The Killing Fields

JS90873954So yesterday the registration deadline for the third round of Champions League qualifiers came and went without our club bothering to make a signing. Just how big a problem is that?

Well, in the first leg of the last round we played Efe Ambrose at central defence, with the predictable results. Such was the magnitude of that disaster – our worst result in our history – that we dropped him entirely from the second leg and played three at the back with our young full-back Keiran Tierney deputising for the night as a centre back instead.

Brendan Rodgers knows we have problems in that area. He has asked the board repeatedly, publicly and privately, for the signings he needs. One of the names he and his assistant have trailed over the weeks has been Shane Duffy. Today we discovered that the club is yet to make a formal bid for the Blackburn Rovers defender.

It makes you wonder how hard people are trying.

This is a perilous place for our club to be. Brendan Rodgers is the huge managerial appointment the Celtic supporters wanted. His is the name we craved. But we didn’t get this guy off the slag-heap. He wasn’t waiting around for our call, and willing to go anywhere. The chances are very good that if this guy hadn’t been appointed at Celtic Park that he would have been unveiled as the England boss this very week. Forget Allardyce and others; England’s FA would have passed over these second raters for Brendan in an instant. That’s how good a boss we’re talking about.

There’s a caricature of Brendan in some parts of the English media, that he’s vain and ego-driven. They point to frivolous stuff like his having his teeth done and hair fixed and the diets he went on. They point to his good looking young fiancé, who he proposed to just after formalising his divorce from his ex. In short, they think he’s a bit of a Jack the Lad.

As far as Celtic fans are concerned, all of it is nonsense because it has nothing to do with his ability as a boss.

Yet there’s undoubtedly truth to a lot of it anyway, and that does give us some insight which might be important.

Brendan has a very healthy self-regard.

He likes the limelight and he likes to be seen to be doing well.

This is not a negative. This is a guy who won’t settle for second place, or for failure. That’s why we appointed him.

It’s also why we will struggle to hang onto him if the board of directors continues to fail him when it matters.

There’s a moment at the start of the fantastic 1997 movie Twin Town where two corrupt cops are having a discussion about a piece of corporate art, etched into the stonework outside Swansea Train Station.

It reads “Ambition Is Critical.”

As they discuss the meaning, the older of the two men claims that it’s a response to an alleged Dylan Thomas quote, that Swansea is “the graveyard of ambition.”

A local poet wrote the three word answer to that. He worked for the council.

They adopted it as the town’s moto.

I always laugh at that scene, especially Dougray Scott and his assertion that it’s a dreadful slogan. His own three word take on Swansea a “Pretty Shitty City” at least rhymes.

He is scornful of the notion that anything, far less ambition, can thrive in such a place.

Ambition is critical though, and if someone had inscribed those words on the stairs at Celtic Park I think most of us would get the point at once. What I’m not sure of is that everyone who stepped over them on the way into work in the morning would.

Ironically enough, Brendan made his name in Swansea and it wasn’t the graveyard of his ambitions at all.

It was the proving ground for them. It was his performance there that took him to Anfield, and made him a contender. It was the place where he showed the world what he could do, where he’d have first come to the attention of Celtic.

He arrives at our club via a sojourn at Liverpool, where things went spectacularly right and then horribly wrong.

Is he here to rebuild his reputation?

No, I wouldn’t go that far. He says Celtic is a natural fit for him, and I agree. We are still a massive club, with huge pull for the right man, someone who “gets it”, someone who understands.

I was furious last week when, in the aftermath of the Red Imps result, Brendan Rodgers offered his glib, unconcerned response to the club’s stunning defeat. The result was easily the worst over 90 minutes in our history; some have argued that, but none has been able to find another occasion where we lost a competitive game to such a side.

There are simply no comparisons that come even close.

In my heart of hearts I know Brendan was angered by that result, and that his comments in public hid a deep frustration in private. He knows how that result makes our club, and him, look in the eyes of the world.

He’s not the kind of man to take that lightly.

He’ll know something else; he’ll know that good managers have come to Scotland before and died on their arses.

Some say Scottish football is the graveyard of ambition; it’s not.

These are the killing fields.

It’s not widely talked about, but Scottish football hasn’t just stalled careers. It has wrecked them. For such a small place, such a little corner of the footballing universe, this place has a helluva reputation for ruining folk, and Glasgow in particular.

Look back over the recent history of football in this city.

There are a parade of names who have come here, and then gone bust.

At Celtic, John Barnes career was obliterated before it had properly begun. He didn’t manage at another club for nine years, when he went to Tranmere, who sacked him after just eleven games.

Kenny Dalglish, who was a hero in English football, especially at Liverpool and Blackburn, wilted under the pressure of trying to steer the team after Barnes was fired. He won a League Cup but it was nowhere near enough. The Celtic board’s decision not to give him a permanent crack at the job was vindicated when they appointed Martin O’Neill instead.

It would be almost a decade before Dalglish returned to management, for a brief spell as caretaker boss at Anfield.

On its own, success in Scotland doesn’t guarantee the kind of advancement one might expect either, but failure here, even perceived failure, can undo good work that might otherwise count in your favour.

Martin O’Neill had a right to think he would have been a contender at any top club in England when he got Celtic to the UEFA Cup Final in Seville, but when he left the club the league title resided at Ibrox and that must have been a bad sign for some down south.

He ended up at Villa, then at Sunderland, instead of one of the clubs he craved.

The same could be said of Gordon Strachan and Neil Lennon, good men both, one of whom got us out of two Champions League groups in a row and the other who masterminded a win against Barcelona. Gordon left Celtic having lost a league title. Neil left after a Champions League group stage car-crash, but one no-one could blame him for. Nevertheless, only Bolton offered him a job.

At Ibrox, the same pattern emerges.

Alex McLeish became Scotland manager after leaving there but his managerial career petered out with moves to Birmingham, Villa, Forest and finally a move abroad, where he took over at Genk. He was in Egypt managing a club at the turn of this year, but they sacked him after just a few months in the job.

Even the big names to take over there encountered disaster.

Dick Advocaat left Ibrox to take on the Dutch national team, and ended up at Zenit St Petersburg with all their money, yet it could be argued that his career ran onto the rocks in this city when Rangers dispensed with his services after Martin O’Neill proved he had the mastery as Celtic stormed to two titles on the bounce.

Advocaat arrived at Ibrox with a huge reputation. He could have ended up anywhere, at a top European club, but this country exposed his limitations with a brutality that must have taken him by surprise.

The same thing happened to Paul LeGuen and in even less time; his was a glittering CV which less than a year here absolutely shredded. He was never to recover the ground he lost in that 12 months. He went to Paris St Germain from Ibrox, before money transformed that club completely. They were 17th on the day he was appointed; no other club in France would touch him.

What I’m trying to say here is that no-one should be under the misconception that Scottish football is some kind of soft option or doss. None of the guys named above left on a high, save maybe for Lenny. Even Gordon and Martin left after surrendering league titles.

Ronny Deila is an exceptional case because he actually lost his job despite winning the title.

But none of these guys was head-hunted by a bigger team.

None went on to “better things”.

Failure here is like a near-death experience and these are the guys (Barnes excepted) who got out without being absolutely humiliated.

Tony Mowbray had his reputation as a title winning boss at West Brom to fall back on, but his time at Celtic Park had made him toxic to most clubs in England; ironically, he replaced Gordon Strachan at Middlesbrough shortly after Celtic let him go.

Which is to say nothing for Ally McCoist, whose failures at Sevco were about as colossal as one could ever hope to see.

I predicted in 2012 that he would never manage a top flight team again and I see nothing at all to suggest I was mistaken then or now. Indeed, he may never manage in football again; that wouldn’t surprise me at all.

Brendan Rodgers doesn’t see Celtic as a “stepping stone” but that doesn’t mean he’d be willing leave our club with his reputation in the toilet. The current squad isn’t good enough; he knows it and the more dreadful events of last season have left us in no doubt about it. If we needed further evidence of it we got it last week. This is a side that more and more resembles one needing radical surgery. Sticking plaster solutions just aren’t going to cut it and we’ve got big problems ahead unless we refresh it with some new blood.

If Brendan Rodgers thinks he needs certain players to take the Celtic team forward I know for sure that he will fight for them; he has to. Never before in our history has second place been worth less to us, never in our history has it been so absolutely unacceptable, and if that’s the case for the fans it’ll be even more so for a manager who does think a lot of himself and who might still fancy managing at the highest level if and when he leaves Celtic Park.

Hell will be paid for failure, and not just in the manager’s office, but it’s the manager who will pay the highest price and it’s to be wondered if his career would recover from it. His days of managing top clubs would certainly be at an end.

Brendan Rodgers won’t accept that.

He knows, furthermore, that only a quantifiable success in Europe will keep his career from ending as those others did.

That quest was dealt a shocking blow last week.

With Astana next up, there clear potential for something just as bad.

Brendan Rodgers will not accept that.

He won’t tolerate having his hands tied.

This guy has a deep affinity for Celtic, but I absolutely believe he would be willing to walk away and scorch the Earth behind him if he thought his own reputation was being damaged by working here with no backing. He won’t do it right away, of course, but he’ll already be angry and concerned and if, in Astana next week, Champions League horror follows on top of last week’s Champions League horror, when all the signs were there, when the need for at least one signing who could play in the team was acture, I think he’d have valid concerns and be harbouring serious doubts about the commitment of those above him to make good on their own “ambition.”

This is a man who will not quietly fall on the killing fields.

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Strategy? What Strategy?

Celtic-Celtic-FC-SPL-SPFL-Ronny-Deila-Leigh-Griffiths-576180My good friend Babs McMahon celebrates her birthday today, and she was probably hoping for a very decent present, like cup final tickets getting sent out in the post.

A year ago, she and most of the Celtic support probably had a killer hangover because 12 months ago today we were celebrating how we’d managed to reach the League Cup Final after beating Sevco, with what I described at the time as “embarrassing ease.”

They were in turmoil, with an interim manager at the helm who looked like he wanted to be any place in the world but at Hampden.

There was genuine optimism in the air at Celtic Park, and why not?

Our Champions League disasters seemed far behind us. We’d qualified from a feisty Europa League group and were looking forward to a match against Inter. We’d reached one cup final, and were top of the league.

A shaky start had been weathered, and early adversity overcome.

Twelve months on, how different the landscape looks.

That we’ve gone backwards is plain for all to see. We’re still top of the SPL, but there the similarity ends and we’re faced with more questions than answers, and I fear for what those answers might end up being.

Today the best bit of news so far is that we’ve confirmed our standing as a feeder club for Manchester City by taking an 18 year old kid on loan for a year and a half.

He may well prove to be a good player – in fact, reports suggest he will be very good indeed – but I would stipulate that you don’t need to be exceptional to look like a star in the current Celtic team.

Let’s not kid ourselves about this though; this is our aternative to having to spend real money on the wide position during the summer. A kid, with no experience of first team football on the European stage.

In the meantime, Ronny’s “number one target” from the summer has been allowed to leave on loan, a tacit admission that £1.5 million has been wasted on Nadir Ciftci, adding him to the long line of disastrous attempts to sign a goal-scorer in complete ignorance of the only criteria on which one should ever be judged; the amount of times he’s put the ball in the net.

Babs, the birthday girl, is from Dublin, and like many other fans she travels across the Irish Sea to watch our team play its home games at Celtic Park, and doubtless she is as in awe of the magnificent Celtic Way as anyone is.

Our stadium looks incredible right now, a true home fit for heroes.

The Way itself is special, and the host of memories it conjures up are wonderful.

It makes our club seem special, as special as the Celtic PLC advertising department is fond of marketing it as.

And looking at it, I wonder who the next “Celtic icon” to feature on it will be?

Those who defend The Strategy can help me by answering this question; how do you create legends, and icons, at a club whose policy is to acquire, whether by buying or loaning, young unproven talent and then moving them on before they reach their peak?

From the current Celtic team, there are a few obvious names; Commons will hit 100 goals. Brown will go down in history as a fine captain. Griffiths should make it if he’s at Celtic Park long enough, if the big offer doesn’t come in that Lawwell bites someone’s hand off for. Armstrong has the makings of a future captain, provided he doesn’t peak early and gets sold …

Beyond that?

Well, that’s the real question, isn’t it?

Who decides what an “icon” is?

Under The Strategy, Henrik Larsson would have been sold within two years.

Does Victor Wanyama deserve his own Celtic flag on The Way, by virtue of good performances and a hefty transfer fee? Would Patrick Roberts get one for dazzling us for 18 months? Should we consider Jason Denayer a candidate? Do you think Carlton Cole will ever earn the accolade? Can we hold onto Nir Bitton long enough to give him his?

Where does the current Celtic team fit into the pantheon of heroes?

Am I being unfair to say that if they’d won yesterday and went on to win the treble that it would be the poorest Celtic side in our history to achieve that feat, something better, far better, teams could never do?

Would future generations’ hearts have swelled with pride at the team that boasted Ambrose and Stefan Johansen?

Is this a team future writers would have judged to be worthy alongside Martin’s treble winners, or Stein’s?

Is making the cut the same as making the grade?

These are philosophical questions, of course.

There are harder questions to answer.

Do we still behave like a club that takes itself as seriously as the Celtic Way would suggest?

Our history is something in which we all take inordinate pride, but as we marvel at the triumph and tragedy that make that history up, have we completely taken our eyes off the future and how best we might go about adding to that special collection of memories and accomplishments?

What do we strive to be?

The biggest club in Scotland is a given, but beyond that?

Do we have ambition left for that greater stage, or have we accepted limitations set on us from elsewhere? Is there a plan? Because, as I said in an earlier piece, where I talked about that moment in Apocalypse Now when Kurtz asks Willard if his methods have become unsound, I’m with the captain when he tells him, “I don’t see any method at all.”

Today, on the day a Manchester City youth player arrives at Parkhead to wild acclaim from some quarters and entreaties to us to embrace our new found position on the food chain, one of our own, young Aidan Nesbitt, has left on loan, on the very day he scored (twice) against the Sevco youth development team for what is the umpteenth time, and was garnering the usual praise.

Aidan Nesbitt should be a prime-time candidate for one of the banners on The Celtic Way, a home-grown superstar with the attitude and talent to make it big. Yet I don’t think we’ll ever fly the flag, because I don’t think we’ll ever see him develop at Parkhead.

Even as he proves, yet again, that he has the attributes to be a top talent, we’re scrambling around the free transfer market, trying to bring to the club a player who’s attitude reeks, who’s personal reputation goes way before his footballing one, and who looks as if he will play in the very position young Nesbitt could be filling, if we had a club with any coherent strategy at all.

12 months on from a day in which we were all filled with optimism, the picture at Celtic Park looks confused and chaotic and those running things divorced from reality.

Out of the League Cup. A European campaign that was disastrous and humiliating. A playing style which has regressed, and where there’s none of the “faster, fitter, sharper” we were promised and looked, this time last year, as if we were developing nicely.

Nothing but short-term solutions being mooted to fix long term problems.

Far from building a team capable of making it to the Champions League next season we look as if we’re simply patching holes as we go, trying to make things seem like they make some sense.

So, Ciftci goes because he’s not scoring goals. In the meantime, a player arrives whose goal tally at 29 isn’t even what Griffiths has managed in a Celtic shirt thus far. He arrives with an armful of baggage and attitude issues which makes it seem like a risk whilst a player who has scored lots of goals in a Celtic shirt, Anthony Stokes, is loaned out to Hibs because his own attitude isn’t what the manager wants to have in the dressing room.

I’ll ask just one question about our latest signing; would we ever give him a place on The Celtic Way, no matter how well he plays or what he achieves in a Celtic shirt? We know the answer … and that should say enough, on its own.

Who thinks this fits into a coherent pattern?

Who thinks it makes even a fraction of sense?

I’ve stopped looking for sense.

It doesn’t exist at Celtic Park, and every level, from the boardroom to the boot-room, is lost in a fog.

Yesterday, when we brought on James Forrest, I realised, for the first time, that I’ve broken the habit of mentally adjusting our team formation when we make a substitution. Somewhere along the line, and I don’t even know when it happened, I simply stopped doing it. Because Deila so often puts players in places they should never be, in a system that doesn’t fit their skills, that trying to work out the game plan is an exercise in futility.

They say that a chess grand master playing against a novice will lose more pieces in the early part of the game than a lesser player would; it’s because the grand master assumes there’s a strategy unfolding, and spends time looking for a pattern where there’s none.

A lot of Celtic fans feel that way watching our team at the present time. We try to fit logic and consistency into a set-up where they just don’t belong. We’re looking for some underlying structure where there really isn’t any to find.

Babs McMahon and all the rest who walk down The Celtic Way every other week are rightly proud of what it signifies and are entitled to marvel at how our club must look from the outside, at how impressive it must seem, to those who perhaps don’t know all the details about what the Lawwell defenders call The Strategy.

We no longer behave like a football colossus.

Now we “settle for.”

Yesterday, those who were “settling for” a treble switched, in an instant, to dismissing the League Cup as having relevance, and got comfortable with “settling for” a double. Those who were expecting big names and signs of intent from this window are already “settling for” seeing all of our problems solved in the summer.

We’ve been here before, and before, and before.

Now’s not the time for questioning the manager. Nor The Strategy. Some people say, anyway.

But I find myself asking, again; if not now then when? 

See, looking at The Celtic Way right now, I wonder who will be the next Celtic Great to adorn that wondrous avenue. Maybe we should just skip right over the playing staff and give the CEO the accolade of being the first club official ever to grace the path.

To me, if we’re not aspiring to add to it, it looks like nothing more than a triumph of marketing and PR, an entreaty to spend your money by tugging the heart strings with appeals to the past by a board which is incapable of presenting a road map towards the future.

It looks, in short, like a scam.

Because right now I cannot conceive of whose flags will fly there in the future, or of how we go from where we are now towards something better … and no matter what they might tell you, either publicly or through their own PR arms, the people running Celtic at the present time don’t know either.

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A Fool & His Money

twenty-pound-notes-007Okay … we’re going to talk about money and how the foolish are parted from it.

(A cagey proposition for someone who has a Donate button on the bottom of his website and basically scrapes out a living as a writer!)

There are three reasons why I think this is an important topic for this piece.

First, it’s that annual time of digging deep for football fans – the renewal of season tickets, the buying of jerseys, the booking of trips and, for some, even eyes on distant horizons as clubs prepare for European football.

Second, it’s the transfer window and there’s always a lot of money being squandered during that.

Look down south at England, where Daryl Murphy – a player who barely functioned in a Celtic shirt and who is in his thirties now – might be leaving Ipswich for a reputed £4 million plus.

In the meantime, Raheem Sterling, a guy few had heard of until a couple of years ago, is engineering himself this summer’s big move to Man City, for over £45 million.

Third and finally, I’m moved to write this because of a tweet from Graham Spiers, who has bet one of his colleagues an unknown sum of money that Sevco will win the SPL by 2020.

Five years from now. Just in time to stop Celtic’s ten in a row.

This one amuses me. I’ll get to it in due course.

Football is about money, and it’s about finding more and more ways to get that money out of our pockets and into those of the players and the sponsors and the advertisers.

Getting the cash out of your pockets and into theirs requires a lot of work, but it has to be worth the effort because the game itself is booming like never before, especially south of the border where the insanity of the transfer window grows more unbelievable – and loathsome – every single year.

This year’s will be particularly gruesome, with the aforementioned Sterling setting the general tone for what will be an avalanche of spending as we near the end of it and the closure of the window.

Here, in Scotland, Celtic has just bought Nadir Ciftci for a mere £1.5 million, and unless we’re going to pull something major out of the hat that will be our striker signed for the Champions League.

It almost seems like a sick joke, considering the above.

The club, in the meantime, markets itself as a European giant, surrounding the stadium with images of the great and the good.

Will Ciftci have his image alongside them one day?

I’d say it was doubtful, except that there’s a guy up there called Larsson, who cost us £600,000.

Still, one suspects that all these two players will have in common will be the number 7 shirt, which Celtic has seen fit to award to a player for the first time in years.

Since the King of Kings left the most famous football shirt of them all has been worn by six different players; Zurawski, McDonald, Juninho, Keane, Ljundberg and Miku.

None came close to living up to his legend; indeed the latter two were simply wastes of a jersey and Juninho may be the biggest disappointment of my time as a Celtic fan.

It was Cyndi Lauper who sang “Money Changes Everything”, and with so much of it flowing into the coffers of English clubs it was gratifying to hear Ciftci talk about how he’d turned down a move there to play at Celtic Park.

All in all I’m not deliriously happy about this window, but I’m content.

Content because we have a settled side to which we’ve added some players.

Big Nadir will give us something different up front. He looked very comfortable against Sociedad but time will tell if he’s got what we need, but he’s got a physical presence and he’s not shy about putting it about, and when you look at the money English clubs are spending you can’t help but think less useful players will be costing clubs down there fortunes.

Does having the money necessarily mean you should spend in? In England, apparently yes.

All things considered, you’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

Across Glasgow, things are hilariously disjointed and lack of cash is at the root of it.

They lost 11 players during the close season and have signed just four.

The chairman, our old friend King, spoke at length about building an SPL quality side, but there are no signs at all that he’s serious about that or even knows where to start.

The excuses have started instead.

Now it’s “oh but we don’t have a scouting system in place” as if anyone who’s ever played Football Manager doesn’t know where to start looking.

Warburton must have watched thousands of footballers in his time in the Championship and during his much heralded world tour of the clubs.

Is he saying John Eustace and Rob Kiernan are the cream of the global game?

Their recent signing, Wes Foderingham, their second choice goalie, was signed from Swindon after a career trawling England’s lower leagues at clubs such as Bromley, Boreham Wood and Histon.

If this is the best their management team can come up with then they need a hell of a lot more than a new scouting system.

Of course, this is all about money and not so much about the scouting.

The purpose of the scouting network, as they see it, is to do what Celtic do – sign players on the cheap who they can later sell on for a huge profit.

There’s just one wee fly in the ointment; what we do costs millions.

The infrastructure itself is expensive and complex and it took us years to build.

They don’t have the money.

They sure as Hell don’t have the years.

Without even an auditor they can’t get a NOMAD.

Without a NOMAD there will be no Stock Market listing, even if other issues can be overcome.

Without a Stock Market listing their hope of raising money via a share issue looks dead in the water, and even if they somehow had all these things the issuing of shares depends on a boardroom vote they might not even win.

It is chaotic. It is shambolic.

And yet a lot of their fans have bought into it all.

There’s nothing more amazing to me than the continuing dumbness of the Sevco supporters.

King and his board have been in place now for four months – the EGM was in March – and they have yet to keep a single promise to the supporters. This website had major fun with Graham Wallace and the 120 Day Review, but at least he produced something, some kind of wishy-washy list of objectives and a proper timetable.

It was laughable how little there was to it … but where is King’s version?

They’ve had three major “acts” thus far; to secure a new nominated advisor after the one they’d threatened to sack resigned in the wake of their victory.

They’ve failed. The media’s given them a free pass on it. Fair enough.

Then they had to replace Kenny McDowell with Stuart McCall (which worked out well, eah?).

Finally they had to appoint a new manager, and they went out and brought in a 52 year old from Brentford, with a whole 18 months experience and who’s never worked under the kind of scrutiny he’s about to be subjected to … not to mention the loving embrace of the fans, who aren’t exactly known for tolerance, patience or even rationality at times.

This won’t end well.

The players he’s buying in don’t seem good enough to take the team forward and the idea of relying on kids … well watch as that one is tested to destruction pretty rapidly. A team full of young players, with all the immense expectation and pressure that will swirl around that club like a tornado … careers have been ruined on less.

Which brings me nicely to Graham Spiers, who is watching this unfolding shambles like the rest of us, but still thinks the tailspin Sevco is in can be reversed, and that they will be at the top of Scottish football in five years.

He has bet a colleague to that effect.

From where I’m sitting he’s just kissed off some readies.

He has no basis for his belief at all, except the club that plays out of Ibrox wears the name Rangers.

How can an otherwise intelligent man be so daft?

I know too what his rationale is.

That sooner or later someone has to turn the club around, because they are “too big” to forever languish like this.

Tell that to Leeds fans, who probably thought the same.

Money makes the world go round, and Sevco has none of it.

You might be able to part fans from their cold hard cash by promising moonbeams, and you might even get some Scottish hacks to part company with theirs, as Spiers will certainly have to do … but trying to get hard-nosed businessmen to do it is a different ballgame entirely.

No-one ever became rich by being a fool.

Indeed, many of them got rich on the back of that old adage that there’s “one born every minute.”

To run losses on the order that would be required to make Sevco champions in five years would mean some Abramovich type holding onto chits in the tens of millions.

Spiers and others still believe they are out there; the Real Rangers Men with oodles of cash, just dying to chase the dream.

Barking mad.

Those people do not exist.

If they did they’d be here already, they’d never have allowed the club to fall into such ruination and shame.

King claims they were waiting on the right board of directors

Well, Hell, it’s been four months now, of his lot, and there’s no sign of them yet.

If Sevco fans are waiting on these people they will wait a long time.

Because if these people do exist they’ve sat on their hands for years.

They watched the club they loved die and saw its reanimated corpse broken like a Walking Dead extra.

What, exactly, was the moment at which they were going to step in and save the day?

Graham Spiers knows all this.

He knows this talk of Real Rangers Men with bags full of money is a demented Louden Tavern Friday Night Fantasy.

Yet he’s clearly unable to get past the idea that the club in question is skint and going nowhere.

I have one question for him, and I do ask it with all respect since he’s willing to do what King so far hasn’t and put his money where his mouth is;

Where’s the cash to rebuild them coming from, Graham?

This is the question every journalist should be asking, and which none are.

Where’s the money coming from?

If we accept that the King consortium isn’t going to fund this out of their own pockets – and they’ve said as much; the South African is on the record as saying he will put in money which matches outside investment pound for pound, which has netted the sum total of nil and doesn’t look like resulting in an influx of big bucks any time soon – then where?

If we accept that the Real Rangers Men with billions in the banks aren’t there … then where?

You’re talking about expanding every single facet of the club, increasing running costs three or four times.

King even talked about quadrupling the wage budget not long ago before he realised that talking in abstract numbers is one thing but someone has to write the cheques in real life.

Getting people to invest in Scottish football is a non-starting event, so you can forget the City of London coming in this time to snap up shares, especially when they look at the shambolic state of the club and its history of fan revolts, boycotts, boardroom strife and the media savaging of anyone who doesn’t know all the words of The Sash My Father Wore.

If I were a money man, who wanted to put cash into football and live the dream … Hell, there’s a country just south of me where you can find many a team on its arse.

I’d buy one of them.

Sink my fortune into reaching the EPL, and then going for the tens of millions which are available there.

Why in God’s name would I choose Ibrox?

Where’s my profit coming from?

Where’s the money in it?

No less a Real Rangers Man than Walter Smith said “The Rangers Way” is always to be in debt.

Think it through.

Champions League income, even if you got there, is worth an additional £20 million per season at most.

But to get there you’d need to be spending five times what you are now, easily, and they are making a loss even on their modest outgoings at present.

Do the maths. This is not complicated stuff.

So, profit aside, what’s the purpose of this “investment”?

Stroking my ego?

There are easier ways to feed the beast.

Cause what’s the End Game?

A statue outside, that pigeons can crap on and drunks can piss up the side of?

A stand named after me?

Why would I want that, when I can donate my wedge to a hospital instead, saving people’s lives, and one day, in the distant future, have my grandchildren proudly stand outside the James Forrest Wing?

There are better ways of leaving a monument behind you than being the guy who “saved” Sevco for The Peepil.

So come on, sell it to me, Graham.

Tell it to me like you picture it in your own head, because you clearly do believe there’s a turnaround coming, and that hard cash is going to flow in their direction sometime soon.

So tell me how they’ll do it.

Sell it to me.

Imagine I’ve got the readies and that I’m not a Celtic fan who’s enjoying this whole thing.

Sell me on the idea.

Without a chance of turning a profit, what’s the “unique selling point”?

The annual Poppy Day “celebrations?”

Or maybe the Linfield friendly, marching bands and all?

Jesus wept … I mean really?

Sevco, for all it thinks in global terms, is a provincial West of Scotland football club with a small following in the North of Ireland because of their “cultural” embrace of all that ‘flegger’ crap.

They have already spent three years in the lower leagues, and this will be number four.

So even if you’re talking about “the brand”, and even if that brand were not tainted and stained with sectarianism and supremacy and backward ideas … they’ve spent an awful lot of time out of the light, a lot of time without their “brand” being seen by a global audience, a lot of time on the side-lines watching the big boys.

All this is to say that there is next to no chance of “institutional investment” this time around.

Charles Green managed it, or so it seemed, but we now know that he raised the money selling the bulk of his shares to his mates and all manner of dodgy individuals who used their voting influence and their appointed representatives to make some rather sweet deals and siphon off as much of the cash as they could reasonably get away with.

There is no pot of gold at the end of this rainbow.

Indeed, the rainbow itself is a 3D art job on the side of a brick wall.

This club isn’t going to “recover” in the way Graham Spiers and others use the word in ten years, far less five.

What will happen – eventually – is that the reality of their position will sink in and the club will undergo a dramatic realignment in structure and expectations, engaging, at last, with the truth.

They will stop kidding themselves that what was Rangers still exists or can ever exist again.

That name, on its own, will not make them challengers far less champions.

But the name is all they have left.

That’s nowhere near enough, and the day they accept that is the day all this stops hurting.

Then, and only then, can the real healing begin.

In the meantime, those running the cash registers at Ibrox are marketing “the name” for all they are worth.

And a lot of people who should know better are still buying into it.

There’s one born every minute right enough …

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Sign, Seal and Deliver

308046-new-signing-john-guidetti-is-looking-forward-to-the-start-of-his-career-with-celticIs it any wonder that Manchester City have allegedly slapped a £5m price tag on Bhoy Wonder John Guidetti?

Guidetti has been nothing short of sensational in the Hoops since arriving on loan from the Etihad. So it’s no surprise that football forums and social media is buzzing about him. Even the staunchest of Bluenose’s would admit the boy has talent.

It’s the first time in a few years that Celtic has had a striker of note. The previous sentence is one I thought I’d never write due to Celtic’s historic ability for finding front men.

It’s something I’m sure the board are now treating as a priority, especially given how much he’s impressed in the short time he has been here. Is it any wonder Ally McCoist and his players aren’t looking forward to facing Celtic in the League Cup? Guidetti looks as if he’s going to mirror what he did for Feyenoord whilst on loan to them, and long may it continue.

The Swedish U21 International looked a little ring rusty when he joined the Hoops, but it hasn’t taken him long to start scoring the goals. His rustiness was clearly down to lack of match sharpness and adopting to new team-mates and, of course, the Scottish game.

His fitness and match practice are now in line and we are starting to see one hell of a player.

Celtic has lacked someone with a bit of ingenuity from dead ball situations. Both Mulgrew and Stokes appear to have lost this, more so Mulgrew. Van Dijk may chip in with one or two but the Swede looks the real deal from free kicks and penalties. His second against Thistle, in particular, was the stuff dreams are made of, the kind Nakamura used to score.

I’m sure Guidetti and Craig Gordon are the first names on the team sheet and are easily Deila’s best captures. I dreaded Forster going but we’ve won a watch in the former Sunderland keeper.

Surely the Celtic Board is aware of Guidetti’s ability and must to push the boat out to ensure he is plying his trade at Paradise next season? It would be a travesty if this guy was allowed to slip through our fingers.

He seems to be enjoying himself in Scotland – who does that remind you of? What other Swede built a great career with Celtic? Not that I’m comparing him to Larsson but there is a massive potential for both the player and the club to forge a fantastic partnership.

It will come at a cost of course. But look at the money Celtic has wasted on strikers over the past few seasons. We’ve been crying out for a natural born striker. Instead of Pukki and Balde, Celtic could have and should have signed Finnbogasson. This guy is on that level. He is in that class, the sort of natural born finisher we’ve been missing.

Celtic should play on the fact that his fellow Swede loved life in Glasgow and enjoyed great success. Guidetti will no doubt be aware of Larsson’s achievements. Could the King lend him advice?

My fear is that English clubs may well take notice of him just now and pounce in January but Celtic are in pole position to make him an offer. His fellow players can always bend his ear and if he’s enjoying his football he’s more likely to stay.

There’s a great belief amongst the Hoops faithful that he could be the best striker we’ve had since Gary Hooper.

The fact that he’s bagged 9 goals in 9 games speaks volumes and should there be continuity to this admirable feat he could help push Celtic towards four-in-a-row and possible cup success. He could well help Ronnie Deila stay in a job.

I do hope his head is not swayed by the lure of big bucks in the English Premier League. Celtic simply cannot compete in that market. They could pay him a relatively handsome wage all the same.

Take a look at our last goalscorer Gary Hooper. He took the dollar at Norwich, got injured and scored a few goals. His team were relegated and any chance, if there was one, of playing for his country went by the boards. He is now playing Championship football, with the best accomplishments of his career left behind him at Celtic Park. It has happened before.

The Swede will no doubt attract suitors but I don’t foresee them being from a Top 5 EPL club. He’s stated he’s happy in Glasgow and will no doubt win silverware too, and this should not be underestimated when it comes to attracting, or retaining, players.

Celtic needs to emphasise this to him … this, of course, and the fact he’ll be guaranteed European football.

The Man City loanne wasn’t registered in time to feature in the group stage of the Europa League but will feature should Celtic progress from those, and I’m sure Ronnie Deila would loved to have had him in the team for these matches.

On the flip side – this could attract more predators … which is all the more reason we should be bending over backwards to nail him down on a long term contract.

Deila’s comments comparing Guidetti to Larsson recently are of course wide of the mark but I’m sure well meant. Guidetti has a mountain the climb to fill the Kings boots. Yet he’s confident, cocky and will score goals.

But to reach the level of The King, he’d need to sustain what he’s doing right now for 7 years and win plenty of trophies. If he shoots down a certain Glasgow NewCo in January that will, of course, be a start!

I would, however, like the chance to see the young Swede play more than a season long loan and if Peter Lawwell and his cohorts on the Celtic board have any ambition they must sign him on a pre-contract in January. He could be the difference between winning trophies and not.

If they want to see the crowds increase they’ll need to show the willingness and maybe they’ll see more bums on seats.

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