Now, I know this isn’t a done deal, and pretty far from one in fact. But let’s imagine it is.
Okay then. If it’s going to be the man from Cork then okay. I can think of many reasons why the idea is disquieting. That life will be boring under him is not one of them.
Those who said Larsson would have been “box office”, I disagreed with. Henrik doesn’t have the experience, and there is always the worry that he’s a nice guy who would show deference and respect to those above him, perhaps even to the extent that he might carry out their wishes even if it’s not to his own benefit. A heart-strings appointment, yes indeed, but not fireworks.
Keane is box office alright, and for many reasons, not all of them good. Whatever else might be said and written about him, his appointment would be transformative. It would be one Hell of a gamble.
For years now I have accused the club of lacking ambition and bottle, of being afraid to take risks, of pursuing a “safety first” strategy, to our detriment. People will debate that point all night and all day, but certain people within Celtic Park do strike me as being “risk averse”, and last season was a shocking example of how … risky … that actually is.
Going into each successive round in the Champions League with a weaker squad than the one before it was, frankly, scandalous for a club, any club, to have attempted and we were lucky to get away it. The “strategy” behind that perplexes me. We saved millions, but it could have cost us millions more. It was a gamble for the sake of not taking a gamble, and it was sheer folly.
It is quite possible that it was the prospect of having to do it all over again which convinced Neil Lennon he had to get out.
Appointing Roy Keane would be a risk alright. It would be a huge, Parkhead shaking, risk. It would be the sort of move which, in a sense, reinvigorates our club again. Am I saying he’s the guy I wanted in the job? No. My choice would have been Oscar Garcia, or perhaps Michael Laudrup. I think a foreign coach is the way to go, but most importantly, these guys would have no direct connection to Celtic, and I don’t think it is necessarily in our best interests to get a “Celtic man” into the chair. It limits our thinking. It restricts the scope we work within.
I think the bond between club and manager is important, but it should not depend on him having been there first. I don’t really care about blood ties and emotional bonds … I want someone who can do the job first and foremost, and emotion should play no part in that process.
Keane, on the surface of it then, falls into the “comfort zone.” He’s an Irish born coach with a spiritual and emotional connection to Celtic Park. He was a world class footballer, one of the greatest who’s ever played the game on these islands, with a monster of a profile. He has been at two clubs, and won a title with one of them in what I regard as one of the toughest leagues there is. Yes, Tony Mowbray won the same title and didn’t cut it at Celtic Park, but it ticks one of the big boxes, one of the “must have” ones for me … a Celtic manager must be a proven winner.
Yet this would be pretty damned far from being a “safe” appointment. On and off the pitch, this would be guaranteed to generate headlines and drama and controversy.
Perversely, every “advantage” I can think of here can, with a bad luck or bad form, turn into an even bigger “disadvantage”. I can’t think of any other candidate who brings that quality!
For a start, Keane would certainly want a free hand with transfers and the money to assemble the team he wants. It’s hard to imagine him coming to Celtic Park without getting that. So, the lid will be well and truly prised off the biscuit tin. Forget selling prized assets … Keane would want to build a better team, not preside over the dismantling of one.
Yet his record of signings is patchy at best. He squandered much of the money he did get at Sunderland and Ipswich, including blowing a fortune on wages on one Daryl Murphy. Remember him? Our own club’s former whipping boy, who is one of the worst signings we’ve made in years, and one I couldn’t even begin to comprehend, then or now.
Keane doesn’t take prisoners, or tolerate indiscipline. That means Stokes, Watt, Griffiths and others will have to shape up or ship out. On the surface of it, that sounds like something that could enhance our reputation as a club of probity and professionalism.
But what ever happened to tough love? Under the Keane Regime, we might have lost players like Jinky and Bertie Auld. In the modern day he’d have drastically shortened the Celtic careers of players like Frank McAvennie and others. Those so-called “loose cannons” have given us some extraordinary memories. Keane, himself, was one of them. Scott Brown is another. How would Keane look on “doing the Broony”? A step too far for him?
The strict disciplinarians rarely inspire love. Love is an essential when you are in the trenches and you need people to run through walls for you. The Sunderland players were said to have thrown a party when they heard he’d resigned there. That’s … not good.
Keane would be extremely intolerant of our arrogant, self absorbed media. He would be enormously tough for them to deal with, and one suspects it wouldn’t be long before some of them were persona non grata in our press room. That’s not a deal breaker. Far from it. One suspects the same attitude would be brought to bear against the SFA and the governing bodies when he had the inevitable run-ins with them. Again, not a deal breaker.
Yet, on how many fronts could we fight a war? With Keane at the helm, you get the feeling our default position could end up being one where the guns were drawn, and loaded, almost all of the time.
The positive that intrigues me most regards the “strategy.” I’ve never been a fan of the “strategy.” I think it’s been enormously self-defeating at times. It cost us three titles on the bounce, allowing Walter the Great to enhance an already over-blown reputation, one built on over-spending and anti-football. We should have taken Smith out in his first season, instead of allowing him to win the title because we wouldn’t pitch in for a proven goal scorer. It was a shocking failure on our part.
Roy Keane will not come to the club unless he has certain guarantees, and those guarantees might well upset the present balance of power within Parkhead, and I am not exactly weepy at the prospect of a man in the manager’s office with the stones to remind Peter Lawwell of who exactly is responsible for what. It is hard to image Keane tolerating a situation where a player like Samaras, who he wanted to stay, walked out because he wasn’t offered a deal.
So life inside the club itself might become decidedly interesting too before long.
If this appointment is Dermott Desmond’s choice it raises the interesting question of where his loyalties and sympathies would lie if the manager and the chief executive were not singing from the same song sheet. It is no secret that I regard Peter Lawwell as a problem for Celtic, a guy who’s been allowed to grow his job – and his ego – to a point where he has too much sway inside the club. It would shock me if Keane got this job, because he will never tolerate the presence of someone like Lawwell sticking his nose in.
It would make me wonder if there weren’t, perhaps, some issues in the boardroom itself.
Why does that not … thrill me? Because it’s one thing getting a manager in who will tell Peter Lawwell to butt out of his business and concentrate on doing his own job … it’s another, entirely, to have someone in the chair who divides the club down the middle, forcing people to take sides in an uncivil war. It’s a worst case scenario … but not impossible.
I don’t see this one coming off. There are many reasons why.
Yet, as I said above, I now say in reverse. Every bad reason could also be spun as a positive.
If Dermott Desmond gets his way we will have appointed a guy with his own ideas, his own opinions, a guy who will protect his turf from all comers, who will install his own standards and his own discipline and who will do things his way … and brook no interference.
It’s … exciting. It’s a thrill ride. It’s not what I expect from Celtic at all.
If Keane is appointed manager … fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a rollercoaster.
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