, like me, have been delighted to have to see the Lions return to the scene of their greatest ever triumph over the last few days. Their wives were even there, something a few of them never got to do first time around. Members of the "Celtic Media Team" followed their every step with pictures and tweets galore. The trip was underwritten by a few choice folk who paid £1800 to join the Lions. It may surprise you to know that they weren't the only ones that they joined as the board and CEO were all along for the ride. Specific instructions were given not to photograph certain members of the Celtic party but a picture slipped out of Brian Wilson, who took time out from abusing anyone who disagrees with his politics, to sacrifice himself for the good of the club. (Which reminds me, I am taking time out of my busy schedule to go to the pub on Wednesday night, please, don't thank me)

Let's have some fun and assume the search for a new manager starts when the plane back from Lisbon touches down shall we?

Like many of you I've not been exactly enamoured with the candidates that have been mentioned thus far. The worst of these by miles is Owen Coyle. It's clear Coyle has been on a mission to raise his profile in Scotland ever since Dave Whelan turfed him out at Wigan. A pal of Dermot Desmond, Coyle was on standby to take over last summer if Neil Lennon had quit then, something that Celtic firmly believed he would do right up until pre-season started. Anyone I've spoke to in and around the game since Neil Lennon stepped down has been aghast that Coyle is even quoted given that he turned down the job in 2009. What concerns me more is that he has none of the qualities required to be Celtic manager. The measure of a man is often in not what they say but what they don't say. Take Paul Scholes as an example, a man who did pretty much everything in the club game but was known as the quiet man of football. So when he does speak, normally complete sense, you listen and you'd be right to. With Coyle, he says so much, so often, you kind of think he'd more suited to replacing Graham Norton not Neil Lennon.

Coyle embodies the kind of stinkin' thinkin' you get at these times, normally fuelled by bookies, which has anyone who knows football just scratching their heads. Put simply the one thing that seems to unite the fans on this subject is: We don't want Owen Coyle.

I know there have been moves in other directions. Davie Moyes was contacted indirectly on Saturday in a "if offered, would you take it?" type way whilst another candidate was asked indirectly whether he'd be happy working under a director of football?

The director of football thing interests, assuming it wasn't Peter Lawwell that was meant, this is a road I'd like to see Celtic go down. It has to be said that whilst success in the league and Europe was there, Neil Lennon's choices of backroom staff weren't exactly a huge hit. Alan Thompson's off the field problems and "friends" were his downfall whilst Mjallby was often at odds with the manager. Garry Parker potters about hoping to be under as little spotlight as possible.

The director of football role in Scotland has a stigma attached and as Celtic supporters we shudder at the Dalglish/Barnes fiasco. Of course it has been in operation, quite successfully, at Falkirk for a few years now. It's a road Hearts have gone down and the current Neilsen/Crawford partnership is due to be replaced from within in around 3-4 years. That's the theory of course, football has many variables and it might not work. That being said, Hearts, living within their means for the first time since the 1970's, have no intention of paying off a whole backroom staff one day and then hiring a new one the next ever again.

Celtic have many coaches who have worked away behind the scenes for years now. Guys like Chris McCart, Tommy MacIntyre, Stephen Frail and John Kennedy are in with the bricks now but does anyone see them as manager material? The last main candidate through the ranks that fans clamoured for was Willie McStay, who never had a hope in hell of getting the top job, and has struggled to get a proper foothold in football since, with it unknown where his latest adventure with Celtic Nation will take him.

I think we could steal a march on a lot of teams by laying down now a structure that is for the long term but from a position of strength. I've said it before but for clarity will do so again, for me the guy tailor-made for the role is Gordon Strachan. In a part time job just now, you give him a remit to set up a structure with emphasis on coaches and players rising to the top then that man will be in his element. He doesn't need to deal with the media, which he loathes, he is able to see out a huge passion he has for coaching and making players better and he can be there to lean on for all coaches at the club, including the top one. He can also deal with the Lawwell/Park dynamic which would take the pressure off a new head coach.

And who should be that head coach?

Many people have said to me "You must want Jackie then?" and I've avoided pleading his case for two reasons, the obvious bias and the fact that he doesn't need me to do that for him. What I will say is that Jackie has a lot of the qualities I'd want from our new man. When he took over at Partick Thistle, he did not think players were fit. After an internal study, he got back that what the problem was was the recovery between games wasn't helping. So he brought in people to deal with it, at his own expense, and, well, you see the difference. When he took over at Dundee Utd the players actually weren't fit. The diet was all wrong and lot of the players were not enjoying their football. He was also told their were no young players worth a game and the club would be saddled with debt for decades. The emergence of young players is obvious, but the increase in crowds due to the type of football played has wiped out the debt. Compare that to the £8m debt Hibs are carrying and the £16m Aberdeen are.

So what are the qualities he has? First off, a strong inner belief in what he is doing. There's no bullshit about Jackie and he doesn't get distracted from his goal. He has standards and I like that in a manager, players need to live up to them or find another club. He encourages youth and good football, thinking long term always. Derek McInnes has received plaudits and awards this season but how good has his team actually played? How many times have they hit four or more goals? How long term are his signings?

It is often said that it's "too early" for Jackie but he has far more experience now than Neil Lennon had in the summer of 2010. Hey, it's all about opinions and I just gave you mine.

Speaking of summer 2010, can we not go through the same charade we did back then when appointing a manager? It's obvious to everyone that Neil Lennon caught Celtic on the hop last week (you don't invite a guy you know is leaving on holiday with you) and perhaps it wasn't the best idea for Mr Lawwell to still go on his trip to Lisbon when we sit without a leader. The days of the long summers of 97 and 98 without a manager are long gone and I hope Celtic don't involve themselves in any kind of stage-managed bullshit and just get the job done.

Otherwise even Brian Wilson may go radge at them.

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