Everything Is Broken

neil-lennon

This is a hard sodding article to write. This is not what I’d hoped to be doing this evening.

 There are some who’ve read the last couple of blogs, and who know my feelings on where our club is headed, as well as on the people who lead it, who will not believe that.

In some wee corner of their demented minds, they actually do believe that we, the critics, hope for nights like this so we can climb on our soap box. I caution them never to say that to my face.

Tonight, as the ball hit the back of the net for the second time, I got momentarily lost in anger and frustration and I did a little cursing, just one word, but repeated several times in an extremely aggrieved tone. I was hurting, as much as anyone, but mine was a different kind of hurt, the kind that comes from having watched an unfolding disaster you’d actually expected, something you had predicted in advance. It was an anger born of deep frustration.

That frustration has almost spilled over tonight reading some online posts, particularly from the supporters of what is laughably referred to as “the strategy.” In a previous article I mourned the growing attitude amongst Celtic fans of “settling for” less than what we can get, and are due, for the size of our club. Some of those who have defended “the strategy” are now talking about qualifying for the Europa League as a blessing because we are not cut out for the big stage.

Shame on you for that attitude. Shame.

But you know what? In one sense I agree with you. Celtic have behaved like a tier 2 team so far, and it will be only fitting if we end up in the competition reserved for them. This is the price we pay for putting the balance sheet in front of the team sheet. For pursuing a strategy that allows forward momentum only up to a point.

Some of you tonight are making excuses – pathetic excuses – for abject failure, anything not to face the truth.

Let’s have the truth.

Tonight, the blame goes in so many directions it staggers me. We have a majority shareholder who acts like an absentee landlord, and I would rather he sold up and pissed off than maintain such influence when, to the best of our knowledge, he plays no part in the day to day running of the thing.

I think if there were a fans poll most would feel happier if Dermott Desmond sold his shares and was never seen at Celtic Park again.

For the last four or five years I’ve felt exactly the same way about Peter Lawwell, a man who outlived his usefulness quite some time ago and ought to have resigned after his failure to sign a striker in the Willo Flood transfer window, an appalling event, which cost us three league championships. I also believe he went against the manager’s wishes on at least two prior occasions over players who were sold. I also question whether or not he’s had an influence in some of those we signed. I know for sure he acted as the point man in second guessing, and over-ruling, our current manager on some of the players we have signed, or failed to.

Lawwell has more influence at Celtic Park than he should. He is overpaid, and underachieving, to a fare-thee-well. I’ll get back to that point a little further on.

The person who assumes a great deal of the blame here is Neil Lennon. He put out a team tonight that was baffling. He stuck to staggeringly inept tactics long after it was obvious to every other person watching that they were never likely to bear fruit.

I told friends at half time that we could play all night with that playing system and not score a goal, but it took Neil Lennon another half hour before he saw what any one of us could see, plainly.

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I ask you, which high level, top rated manager would play one man up front – and said man not even a natural goal-scorer – when the opposition was playing five at the back? Even Cristiano Ronaldo would struggle to play in that system. It is abject. It is second rate stuff. It is unacceptable, and it betrays weaknesses which have no place in the Celtic Park manager’s office.

One or two people were wetting their pants this week over the In Search Of A Spine article, which I posted. I was even accused of calling Neil Lennon a coward, even though I had said – explicitly said – that Lennon was no such thing. Neil Lennon, the man, has shown the kind of courage that is an inspiration to all of us, and I would take a bullet for him. In his personal life, he’s been through as much as any man. It makes me laugh when I hear McCoist being given sympathy instead of criticism for “what he has been through.” It’s nothing on what Neil Lennon has come through.

For all that, Neil Lennon, the manager, gets no special favours. As a man once said “this ain’t show friends, it’s show business”, and in terms of tonight, and other displays, he simply has no hiding place. Some of his tactical decisions are a joke. Some of his team selection decisions have been frankly ridiculous, and in allowing his team to be so thoroughly gutted by the board without securing the personnel he required he has shown me nothing that leads me to believe he’s a strong enough personality to fight his corner against his bosses.

Outside of his job, Neil Lennon shows extraordinary courage. Within the confines of Celtic Park, he is a yes man, who knows his place and doesn’t rock the boat. This doesn’t make him a coward. It makes him human.

He won’t bite the hand that feeds him, and whilst understandable, in a sense, I would rather the manager of our club staked out his territory and enforced his own will, rather than have decisions taken out of his hands.

Lennon talked about bringing back the thunder, but in too many games his sides lose with a whimper, and in certain matches he seems chronically afraid of taking risks. In terms of his return in silverware, for a manager of a club our size, and in our uniquely strong position, he has drastically underachieved in domestic football.

There are no sacred cows here. His sacrifices for this club are undisputed. But he is well compensated for the job he does, and if he’s not up to that job then he ought to be treated like every other manager, and asked to clean out his desk.

Tonight is not, itself, a sacking offence. But it reinforces deep, deep doubts about his ability to move this team forward. Tonight’s performance did not come out of nowhere. It is a continuation of the same stagnant football we saw towards the end of last season, and the same horrendous stuff we watched in pre-season. Anyone who believes this team will, in a week, suddenly morph into a football juggernaut capable of over-turning this first leg result is watching through green coloured glasses and a bag of LSD. If we get through at all we will be damned lucky.

Tonight was a disaster, but it was a predictable disaster, and a preventable disaster. The two gaping holes torn in our team – in central midfield where the absence of Wanyama forced us to choose between an out of sort Kayal or Charlie Mulgrew (only the knowledge that under 18’s read this blog stops me from unleashing a string of expletives at this point) and up front where we had no-one, something this blog has been screaming for the last week, and its writers a lot longer – were the key areas of failure tonight.

The decision to play Samaras as a lone striker – a role he has never once played successfully – was without doubt crucial to our failure to score, and the lack of creativity in the middle of the park meant stretching that five man defence was never going to happen.

People have already said we’ll go through because this is the “worst team we’ve played in Europe for years.” Well, that “worst team” knocked out a very capable side in the last round (rated higher in the European rankings than we are), and beat us tonight without their keeper having to do a Hell of a lot of work. What, then, does that make us?

Those who’ve said they are, at best, a sub-standard SPL team better hope they are worse than Kilmarnock, St Mirren, Ross County, Motherwell, Hibs, Inverness and St Johnstone, all of whom beat a stronger Celtic team than this one in the league last season, with the Paisley club adding a cup win on top of it. Some of the comments about our opponents both before, and after, tonight’s game have been embarrassing, and the disrespect in assuming we will wipe them away in front of a packed Celtic Park is an ignorant opinion with no factual foundation.

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Last season, we failed to win four matches at home in the league, and we needed a replay to take care of Arbroath after failing to beat them at Celtic Park.

If more than two of our players have an off-night, the party is over before it starts. If Lennon gets his team selection as wrong as he did here, then we might as well not bother showing up. The opposition only has to come and defend like they did tonight … against a side who’ve sold their top goal-scorer and didn’t replace him. Failing that, they only have to score a goal. One. On the night, I am certain that would be enough.

At some point this evening, Peter Lawwell will have to look in the mirror. I personally could not care less whether he blames himself or not. I couldn’t care less whether he’s ashamed of his own performance or not. Lawwell likes to think of himself as one of football’s visionaries. He likes to be involved in discussions about the future of the game. He likes to think of himself as a giant.

Certainly, he’s paid the salary one would expect a leader of the game to be taking home. In August 2011, his salary was a reputed £507,000 with top ups taking it to the £600,000 level. He deferred a bonus of £200,000 but reputedly received a further £650,000 as part of a long term incentive plan. That year, he was one of the highest paid – if not the outright highest paid – people in Celtic Park. That year we posted a profit of £100,000.

Last year, we made a loss of £7.37 million, for the financial year. Our turnover was £51.3 million. That represented a fall in overall income, and is some £20 million shy of our high water mark of over £70 million from around five years ago.

In other words, Lawwell’s pot of gold has been increasing, year on year, even as turnover has been falling. And now players sales are being used to plug the gap.

If Celtic’s citizen journalists, those who have been busy destroying the reputations of the men who run Rangers, fancy a change of pace, what about taking a complete look at the compensation package of our own chief executive, and what exactly he’s doing for his money? From what I can see, our commercial wing is not growing one iota, which is why the club’s policy of strengthening the playing squad year on year has morphed into buying to sell.

In other words, Peter Lawwell is failing in his most fundamental job, the one he is paid handsomely for, which is to increase the off-field revenues so we can fund the end product on the pitch. Instead of that, we are in the perverse position of having the club’s scouting system working as an arm of the commercial wing, finding assets for us to dispose of at a profit.

Are we a football club, or are we a business? Is his bonus related to profits? If so, isn’t that a sterling case of letting the tail wag the dog?

Doesn’t it put us a risk of a strategy where the strength of the team sheet is a secondary consideration next to the balance sheet?

How else do you explain the sale of our two best players from last year and the utter failure to replace them prior to this game?

Let’s come right out and tell it like it is, with no bullshit attached. The Wanyama and Hooper money has been banked. It is not going to be spent, and it never was.

The PLC board would have earmarked a fraction of our likely Champions League group stages income instead, and that’s what the manager would have been given for his transfer budget.

There are two scenarios here which explain this situation. In one, our board is hoovering up money to plug some hole in the balance sheet that we’ve not been told about, or they’re shoring up our finances for some future calamity, although I have no earthly idea of what that could be. In the second scenario, the club is spending an absurd amount of money, at a rapid rate, and the commercial department – of which Lawwell is the head – is performing dreadfully.

Either way, it’s time he was gone. The commercial arm is no longer supporting the team. The team is bailing out the commercial arm, and that is his failure as much as the on-field setbacks are the failure of the manager.

Peter Lawwell can bank all the money he wants, but in a couple of weeks he will be in Monaco for the European draw, and this time he will not be the strutting, preening, arrogant example of smug superiority he was this time last year.

Either he’ll be at the Champions League draw, as the man his manager and team bailed out of a Hell of a hole, or he’ll be at the Europa League draw, entering and leaving the building under a blanket if he doesn’t want to look at the sniggering faces of Europe’s elite sides as he passes their way.

It will not matter whether it’s as the standing joke, the man who suggested last year that “this is where we belong”, only for his own complacency and arrogance to see us demoted 12 months hence, or whether he’s the luckiest man in the room. His peers will know he blew it. They will know he’s lost it, if he ever had it in the first place.

They will know that he is the man who sanctioned the sale of his club’s two best players before he had replacements, and who’s team, and manager, was asked to pay the price. Not a visionary, but the stupidest man in the room, by far. Think the big boys in the EPL would want him now?

Tonight, Celtic supporters across the world are sick and tired of paying through the nose to watch substandard stuff, in a substandard corrupt backwater of the game. Our board has failed to tackle the vested interests and the crooks and the cheats at the very top. They have failed to maintain the level of our playing squad, and the reputation of the club will undoubtedly suffer as a result if this team is unable to overturn the two goal deficit next week.

The players, the manager, the chief executive and others will still get their wages. £20 million will still sit in the bank, but it will certainly be eroded over the course of this long, hard year if we are reduced to the second tier tournament.

When you act like a second tier team – boasting about how you are a selling club instead of trying to build for the future – then this is what you deserve.

For the record, to those who have stated tonight that the Europa League is probably more our level, you are a prime example of what I said in a previous article about those who “settle for.”

Yet there’s an undeniable truth to what you’ve said. Right now that is what we are. This time last year we were riding high. That we are here is not an accident.

It is the predictable – indeed the inevitable – result of the strategy so many of you seem to love.

You will accuse us tonight of “enjoying” this defeat because it vindicates us. It gives me no pleasure at all to be right here, and I advise that no-one ever says this to my face.

You though, you should enjoy it.

This is what you’d have of us. This is what the policy is all about. This is what happens when you erode the team sheet to inflate the balance sheet.

This is what comes of “settling for.”

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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.

27 thoughts on “Everything Is Broken

  • 20 August, 2013 at 11:25 pm
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    Well put James, still to cool down myself. Some of us have been warning about the weakness of this team since the pre-season but to no avail. CQN is one of my favourite Celtic fan sites but was aghast at the pro board stance of late, made me sick as we all knew Lawell was selling us out yet again. I have no answer to all of this as we as a support are powerless. A couple of things stick out a mile too me which you have brought up, Lawell is overpaid by a long way and Lenny is a yes man.
    Hoping for a miracle next week.
    KTF

  • 20 August, 2013 at 11:42 pm
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    Well said that man couldn’t agree with you more!

  • 21 August, 2013 at 12:02 am
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    I agree with you totally, nothing has changed since the Europa cup final defeat, absolutely no improvement in the standard of players and why do we sign players who are NOT the finished product, are bangura n balde just like wanyamma …profit makers ???? and fraser foster pleeeeez ! lennon says he,s one of his main stays well if he thinks that then neil son its time to go and take your pal lawell with you !!!!

  • 21 August, 2013 at 12:12 am
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    Its a great article, your passion is tangible here. The club have publicly stated that they now have a business model, which is to buy cheap and sell for profit. What is the footballing model, Mr Lawell?????. We have bid (apparently) for 3 strikers and been dismissed with derisory offers, this tells me they don’t actually want to buy anyone. Is this why the season ticket is £100 cheaper?

  • 21 August, 2013 at 12:14 am
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    we got beat 2 nil but will overturn the deficit at Celtic Park no problem in my opinion.

    Who exactly do you think Celtic should buy ?
    We cannot attract proven talent as the EPL clubs can outbid us for those players so we are stuck with scouting younger players which is always a lottery .
    For what its worth I think lawell runs the club very well .
    He is asked to fund big transfers as well a reducing ticket prices not easy – you have to look at the long term not just buying for the sake of buying

  • 21 August, 2013 at 12:24 am
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    Let me put it this way, let me simplify the issue to the level at which even Chris Graham would get it.

    We’re told now that the club has to sell to buy, right? Now, as I’ve said that means the commercial department is using the football department to plug gaps in its own performance, which is quite unacceptable in itself.

    But in the case of Gary Hooper, he was sold because he wanted to leave, right? That’s what we’ve been told, that’s the official line. He was sold because he didn’t want to stay. This was not money needed to fund wages, or running costs, or anything else. This was money we didn’t expect to have, £5 million we weren’t “budgeting for.”

    Every penny of that money should be available to the manager. Every cent. Not a penny less.

    Now, say at the start of the transfer window someone had come to the support and said, “Hey, we’ve been handed a chance to swap Gary Hooper for the Icelandic boy Finnboggason. He has nearly a goal a game career average, and scored 20 odd goals last season in the Dutch league. He’s being courted by the big boys, but he’ll come to Celtic. All we need is for you, the fans, to say yes. Shall we do the swap deal?”

    How many of us would have bitten the guys hand off? I would have, and I don’t know a supporter who would disagree.

    That’s what we had in front of us. Gary Hooper sold for £5 million and the chance to buy the big man for the same cash.

    You still want to tell me our own board didn’t bend the manager over? Still want to tell me this is good management? It reeks, and no amount of spin will change that simple fact.

  • 21 August, 2013 at 1:00 am
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    Wholeheartedly agree with you. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, except Lawwell isn’t doing this out of regicide and by God we could have done with Marc Reiper tonight. I’ve thought for a while- being utterly conspiratorial- that there most be some anomalistic ‘hole’ in the finances otherwise why is the money recouped not being properly reinvested?

    However, and I don’t want to be antagonistic by making this statement; when PL turns up at the Euro draw you suggest that the rest of Europe will ‘slag him aff’ for his claims last season about where our club wants to be. I don’t think they’ll give a toss.

    Last year was a blip. We are small fries. I hate saying but it’s true.

    Lets say we spend every pound that last year’s endeavours and the profit made from three, unbelievably fortuitous, signings yields. Then what? Buy guys that don’t even want to come to Scotland? more Mercenaries? That’s all I saw tonight. No one player giving a shit about the jersey.

    Regarding The big clubs; they don’t regard us any higher than the team we played tonight. Alright there is the odd sentimental sound bite by Pirlo or Xaxi here and there but would these guys actually want to come to Celtic?

    Lawwell knows exactly what he’s doing with us. Its why two guys travelled two days from working in a gas reserve in Siberia to the game today. It’s going to be a cycle of selling, buying, integrating, developing and selling again. Hence tonight’s result.

    How to change things? There is the real question. Unfortunately that won’t happens until we stop pandering to the club. Catch 22 is we can’t. What other team would have have that amount of away fans there today or Seville or Brentford or….

    We’re gullible and they fucking know it

  • 21 August, 2013 at 2:18 am
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    totally agree with everything said but these men at the top a re cheap skates who will hang on to every pound made on transfers Its been happening for years.Open your eyes bhoys were being hoodwinked.Croppy lie down comes to mind.Hail hail.

  • 21 August, 2013 at 3:37 am
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    We are fans and cashcows and they know it and we keep getting milked every time. The problem is that celtic need fans in the stadium more than any other club as its about peripheral spend as well as ST money, programmes, betting, food, windfall draw, merchandizing etc all that is evapourating before PL’s eyes and he can’t or wont see it. Fans have been screaming for the club to spend money on a striker & AF looked a good one but again we are arrogant in our dealings with smaller clubs and try to buy on the cheap. Same old record by PL march us up to the top of the hill and march us down again. No green brigade, no proof of lateral movement H&S letter, so lets look forward to SPL dross this season, no atmosphere and closed stands. Any the board say we have an independent strategy that doesn’t involve sevco, your having a laugh!!!

  • 21 August, 2013 at 7:08 am
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    James…there’s a huge division between the Celtic Support right now. Those who find the financial model acceptable are probably the same mob who would like to see the GB expelled permanently.

    I’m seriously considering what to do next season. Celtic appears to be somewhat of a soulless corporate entity dressed up as what Brother Walfrid created….all for the purpose of creating wealth and retaining. Its not new but its getting tiresome

    Sadly I predicted this was a HUGE gamble we were taking and the feeling of vindication is hollow

  • 21 August, 2013 at 7:42 am
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    As passionate and well thought out I find your article I still find myself dumbfounded at the naivety of my fellow fans. Talking about green tinted specs perhaps you should take them off and realise that we are a large fish in an ever shrinking bowel and the business model our board of directors are adapting is one borne out of necessity. Celtic Football Club is a global operation which has to be run as successfully as possible on the park while maintaining a profit margin off it that will keep this great club continuing for many years. Running a large business, which Celtic is and has to be run as such if we are to have any success in modern day football, is a very complex operation and I don’t doubt for a second that everyone involved at board room level at the club is striving to ensure we are in as strong a position as possible for years to come. As football fan’s we are notorious for only thinking a season into the future where as the board have to think long term for the security of our institution. I am as upset as anyone about last night but this reaction to grab the pitchforks and burn the evil board to the ground is just ludicrous. We had a bad game last night, that’s football folks, that’s life!

  • 21 August, 2013 at 7:44 am
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    Haha above comment see bowl where iv written bowel

  • 21 August, 2013 at 7:57 am
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    let me put it this way last night performence was poor we had some chances but did not take them we have alot of the ball but playing 1 man up front is not gd thats why we did not get our result for the second time celtic have had me in tears the final at sevile and last night perfourmence celtic is my heart and soul i would do any thing for them just like millions more fans would do but some of the back room staff i think will have to go i think there in this for the money they dont care about the team we have had plenty of chances to bring in new faces but they have not took them we have money to spend on big players we have to jump to that chance before any big games like last night but i still can see us geting to the group stages if we can beat like teams like barca and that we can beat these clowns but money has to be spent in 4 or 5 places in the sqaud but if we do get put out we still have the europa witch its not is big as the champ leauge but its still money to the club but we need these players to progress in the future.

  • 21 August, 2013 at 9:00 am
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    I’m concerned about the 35 million in hidden debt that lawwell has mortgaged as security against the stadium. We need cl cash just to hopefully break even otherwise we will run at a loss. The 35 million is on the accounts for all to see, they are mortgages for the coop. I want to know what law well has done to my football club, very concerning

  • 21 August, 2013 at 9:01 am
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    Also 25 million of the debt will be called in in its entirety in 2015

  • 21 August, 2013 at 9:06 am
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    We played the same way in Sweden . And we were told it was one of and we get better . Pish the manger not got a clue to many players in the team don’t get drop . It’s time for Lennon to step down and take lairwell with him . Gd manger would change it at ht but Lennon not manger . He getting away with murder cause he a puppet to the board yes Lennon your yes man that’s a fact . So do the man thing and go if only killie finished us of that day we mite have real manger in the now

  • 21 August, 2013 at 9:26 am
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    Well said.

  • 21 August, 2013 at 9:26 am
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    Great post, however it does not cover one essential area. Whilst I agree with your point re the sale of Hooper, Wanyama & Wilson, we can offer any amount of money to attract talent but the problem is the SPFL. When you get the likes of Paul Lambert saying something akin to ‘ where’s the incentive in managing a team that plays the opposition x4 each season?’, when players won’t come because their attitude is ‘why should I play at a lower level when I can play in the Bundesliga?’ then we end up with £2m players….you can’t get a decent £2m player in the English Championship! So we spend money on better players and with that comes higher wages. So the expenditure goes up. However we couldn’t cover our expenditure in previous season when we reached CL group stages with the pool of players we had then, so if we get better/more ‘costly’ players how will we cover our overheads?
    Re the balance sheet. Everyone bangs on about the debt of around £5m. That’s the Football Club. In the last published set of accounts the PLC carried a debt of £28m, which is staggering ny Scottish standards.
    To sum up, there is no easy answer to this. My own view is we have a clear out in the playing staff and start again…we can win the SPFL with a team made up from the cleaners and kitchen staff. We play boring, predictable and easy to read football that doesn’t excite the Fans. If this was American Football then Lenny would be the Defensive Coach. We need a change. Don’t like saying that after what he has given this Club but it’s time. As for PL..I am on the fence, simply because, better the devil you know!
    Oh how I wish for the way we played when I was a ‘Jungle Bhoy’ and we had the likes of Bertie, Bobby M & Bobby L, Jimmy and Billy Mc to frighten the opposition and excite the Fans…maybe one day, maybe one day.

  • 21 August, 2013 at 10:19 am
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    Way too negative for me. So you know more about Celtic than Neil Lennon and Peter Lawell? Get off your soap box and stop sounding like a Daily Record hack! Hail Hail

  • 21 August, 2013 at 10:22 am
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    Lennon ruined Celtic.hi.

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