Howe snub ‘mortifying’ for Celtic

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May 29, 2021
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    Eddie Howe (right) at BournemouthEddie Howe (right) was unable to bring the backroom team he wanted to Celtic

    According to ABC News in Australia, the country woke up "in raptures" at the news that former Socceroos head coach Ange Postecoglou is the new favourite to take over at Celtic.

    Raptures is not a word you'd hear in the green corners of Glasgow these days. Rage, rancour, resentment, for sure. But not raptures.

    Once, in a different part of town, there was the Banter Years. Now, in the wake of Eddie Howe's dramatic U-turn over becoming Celtic manager, we appear to have a further proliferation of the Bhanter Years.

    Celtic are said to be in "advanced talks" with a prospective new manager. The assumption at this point is that it's the Greek-born Aussie.

    • Celtic turn to another candidate as Howe deal collapses

    Everybody with an interest in this will have Googled the hell out of Postecoglou's name in the past 24 hours. In the space of a day, our general knowledge of the man's work, from Australia to Yokohama F Marinos in Japan, has gone from being the bloke who took his country to the World Cup in 2014 to something far deeper.

    Whoever comes in now is, of course, second choice. How many big hitters would be happy to accept the job in those circumstances?

    Celtic say they've gone from believing they had Howe in the bag on Wednesday, to finding out he was not coming on Thursday, to being in advanced talks with somebody else on Friday afternoon.

    That sounds like they're speaking with somebody more in the Ronny Deila mould – grateful for the opportunity and happy to drop everything and come quickly while possibly accepting any restrictions imposed on him because it's a massive step-up in his career. Rather than a Brendan Rodgers type character who'd want to do a whole lot of due diligence and get guarantees of control before signing on the dotted line.

    Can you really go from nowhere to "advanced talks" with a big name in the space of a day?

    Postecoglou could be a revelation. Who knows? The point here is not Postecoglou, it's how Celtic ended up with Postecoglou, if that is who they are now talking to.

    For practically every minute of their nine-in-a-row years, and most especially in the time of the quadruple treble, the Celtic hierarchy believed the club was an example to all others, a champion on and off the field, a template of good practice.

    Ange PostecoglouAnge Postecoglou led Yokohama F Marinos to the title in Japan in 2019

    In conversation, the superiority was unmissable – as were all the trophies that underpinned their view they had all the right answers and that their friends 'over the road' had none. If they could see a dark day coming then they thought it was still a long way off. The 10 would be done, Rangers would be broken, Steven Gerrard would leave, Ibrox would implode and the Celtic dominance would continue.

    Everything has changed, of course. The speed of it, relatively speaking, has been breakneck.

    Celtic were criticised heavily for leaving it so long to remove a toiling Neil Lennon. In reply, they indicated that they were being loyal and patient and that a man with Lennon's history at the club warranted the leeway. That was a poor call.

    With Howe, they showed loyalty to their number one choice and patience when he delayed and delayed. Again, it was a poor call.

    Celtic, in desperate need of a rebuild in the hands of a hungry and dynamic manager, were effectively made to sit in the corner by Howe as he waited for some backroom operators at Bournemouth to make up their minds on whether they wanted this challenge in Glasgow or not.

    The club's planning was put on hold by Bournemouth's technical director, Richard Hughes, who was to be Celtic's head of recruitment despite the fact that recruitment there over the past two seasons has been riotously expensive and not good enough to get them out of England's Championship.

    The monster rebuild process was paused as Bournemouth's first-team coaches, Simon Weatherstone and Stephen Purches, waited for the regular season to end, then for the play-offs to end, only to say no when they did. Celtic say they did not penny pinch here. They say they did not impose any restrictions whatsoever on who Howe could or couldn't have.

    Given that Celtic lost out on players like John McGinn, Fraser Forster, David Marshall and Ivan Toney because of misplaced frugality, the Celtic fans might not be minded to believe that the fault does not lie with their board in all of this. The disconnect between fans and management at Celtic is now looking like a chasm.

    The club say that Howe's decision was not their fault. Waiting an age for him and his people to make up their mind doesn't show them in a good light though.

    When Howe's agent said in early April that his client had no intention of getting back into management until the summer "at the earliest", that should have been a clarion call to the board to move on from him. They didn't need a prevaricator, they needed a man who was psyched to the high heavens to get on with the work that's required at Celtic Park.

    Neil Lennon and Shane DuffyNeil Lennon's signing of Shane Duffy on loan from Brighton did not turn out well

    In the manner of some of their defending last season, Celtic seemed to back off and give him time and space. Celtic might not be guilty of placing restrictions on Howe, but they are guilty of wasting weeks and months on this.

    And it's mortifying for them. The club that prided themselves on great governance is looking pretty amateurish.

    This is just the latest in a long line of moments that have contributed to the unravelling of Celtic's reputation as a steady ship. Giving Lennon the manager's job while in the showers at Hampden was perhaps the start of it. To this day, that was a weird scenario.

    Missing out on key targets who could have been excellent and then signing others, at great expense, who turned out to be hopeless. The slapstick with their goalkeepers, the Shane Duffy signing, millions spent on two poor strikers. The Boli Bolingoli fiasco, the ill-fated trip to Dubai and Lennon's seriously ill-advised media conference in its wake, the horrible losses to Sparta Prague and Rangers (4-1, 4-1, 4-1), the exit from the League Cup to Ross County. The constant talk of players wanting out, the fact that they finished a scarcely believable 25 points behind Rangers in what was supposed to be their 10-in-a-row season.

    It's been one calamity after another. Howe's bombshell is just the latest. On top of this, you have a rising tide of disaffection among the support.

    It's easy to see it as entitled fans drunk on success lashing out because the good times are over and they can't handle it, but it seems more profound than that. They feel they're being taken advantage of, that they're not being listened to, that the hierarchy wants to see the colour of their money but doesn't want to hear their thoughts on the direction the club is heading. One supporters group after another talk of being disrespected by the current regime.

    The trust is evaporating – and you can see why. Last midweek, season ticket holders were encouraged to renew with the carrot of a manager (they didn't name Howe, but…) being in place very soon along with a £50 voucher for the club shop as compensation for the hundreds of pounds they spent to watch their team in the flesh but couldn't because of Covid.

    Asking your fans to stump up season ticket money while there's no manager, no sporting director, no scout and no new players in place is a bit rich, particularly since there's no guarantee, in Covid times, that they're going to get any more value for money next season than they did last season. A £50 voucher doesn't cut it when they're spending hundreds to sit in the house to watch their failing team.

    What will happen now is that former players of Postecoglou will be contacted and, other than former Rangers midfielder Bob Malcolm appearing to have been less enamoured while the pair were at Brisbane Roar, he will be portrayed as the second coming of Rodgers, a man of vision, a coaching genius, a person who will weed out the weak while replacing them with unerring accuracy in the transfer market.

    None, some, or all of that might be true, but if it's Postecoglou then it's a punt. They went all-in on Howe and lost. There's been an awful lot of that at Celtic Park this past year.


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    May 29, 2021
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