Coffee’s For Closers

A-1Alec Baldwin has probably never had a finer seven minutes on screen than those he gets in the magnificent David Mamet film Glengarry Glen Ross.

His character, Blake, was not in the Pulitzer Prize winning stage version of the story; Mamet added him later, and Baldwin was cast knowing he’d only be in the film for one scene.

When he read the script, he didn’t hesitate to accept the role.

His little cameo towers over the whole film and haunts the other characters, the “deadbeat” sales force who chase the “good leads” at Rio Rancho Properties, a real estate office where desperation fogs the air like the steam that rises from the pavements outside at night.

None of the three men forced to sit through his speech that night is a natural “closer”. Whatever skills they once posssessed are gone. None are now capable of making a high pressure sale, getting some poor sap to “sign on the line which is dotted.”

They are losers, all bit Ricky Roma, played by Al Pacino, who is riding high and therefore doesn’t need to there, sat at the “sales conference” where Blake gives them the most de-motivational motivating speech that’s ever been put on film.

“Your names Levine?” he asks Jack Lemon, with the deepest contempt.

“You call yourself a salesman, you sonofabitch?”

Shelly “The Machine” Levine looks back in shock. He was once the “top name on the board” and is now a man almost weighed down by a “streak” of constant failure, of doors closed in his face, of telephone hang-ups, of a daily grind of humiliation. He was standing with a mug in his hand, waiting to fill it, when Blake singled him out for the first battering.

“Put that coffee DOWN!” Blake shouts from across the room. “Coffee’s for closers only.”

Blake isn’t kidding around.

He’s been “sent downtown from Mitch and Murray”, the big bosses, on what he says, without a trace of irony, is “a mission of mercy” to give these guys the news; “We’re adding a little something to this month’s sales contest,” he says. “First prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Wanna see second prize?” he asks, brandishing a set of steak knives, which seems like a lousy substitute for a car until he tells them what’s next.

“Third prize is you’re fired,” he says, looking venomously at the three men – two of whom will be “hitting the bricks” at the end of the month – and asks them, “You get the picture? You laughing now?”

No-one is, and thinking about the scene neither am I.

At its blackest moment, he’s sitting across the desk from Moss, played by a waspish Ed Harris, who at first thinks he can meet Blake’s aggression and contempt with his own. But Blake isn’t in the least bit intimidated by this joker.

He takes off his watch and brandishes it in Moss’s face.

“This watch cost more than your car,” he tells him. “I made $970,000 last year. How much did you make? See, pal, that’s who I am … and you’re nothing.” As Moss’ expression changes to betray his own stark self-loathing Blake hammers it home to him. “Nice guy? I don’t give a shit. Good father? @@@@ you! Go home and play with your kids! You wanna work here? Close!

Which brings me to the point of the piece.

Yesterday, Celtic scraped through a disturbingly difficult 90 minutes at home against Partick Thistle, a game we’d have dropped points in but for Leigh Griffiths, who’s become an indispensable part of our team in a way no player has probably since Larsson.

I find it alarming that we’ve become so reliant on one player.

We’ve got the biggest wage budget in Scottish football, and without Griffiths God knows what state our season would be in. To say he got the manager out of jail yesterday is to put it mildly. One Celtic site says a lot of our bloggers would have been tearing up their match reports when he stuck that ball into the net; mine didn’t change one word.

I lost faith in Ronny Deila months ago. A late goal from a player who was thrown into the mix because the manager didn’t have any other card in the deck, any other plan, has done nothing whatsoever to restore it.

I don’t know if it can be restored any longer.

We were awful yesterday. The playing style is awful. The tactical system is awful. The manager’s refusal to change it is awful. The mounting sense of dread many of us get watching this team play, knowing Champions League qualifiers will expose our weaknesses more horribly than SPL teams are capable of – as has been the case in the past two years – is awful.

The eternal optimists – or those who just can’t bring themselves to think, let alone acknowledge, that there might be something wrong at Celtic Park – have wondered aloud if this isn’t the moment that “sparks” the team.

I don’t know whether to laugh at the sentiment or cry about it. I don’t know where such hope comes from; it’s the very definition of having faith – “a firm belief in something for which there is no proof.”

I’m pretty angry today, I was even angrier yesterday, and that’s make me quite snappy when it comes to this subject, and in that I’ve probably said things I shouldn’t have said – and didn’t even mean – in public, and in private.

But this is what comes from frustration and the realisation that things aren’t going to change in a hurry, that for this to be over, barring the miracle we all hope for but in which I simply don’t believe, something awful, something irrevocable, something disastrous, will have to come to pass.

And right now, it feels like all we’re doing is marking time towards that, and it’s like waiting to be shot.

One guy on my Facebook page – Peter Murray, thanks mate – cut to the heart, this morning, of why days like this are so rough and why, invariably, they see us arguing with, and falling out with, each other, which is the very last thing we should be doing.

“This is like a loving family watching someone they all love dying in front of their eyes,” he said, and whether you think that’s overdone or not, you can’t argue with the next bit. “We all care about what happens to them but end up arguing amongst ourselves about the best way to help them.”

And that’s the crux of it, right there.

None of us wants to see things get worse. We’re all trying to analyse this thing and find answers, all of us, that is, but for that small and shrinking number who refuse even to accept that there’s anything wrong.

But you know what? Families always have those folk too.

In time, even they won’t be able to deny what’s in front of their eyes.

There are some amongst us who, whether they believe in Ronny or not, honestly think he is the best manager we’re likely to get at the present time. The question as to who we’d replace him with haunts them, even more than the bad performances do. Their fear over there is so consuming that it’s paralysed them into apathy.

I think they’re woefully underestimating our pull, but I don’t doubt that their belief is genuine.

At the same time, others think we would attract David Moyes or someone else, but those guys would want money, or full autonomy to run things, neither of which they are likely to get, and I’m not sure where those folk get their own eternal optimism from.

The stuff that’s wrong at Celtic Park doesn’t begin, or end, at the manager’s office.

We can change the guy in that room – and in my opinion we should, we must – but his replacement would probably be another punt, another shot in the dark, exposing us to even greater uncertainty.

Deila is not the only person at Celtic Park in whom I have no faith.

But for him I do at least have some sympathy.

In my brutally honest opinion he is shockingly out of his depth, in a job that is now threatening to overwhelm him, and he’s been the architect of much of his own trouble with an inflexibility that would be understandable in a guy who was sweeping all before him aside but seems here either to be the height of arrogance or the complete absence of a Plan B.

But not all of this is his fault.

I have some sympathy with what he’s had to put up with up since he planted his flag on Scottish soil. Much of it has been unbelievable and even hateful. The media, right from the start, were outrageous and determined to sink him, and their own arrogance and dismissal of his achievements in Norway were typically petty, small-minded and, in many cases, simply anti-Celtic.

We could appoint Guardiola and many of these people would find a reason to sneer.

This is why I understand, above all, the enormous reluctance amongst our support to even seem like we’re throwing our manager to the wolves and giving his critics a warm body to dance around.

But I’m not interested in what the media writes and I never have been. The day we let something they print or say or even don’t print or say get in the way of what’s best for our club is a bad one indeed.

It pays, at a time like this, to be able to detach yourself from the screaming and analyse things dispassionately.

And on that basis, his jacket’s on a shoogly peg and it ought to be.

Yesterday, a lot of people took serious umbridge to some of the commentary on our match, particularly that of Pat Bonner. In their haste to simply dismiss anything the media had to say about Ronny on the basis that it’s all negative anyway, they slammed our former keeper for the simple act of telling the unpalatable truth. We were rank yesterday. The criticism was deserved.

We’re not tossing our manager to the snarling pack by acknowledging that.

These people aren’t always wrong. I would rather they covered us honestly, as Bonner did yesterday, than have a host of ex-Celt’s lining up to tell us transparent bullshit about everything at the club being just tickety-boo.

Another club’s supporters swallow a constant diet of that, and it hasn’t done them the slightest good.

We took a risk on Ronny Deila, and I supported that risk.

I didn’t start out opposed to Ronny but neither am I a bandwagon jumper.

Time, performances, the stuff I can see, eroded my confidence, especially over the last eight or so months.

What do I think of Ronny Deila on a personal level?

He seems, from a distance, to be a Good Man.

Even the media hacks who’ve spent the year baiting him agree that he’s a Nice Person and pleasant to be around.

Yet when it comes to what’s best for Celtic, I don’t care about any of that.

Because coffee’s for closers, and I want to win, every week.

Beyond that, I want us to be more than a provincial Scottish club with a once proud name.

I want to see signs of life, that we’re moving in the right direction, that we’re still committed not just to football success but to winning it the right way, and what I’ve watched lately would get a game stopped in a public park.

This is business, not personal.

Football management is a tough environment, where sometimes nice guys finish last.

Ruthlessness is sometimes part of the job description and I think he lacks the killer instinct as much as the requisite tactical skills.

My disquiet on that front preceded my doubts about his ability in the dugout.

I knew from the start that this guy was going to be under intense media pressure, and that some would look at his record and conclude that he was a “yes man” hired because he wouldn’t rock the boat.

I knew there would need to be an early show of strength.

Yet there, at his first press conference, he was embarrassed and upstaged by the chief executive in a moment that still boils my blood today, when John Collins was forced on him in front of the whole of the Scottish media.

I wrote an article about that at the time, and I didn’t hide my fury or my belief that accepting this would be a mistake and one that would hamstring our coach right out of the starting gate. I feel unhappily vindicated.

Rumours continue to circulate about the negative impact Collins has on the dressing room. I have no way of knowing if these reports are true, but they are the sort that have swirled around him for years and which haunted him at Hibs and Livingston.

In short, I don’t think the manager operates in harmonious circumstances, and I don’t think he ever really has.

He was denied his own people and perhaps there’s a little bunker mentality set in with him now.

I wouldn’t hold that against him at all.

But my sympathy doesn’t extend very far.

I think of his last two press conferences and I shake my head in disbelief at his lack of concern over what we’re watching right now. For him to have said, after the Hearts game in which I thought we struggled, that he had his “old team” back again, and to have watched yesterday’s all too predictable horror show and then heard him express his delight … something just doesn’t compute. It’s just wrong.

I cannot conceive of this man taking us into next season’s Champions League qualifiers.

Our performances in Europe since he took over have been beyond bad, and he’s not exactly put teams out against the best clubs in Europe. One shining moment – against Milan – does not cover a record of disaster and disgrace, and that’s how I think it’s been.

Disastrous and disgraceful.

He’s a nice guy, but so what?

Good father? Then he should go home and play with his kids.

If he wants to work at Celtic Park his team has to close.

They have to start burying teams week in week out, first to demonstrate to all comers that we’re the biggest and best side in this country bar none, and not simply one that relies on having no competition.

Progress in Europe is beyond him.

If he takes us into the Champions League next season that will be an unacceptable risk from our club for which more than one person would have to pay with his job.

I love our club too much to keep these views to myself, much as a lot of folk wish I would.

A few weeks ago, Jonathon Wilson, from The Guardian, wrote a magnificent piece on Jose Mourinho, and in it he mentioned the “three year cycle” which claims so many managerial scalps, and which has haunted the Portuguese boss on the only two occasions in his career when he has stayed at a team beyond two seasons.

The theory, proposed by the Hungarian coach, Béla Guttmann, who managed Benfica to two European Cups, is that “the third season is fatal.” By then, a manager’s tactics are known to his opponents and his style of play is easily exploited.

Few coaches, a very few, buck the trend and even at Celtic we can see Martin O’Neill’s failure to win three in a row and the way Gordon Strachan very nearly didn’t, taking his third season to the final day.

Deila’s team selections and tactics are already being found wanting, and we’re midway through season two.

The best does not look as if it’s in front of us.

If Ronny Deila isn’t willing to change the way his team plays, and we don’t see some improvement on the park – and one that isn’t simply a “one game wonder”, forgotten the next week in a return to lethargic, geriatric football – then, to quote Blake in that searing seven minutes of screen time, I don’t care how nice a guy he is, Ronny can “hit the bricks pal, and beat it … because you are going OUT!”

This is no time for cheap sentimentality.

The longer it takes for change to happen at Parkhead the more days like these we’re going to go through.

I don’t know about you, but I’m already fed up with it.

(Writing these blogs is my full time job, and I couldn’t do it without the support of my readers. If you like what I do you can make a donation at the below link. Thanks to those who have.)


James Forrest

James Forrest is a writer and blogger from Glasgow, and the author of two books, Fragments and Believers, which are available on Amazon.

31 thoughts on “Coffee’s For Closers

  • 3 January, 2016 at 5:49 pm

    All correct James on the game yesterday..rank rotten.
    Who in all honesty would have begrudged Thistle a draw OR even a win for that matter, they passed the ball better,had good chances and were good to watch.
    The managers “my old team back” comment should have been the end for Ronnie and his backroom staff.
    Would it have been the end for Ronnie if Thistle did win?
    I think not and that just goes to show the apathy that is pervading Celtic park just now.
    We seemingly cant afford Mc Geady or Moyes,no big deal is that for me especially on Aiden so who will we sign? who will go? where will our next manager come from?.When the all is said and done the signings that have been made have been awful…..especially the Dundee Utd trio……and Ronnie has had his day, change now or we will go backwards even more.

  • 3 January, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    James, I cannot disagree with your post, in fact I have been on about this change for more than a few months now!
    Yes Ronny is a nice guy, he is a genuine guy too, but way out in the deep water, on his own! To be foisted with John Collins and an untried and unrested John Kenndy, should not and should never happen at Celtic!
    We should have a Manager of the calibre of David Moyes, I have been an advocate of this in these months of torment! Give a better Manager the cash that is most certainly needed to turn our situation round, BEFORE, the end of the season, in order to bed in, a potential Champions League team!
    You are spot on….Its not Ronny\’s fault, that actually lies at the feet of Peter Lawwell and ultimately with Dermot Desmond! They have been complicit and out present situation is their fault and unfortunately, Ronny is getting the battering and is slowly gonna lose it all!
    This situation needs resolving in this January window, as a matter of urgency!

  • 3 January, 2016 at 5:59 pm

    you don\’t get it James…
    you (can) write well, but observe poorly.

    times have changed.
    the days of turning up to parkhead to see the \”finished product\” sailed long ago. while you were too busy focusing on events elsewhere.. reality hit some of us.
    we have to start again and develop.
    this is a long haul, not a 1, 2, even 3 or 4 season turn around. this is an obvious, necessary re-structuring that you are wilfully objecting to. that\’s fine. your prerogative. but please resist this knee jerk \”wifi generation\” , \”toys out the pram\” hysteria.

    maybe the EFL is more your thing?

  • 3 January, 2016 at 6:02 pm

    Could not agree with youmore. The owner is not intrested nor the million pound man ,mismanagement on a grand scale.Why do we never build on solid foundations ?We wait until the crowds start dwindling, the results go pear shaped,the players are sub standard, Europe is a shambles then we act why ?Always strengthen when your strong ,it’s not f****** rocket science HH.

  • 3 January, 2016 at 6:12 pm

    Over the top. Football is a game. This article is riddled with a sense of entitlement that exists in the other side of the city. We’ve been without our captain and top goalscorer for weeks. Where would Leicester be without Wes Morgan and Jamie Vardy? Nowhere near the top of the league. That’s football. The players have no confidence because of “supporters” like you, waiting to hiss and write articles at every mistake. Don’t get me wrong we have signed players who aren’t good enough or are at the wrong stage of their career – GMS, Armstrong, Cifcti but the manager has recognised that and spoke about the need for experience/winners. It’s the same with what’s happening at Man U, a support willing them to fail causes even managers like LVG to doubt themselves, players like Wayne Rooney suddenly look average. They’ve spent £200 million. And have a gaffer on 5M a year. Faithful through and through.

  • 3 January, 2016 at 6:15 pm

    I didn’t think he should have got the job. That said, I gave him a chance. However, your right James he might be a nice guy but he is tactically inept. The team is boring to watch too. I only see it getting worse.

  • 3 January, 2016 at 6:19 pm

    I think you missed the point, David. I am fairly certain that James, like me and many others, would happily accept the current scenario you have described, if we were actually seeing a young team progress and improve, with real signs of flair and imagination. I would be the first to applaud if we were watching this young team develop in an exciting fashion, with a manager capable of more than one dreadful tactic that simply does not work. In this environment, young players are being harmed, not developed. The football we see is dross and unexciting, and we can all see the club going backwards, not forwards.
    The whole club philosophy is tainted with mediocrity now. And I am bloody sick of it because it doesn\’t have to be this way.

  • 3 January, 2016 at 6:56 pm

    Was that cathartic, hope your feeling better. Anybody that has played football knows no team wins every game. I actually thought Thistle played well, got the ball down and looked to play. I don’t think RD is saying to the front four, “don’t try to develop a football understanding between you and just go out there and play for yourself”. It looks like they are all competing against each other on the pitch, rather than playing as a team. HH

  • 3 January, 2016 at 7:15 pm

    It dosent need to be this way indeed James you are spot on We want to actually SEE improvement than dread going to games and hiding behind our hands waiting on the next calamity Ronny is buying players- good players – and not using them to our advantage or theirs see Scott Allan and GMS or indeed is he playing the players we do have in their proper positions As I read on a blog, what next ? -James Forrest in goal !!!! No Ronny Im sorry but Im afraid you should go and their should be a clear out of Backroom staff going with him

  • 3 January, 2016 at 7:46 pm

    Lots of really good points James.

    Every Celtic supporter that I know is united in the blatantly obvious that our manager has completely lost his players and is way out of his depth.

    It is true that he is not the only problem.

    I also don’t go along with the ‘we can’t get any better’ view. We are talking Basic errors here.

    For me Ronny, the tipping poing came againts the swedes in the CL. In both legs, we were tactically naive, beyond belief, shipping 4 goals from corner kicks whilst allowing a celtic reject free reign to attack us at will…….I could go on and on.

    Great movie, by the way. Jack Lemons performance is something else and almost peerless.

  • 3 January, 2016 at 8:13 pm

    The Baldwin character attitude of win at any cost is disgusting. Someone like that would use nepotism and tax evasion to win.
    The majority of the current Celtic squad are nnot giving 100%. What are they waiting for, Ronny to get the sack. When Ronny and Johnny go they can take the dishonest players with them. The ones who take the wages and blame the management and the system on the bad results.
    Win at any cost is not the Celtic way.

  • 3 January, 2016 at 8:33 pm

    Would love to know…..who do you think in the current team “blame the management and system” ? or man enough to do so?
    Also who are the dishonest players?
    Commons is the only player i am aware of to blast the management team………and he was right and big enough to do it!……and forced wrongly to say sorry

  • 3 January, 2016 at 8:43 pm

    I disagree , it is ronnys fault , what a load of shite this patter about five year plans, that may well be the case and having to bring younger players in for the future. However that does not mean that in the present day our manager cant get his tactics right to beat thistle or hearts out of sight on a saturday. Are we not man for man better than all our rivals? I agree that the strategy is not working and we do not have the right people in charge of our club but that does not excuse our inability to put on a show and beat the teams in our league in most games. If strachen or oneil came back do you think the rival managers would find it so easy to stop us? No chance , so sorry i blame ronny and his staff as no matter what the state of our game is we are still the top of the tree and should be pumping these teams

  • 3 January, 2016 at 8:53 pm

    I suppose I can agree with both James and David in some of what they both say ,the days of spending a lot of money are gone and we also need to grow our own,apart from the European games ,I thought that Ronny was going to get the team fitter but that\’s not happened but playing one up front makes it easy for teams to defend against and with the full backs pushing forward easy to counter as other concerns is the two years he has been here the players he brings to the club don\’t seem to fit the system ,we clearly need a tall striker who can run to play his system that would be the basis of his plan A next would be a skilful midfielder and then a tall strong defender maybe then it we would improve as a team

  • 3 January, 2016 at 9:40 pm

    You are willing to accept mediocrity. I’m not.

    I don’t believe – not for one second – this “long haul” bullshit.

    As I’ve explained many times, this “buy them young and cheap and sell them on” stuff isn’t BUILDING anything!

    It’s keeping us in a constant state of flux. Are you too dumb to see that?

  • 3 January, 2016 at 9:40 pm

    The board relies on that “faithful through and through” pish.

    It’s what lets them inflict us with this crap.

  • 3 January, 2016 at 9:41 pm

    Think I’m feeling better?

    I will feel better when some of the people who did this to us are gone.

    Then, and only then …

  • 3 January, 2016 at 9:41 pm

    Who’s talking about “win at any costs”?

    I’ve said in the piece I want us to win a certain way.

    The Celtic Way.

    Are you telling me, honestly, that’s what we’re seeing?

  • 3 January, 2016 at 10:18 pm

    We are a mediocre team, with less than mediocre team management and worse still, people are now accepting this mediocrity. We are not watching a Celtic style team. The current squad would be much improved by a change of management and getting back to playing footba

  • 3 January, 2016 at 10:20 pm

    …Football the Celtic way. Fifty years of following, week I week out may end if this does not change. Like James, had enough.

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