1519816_w2Last night, when the full time whistle blew at Celtic Park and we assumed the historical mantle of being the first team who crashed out of the UEFA Champions League twice in the space of a month, first one round and then the other, I switched the channel over and my horror was complete.

Louis Van Gaal’s Manchester United had just been trounced 4-0 at MK Dons. He had fielded a B-Team, yes, but the result is a shocker in anyone’s book, the kind of result that has inquests going on, the kind that has occasionally sparked sackings.

I knew then that nothing would change because of the inept, shameful display I’d just witnessed. I knew then that some of our fellow fans would find succour in the Manchester United result. That they’d say “there’s a world class coach, with world class players, who’s had a hundred million to spend and who’s suffered a shocking start to the season. What chance do we have with a relative unknown, operating in the confines of the SPL?”

Oh yes, it was all too clear to me in that moment. Some people will grab those excuses like a comfort blanket.

Whatever made them sleep well last night.

And you know what? It’s cobblers.

Last night, as with Warsaw before, we saw the inevitable result of a team going backwards, a team regressing at a rapid rate. Two years ago we qualified from a Champions League group including Barcelona and Benfica. The team which did that was quickly dismantled. Very little of the money was put back into the side. Our club is either a colossal waster of money, on a Sevconian scale, for which someone has to be answerable, or we are sitting on a mountain of it, for reasons passing all understanding, whilst the team rots. We were given a staggering reprieve in the biggest competition in football, after a trouncing at the first hurdle. Result? We sold our goalkeeper in an eight figure deal and spent nothing. A failed gamble, or a sign that the people inside our club just don’t give a damn what we think?

Either way, it ought to cost someone his job.

If, as some say, this is a transitional season then it’s hardly our first for a while. Why? We’re on our fourth manager in the last six years. Two walked, one was sacked and the latest is already under pressure, having been given no money whatsoever to spend so far – a major contributing factor in that we have crashed out of this competition twice against second rate teams. Because of this, we have no more continuity on the touchline than we do out on the pitch, and so the club Is never stable for very long. We veer in and out of anarchic close seasons. Is this part of the strategy, or can we no longer retain good people?

Either way, it ought to cost someone his job.

Our scouting system seems to have failed more often than it has succeeded. Even then, transfer negotiations take longer with Celtic than just about any other club out there. Today we’re told our latest striking target is considering his options in light of last night’s result. Had we signed him before the tie – making him eligible for it – one can’t help but wonder whether we’d still be in the tournament. But we waited until the tie was at the half-way stages and got the deal only half done. If it collapses now, who do we blame? Is it the player’s fault that the deal stalled? Shouldn’t we have pursued other options who would have given us a quicker answer? Or did we approach it, half-assed, and thought we could meander over the line? Shameful whatever way you dress it up. Small time thinking.

Either way, it ought to cost someone his job.

The wage cap means that even when we do find good players we are often unable to sign them once their terms are on the table. The end result of this is that we start with a list of 100 targets, of whom we can sign perhaps 10. Of that 10 we pursue only those who fit a certain age bracket, so they have a re-sale value if it turns out they are any good. This is how a list that starts with Alfred Finnbogasson is narrowed to the signing of Temo Pukki. Now, whether the mistakes lie with the scouts themselves, for even identifying Pukki in the first place, or with the strategy that binds us to these kind of signings, our squad is packed with second rate dross, and so it doesn’t matter. The end result is the same.

Either way, it ought to cost someone his job.

We are told, constantly, that football is now a business. That our club has to be run like one. Last night cost us £15 million and upwards. The only way to recoup that money is to sell first team assets, further weakening the team. How many fans will buy tickets to watch an even more depleted Celtic team play in the second tier European tournament? The business model has just taken a very major hit. In any other corporate field someone would carry the can for such a shocking overnight loss. Either the manager is out of his depth or he’s working with tools that are completely unsuited to the job at hand, tools no-one could work with.

Either way, it ought to cost someone his job. Otherwise we’re rewarding failure.

The failures at Celtic Park are systemic. They are the direct result of a strategy that has failed, a strategy that was always going to fail, and the people responsible for that are still in post, and they lack the dignity and class to accept that and move voluntarily.

I am sick of it. I am sitting here right now boiling with frustration and anger at the way a very good, very promising, Celtic side of only two years ago has been reduced to the shambles of last night and I no longer believe there is any question that Neil Lennon walked away from a job he loved because he knew this strategy was hanging him – hanging the whole club –out to dry.

A lot of people don’t believe I have the right to talk this way because I am no longer a visitor to Celtic Park. I stopped funding the strategy a while back, and I’m not returning until the people responsible for it are gone.

This isn’t about backing the team either. I owe no loyalty at all to mercenary players who talked last night and today about their “devastation” at not making the Champions League groups, but who’s regrets are tempered by wages in excess of their abilities and who’s contribution to the disaster was evident for all to see. Many of them don’t have the heart to be Celtic players and would never play in the team again if many of us had our way. Their selections, like that of Charlie Mulgrew, are an aberration.

Because of this, I owe no loyalty to a manager who I’ve said I think is a good appointment but who’s alibi of not getting any of the tools for the job is likewise tempered by baffling decision making and reversals of himself which are already awakening serious doubts in even those of us who supported the choice.

To play an untested young central defender in the away tie but not deem him experienced enough for the home game is indefencible.

To leave Kris Commons out of the away tie for tactical reasons makes sense. To leave him out at home is indefencible.

To call Leigh Griffiths the best striker at the club and not have him feature at all is ridiculous, and to play Anthony Stokes up front, on his own, when he hasn’t scored a European goal in 17 months is indefencible.

The manager has nowhere to hide after those decisions. As poor as our squad might be, those look like the choices of a man who contradicts himself at every turn, or who’s mind can be changed for him, as it clearly was over the signing of players on loan.

The time has come to ask ourselves what we love about Celtic, and what we’re willing to do for it. I voted with my feet, never thinking it would do the slightest good, but unable to be a hypocrite who pays his money and knows full well it’s wasted.

I love Celtic, the institution. I love Celtic, the idea. I love Celtic, the Family. What happens on the pitch has always been secondary to my pride at being part of everything else Celtic is. But even that is being eaten away.

We have people inside our club who could not even reach a temporary accommodation with some of our most passionate supporters for a match when we needed every voice in the house to be raised high. When even something as simple as this cannot be handled right, or won’t be handled right, perhaps because some inside Celtic want these guys gone then something stinks.

I’ll make a prediction right now; the Green Brigade will be at Celtic Park long after Peter Lawwell has packed up his pencils.

We have people inside our club, founded for charitable purposes, who wouldn’t pay the living wage to our employees last year, although I’m willing to bet they’ll agree at this AGM as part of a charm offensive to win back disgruntled fans. It will benefit those who earn it, and I’ll be pleased for them, but it’s too little too late to start pretending to care.

We have people on the board of Celtic who should never be allowed near the building. Right-wing reactionaries who have taken part in Tory government attacks on our poor, our vulnerable, our sick and our young.

Lord Iain Livingstone, you stink out Celtic Park. Go now, and whoever’s idea it was (Iain Bankier, reputed Rangers fan, now our chairman, who has made a “positive contribution” which, as far as I can see is the sum total of nil) should be following you out the door.

Does anyone think the storm clouds over our club are not the direct consequence of having such soulless men on our board? That their one dimensional view of a world of consumers and customers, those who can afford to pay and those who can’t, the “deserving and undeserving poor” isn’t part of the reason we’re mired in mediocrity, swimming in a Nile of trouble at the present time? You think their social and political outlook isn’t changing the very nature of what our club is meant to be? We’ve become a football club that runs a business for gods sake.

You’re deluding yourself to believe otherwise, and if this “business” decides it doesn’t want “customers” who buck the system and ask too many questions or examine too closely or see too clearly or communicate what they think … well, that’s how it’ll be.

Next season, when they’re trying to sell season tickets at inflated prices on the back of games against Sevco, will you hold your nose? Will you close your eyes, swallow your doubts, and pay your money down?

We have an absentee majority shareholder, who would do us all a big favour if he sold to someone who wanted to play a more hands on role, who wanted Roy Keane for the manager’s job but didn’t even have the ability to force through the decision, not that it would have made a blind bit of difference anyway. Keane too would have had to work in a straightjacket.

This Family is being eroded, with those of us who are unhappy being labelled huns and wreckers and those who’ve opted to vote with their feet being told we’re unwelcome anyway and not to come back. There are many amongst the Celtic support who think it’s a more noble act to keep on attending Celtic Park than it is to stay away and that anyone who does otherwise is a lesser individual.

I feel bad for them more than angry, because they are the real victims of this appalling corporate multifaceted failure. It’s their loyalty the strategy depends on. They are its lifeblood, sustaining it when the more circumspect won’t.

I wish I could tell those guys everything will be fine, that our club is on the right track, that their loyalty and their faith will be rewarded. But I can’t. I won’t. They are being told enough lies as it is. They are being led along by too many people already.

It’s not alright. It won’t all be fine. We’re going backwards at an alarming rate, and a few signings will no longer steady the ship or fix this overnight.

Heads are going to have to roll, and from the very top, where the strategy was born.

Nothing else will heal these wounds or change this downward spiral.

It’s nearly time to make your choice. How much do you love Celtic? What are you prepared to do in the struggle for its soul?

(On Fields of Green badly needs your support as we enter our own transitional period. If you can make a donation, we’d appreciate it. You can do so with the Donate button at the top or the bottom of whatever device you’re using. Every support we get is massively helpful.)

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.

29 thoughts on “Indefencible

  • 27 August, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    Never, ever in my entire life can I remember seeing a more inept, cowardly and pathetic (in the fullest terms possible of the meaning of the word) performance in a hooped shirt that I witnessed from Ambrose last night. Johansen was not far behind.
    Cursing at the TV is not advisable at the best of times as it takes so long to ‘come back to reality’ after the debacle we witnessed last night. However, I suspect that I was not alone and the symapthy I have for those Celtic supporters I witnessed getting on to the bus on the Ormeau Road, Belfast, yesterday morning. Each and every one of those supporters put in more effort than Ambrose, Johansen and Mulgrew combined. We’ll refrain from even bringing up ‘Diving Dirk’.
    Ashamed, yes ashamed that these players are putting on a Celtic jersey at the present moment in time.
    Celtic through and through, I always will be. The pain is unbearable and will take a long time to get over. Forget about the Europa League and send the same team out as we did against ICT. At least they will walk off the park with their heads held high – except, of course, the lazy, careless and time-to-boot-out-of-the-club Charles Mulgrew.

  • 27 August, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    SUPPORT THE HOOPS, SACK THE SUITS… the CELTIC team of only 2 years ago wasn’t assembled by spending tens of millions, it was done on a small budget, but when Lawell decided to break it up and sell the parts it brought in tens of millions, Lawell trickle fed some of it back into the playing side while flooding the majority shareholders bank accounts, i will never accept that CELTIC are more a business than a football club, there’s to many generations have put their blood sweat and tears into CELTIC that the custodians of it today cannot be allowed to dismantle all the good that CELTIC stands for..HAIL HAIL, DESMOND OUT.

  • 27 August, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    Absolutely spot on. I love Celtic. I love the Club, I love the History, I love the Family and I love everything that the club and we as supporters stand for! We say ‘Keep the Faith’ but that is left purely in the hands of us fans while the fat cats at the top couldn’t care less. They don’t deserve our support. The club and it’s History and it’s tradition is is being badly let down. Like you say, indefensible!

  • 27 August, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    Nothing is being said about John Collins roll in all of this shambles? Should he not be advising his Manager better on team matters such a Ambrose is NOT a central defender? Is Collins happy to watch the Manager stumble & falter his way to his P45 and take on the mantle? Collins knows Stokes cannot play as a lone striker and Charlie is not a Midfielder. Ronnie seems to be playing the same players in the same positions as Lennon did and not learnt from those mistakes. As you say, to not play Commons Scotland’s player of the year from the start is indefensible. The team selection last night was not only naive but amateurish? Who is Ronnie listening to and why? I was very surprised to see that Collins took the assistants job to a relatively unknown Manager. Collins should be shouldering some of the blame but is remaining silent and in the background? He should be watched very closely, I just find that whole situation very strange indeed as I think HE should know better and be advising his Manager so.

  • 27 August, 2014 at 3:06 pm

    Scandalous at every level.
    Last night we were expecting “Kerching.”
    instead we got “Kerplunk.”

  • 27 August, 2014 at 3:09 pm

    Our chairman is a Rangers man? Are you serious?

  • 27 August, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    James, at last you name check the person responsible for our decline: Dermott Desmond. Peter Lawell is responsible for every aspect of the day-to-day running of the club but he has been given a very clear remit from the majority shareholder: ” make sure it pays for itself and costs me as little as possible”, that I suspect is the reality. Let’s not waste time throwing brick-bats at the players, manager and Lawell, to do so is missing the target and will not achieve anything. We are at the mercy of a man who lost interest in the club when he realised we would not be admitted to the English Premiership. He would rather play golf than attend an AGM. Lawell is his puppet so let’s focus on DD if we are going to get anywhere.

  • 27 August, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    Ian Bankier is not a hun. He is hardly a football fan of any description preferring the oval ball. He probably had some feelings of affinity with Celtic before he was appointed. If people think that is not enough then I tend to agree with them. However he should not be described as a follower of the dark side.

  • 27 August, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    as you point out in other articles James,this has been coming.It is the reult of continual downsizing which has left us with a fragmented squad and an inexperienced manager who,if last nights decisions are anything to go by,looks unlikely to unify the team anytime soon.From the first ten minutes or so the pattern was clear.Brainless running around from Celtic and composed play from Maribor.Only one team played last night.The other was a collection of players some of which should be shown the door.Its difficult to judge DEila given he has inherited this situation but the substitutions last night were baffling.kayal played an important role in the first half and,given Celtic didnt need to chase the game,he should have stayed in place.Boerrigter?he should have been nowhere near the stadium never mind the team.Like you james I no longer attend CP,or at least rarely,as I have seen this coming over the years.I wont pay the best part of 5 quid for a slice of fucking pizza.I wont buy yet another replica shirt.I am not paying good money to watch well paid at best average players beat,just,Motherwell.In fact its so bad I am moving to Argentina shortly!Last night was a real nadir and,as you wrote,SOMEONE should lose their job.that should just be for starters.

  • 27 August, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    Last night I was spitting blood, anger,rage was flowing out of me but today strangely I feel calm.
    Yes last night we were pathetic, yes our board are mainly to blame and yes our manager made mistakes. But then I started to think about the changes that are going to happen and think about where we will be in 10 months time and I don’t know why but I think we will be in a good place, I think Ronny will have the players he wants and playing the football he wants.
    This season was always going to be a learning curve for both manager and players and then I remembered what I said when we first got Ronny, and that was even if we didn’t qualify for the CL (remember we all knew our squad wasn’t good enough but Ronny had to learn this through playing these qualifiers)I would give him a season to put his changes into place and that is what I am going to do.
    Being in the Europa league might be a good thing for the team as they can compete and grow and improve, while in the CL teams could have destroyed us.
    Last week against Dundee United we played some of the best football we have played in a long time, it was a small vision into how Ronny wants us to play.
    Now you will say, what about last night? we were pish. Well what this tells me that as long as we are playing against lower level teams we are a good team playing good football but unfortunately when we play at a higher level the truth is we are not good enough.
    This is why it’s going to take a season to turn us around and be ready for next seasons CL.
    Lets see how we get on in the Europa league, lets see how the team develops and see what players we sign especially in January and then we can judge Ronny.
    We are all hurting now but that will pass quickly so lets stay calm and see how things go this season and I think by May we will be very happy.

  • 27 August, 2014 at 4:03 pm


    That’s a cop out mate. Sorry, but it is. Sit and wait? We’re already a year on from Shakhtar, and it’s not that the lessons of that were not learned but they were utterly, blatantly ignored.

    We were hopelessly out of our depth this time last year, but we got lucky. The Champions League games saw us ripped apart. I didn’t think it possible but we’ve gone BACKWARDS from there.

    Waiting another year? For what? Jam tomorrow? It’s for mugs. Sorry, but it is. We’re being conned on an unpardonable scale, and they’re not even trying to hide it. What’s it going to take for some people to wake up and get mad? Lee McCulloch with the SPL trophy?

  • 27 August, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    Another well written piece James which most of our fans would agree with especially Kris Commons not starting last night – rumour is all was not well in dressing room at F/T as apparently the manager was having a go at the players individually and when he came to Commons he was told he wasn’t good enough to be a Celtic manager !! This could be correct as I came through the foyer only 10 mins after final whistle and Commons was standing there with Lisa Hague and assorted players – you could have cut the atmosphere with a knife.

    Looks as though Ronny might have a problem with the dressing room as well boardroom !!!

  • 27 August, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    I am not talking about the board and our strategy, I am talking about our manager.
    I will back him and give him this season to show us what he’s got.
    As long as we dominate teams in the league and show signs of improvement over the coming months, I will give him my backing.
    The board is a different matter altogether but I won’t comment on that at the moment.

  • 27 August, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    everything james says i agree with wholeheartedly . i dont like to see people loosing there jobs but in this case there is no other choice. the board and the manager have to go.

  • 27 August, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    Of course if things go tits up and we fall apart in the next month or so, obviously then we would have a big problem but I hope that won’t be the case.

  • 27 August, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    Things are already tits up. We were knocked out of the Champions League last night, at home, to a team from Slovenia. We didn’t even test their goalkeeper. We bagged £10 million in the week before this tie and spent NOTHING. On the back of last seasons Champions League run, and season tickets, we brought in a manager on the cheap and spent NO MONEY. We’ve lost one of two matches in the league. Three out of six in Europe. What signs are you waiting for that all isn’t well?

  • 27 August, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    I am not disputing what you are saying.
    All I am saying is I will reserve judgment on Ronny for at least a month or so and see if the team is moving in the right direction, and if we are then I will give him the whole season.
    If things go from bad to worse then I will judge and have a different view…… time will tell very quickly one way or the other.

  • 27 August, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    I shudder to think what worse looks like today. We’ve just drawn Hearts in the League Cup. I guess that would do it.

  • 27 August, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    I cannot bring myself to read more than a couple of paragraphs nor even the contributions from my fellow Tim’s I am so sickened. But what I did read I agree wholeheartedly. I am finished as a supporter of Glasgow Celtic and will remain so as long as this inertia within the club boardroom exists.

    One sickened Timalloy!

  • 27 August, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    James, your assessment of PL and thd board are accurate, however you seem to be in two places ref RD.
    First you say yes it is the right appointment then you say wait a minute you have your doubts.
    James you cant have it both ways.
    For the avoidence of doubt I will reiterate where I am.
    RD is a seriously wrong appointment of MOWBRAY proportions.He will win nothing with us and if given long enough that may also include this seasons SPFL no shoe in under RD.
    His decisions are horrendous make no sense and get no better.
    Last night again he was the RABBIT IN THE HEADLIGHTS.
    His position should be terminated with haste and JC along with him.
    The game this weekend against a Dundee side full of passion under PH is a worry.
    Yes we need decent moneh spdnt on a withering side but I am clear I would not have RD anywhers near my football,

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