Graeme McGarry: Why should Celtic concentrate on the long term instead of the 10-man problem on the bench?


About Graeme McGarry

On your wedding day, it’s like rain. A free travel, when there you are. Or protesting that the boss of your club should be sacked only to further protect his place.

Beyond those who caused the violent scenes outside Celtic Park on Sunday, a sense of irony might lie, but the clashes between angry fans and police outside the stadium after the loss to Ross County seem to have only served to reinforce the stance of Dermot Desmond and Peter Lawwell that Neil Lennon should remain the manager of Celtic.

The likelihood of Lennon still becoming Celtic boss on Monday morning appeared remote at best when the final whistle blew at tea time on Sunday. But now, almost two days later, he and his players are preparing to board the plane to Milan.

If there had not been a global pandemic and if Glasgow had not been in Stage 4 of the coronavirus restrictions of the Scottish government, then a large crowd of angry fans outside Celtic Park would have been totally understandable and definitely no surprise considering the run the team is currently on.

It was surprising to see, however, in the current context, and that was especially the case when rage turned to aggression.

However, what should not be lost in the justified punishment of these individuals is that they were clearly the unacceptable expression of rage that for several weeks and even months has been building up in the broader Celtic support.

The scenes that took place outside Celtic Park over the weekend should not be excused, but you can also not use these fans as confirmation that Celtic fans are uniquely hysterical and wrong to challenge the leadership of the club when seeing the worst home run since the 1950s.

For a fixture list that was never fulfilled, these fans eventually declined refunds on season tickets. For a season where the closest they can get to the action is through Celtic TV, they have spent hundreds on season tickets. Thus, like all other fans, they have the right to be emotional and even upset about the direction of their club.

So not only did the violent protests save Lennon’s work, they were also an easy diversion from the real problems facing the larger fan base.

This incident has, however, come and gone. The Champions League, Europa League and even the Betfred Cup are over for Celtic as well. If the unusual opportunity to win a tenth consecutive league title – a feat that also enters precarious terrain – is not to slip them by as well, the question now is what comes next.

Discussing potential applicants for a managerial post that is not even empty yet is an unacceptable matter. Particularly when the man in the role has such a reputation as Neil Lennon has among Celtic supporters. It could be quite telling that a significant portion of them share so much disappointment with him despite this.

Should Celtic decide to put Lennon out of his present misery, the real problem can start for the board of the club. No doubt they would like to make an appointment that would be advantageous both for the club to win a 10th consecutive title in the short term and for the growth of the club in the long term, but at this level, these goals seem difficult to accomplish simultaneously.

The fast appointment of former manager Gordon Strachan is inevitable if the bookies have their way (and while it’s difficult to find a poor one, the search for the next coach is one place where they usually don’t),

That may well occur, but replacing a manager who could be identified as “old school” with another who is cut from a similar cloth seems counter-intuitive. If fans believe like players stopped playing for him because of Lennon’s obsolete tactics and lack of confidence in topics like sports science, then when a similar figure returns through the gates of Lennoxtown, it’s unlikely they will instantly rediscover their mojo.

Both men’s perceptions have always been quite harsh, but it is unlikely that the hiring of 63-year-old Strachan, who is currently technical director at Dundee and has not been on the coaching bench since his mutually negotiated resignation from the Scottish national team in 2017, would restore trust in the recruiting process for Celtic.

In reality, after chief executive Peter Lawwell fired Lennon in a fit of euphh, the “process” has been undermined.


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