The Storm Before The Calm

Jean-Léon_Gérôme_-_The_Death_of_Caesar_-_Walters_37884On 15 March 44BC a group of Roman senators, believing they were striking a blow for freedom, ambushed and murdered one of the most important men in history, Gaius Julius Caesar, the dictator, general, politician and statesman.

They had expected the acclaim of the masses. They had killed a tyrant after all.

Instead of celebrations, they were greeted with sullen silence. Caesar’s closest friend, Marc Anthony, capitalised on that. He negotiated a sham peace, and then at the funeral gave an oration that sparked a riot. The assassins fled, for their own safety.

Within two years, everyone involved in the plot to kill Caesar was dead.

The seeds of their stunning downfall had been sown in the act itself. They never stood a chance.

First, the plan had left Anthony alive when the smart thing to do would have been to kill him, and second, and more important, they had reckoned without Caesar, who had chosen his successor with the greatest care.

It was his nephew Octavian, then just 18.

Octavian had all the political skills of Caesar. Although not as fine a general, he was more ruthless than his uncle. Whereas Caesar had spared the lives of many of his political rivals, Octavian executed everyone who wasn’t firmly fixed in his own camp.

Gaius Octavian became Augustus. He transitioned the Roman Republic out of existence, and became the first Emperor, in the ultimate irony as it was the Republic that Brutus, Cassius and the other assassins had killed Caesar to maintain.

Caesar’s assassins would never have killed him had they an inkling of the skills young Octavian possessed, and they would certainly have balked at the act had they known that for years it was the dictator himself who was the key restraining influence on Marc Anthony, who would have had many of them executed far in advance of that deadly day.

The fate of those men is history’s great cautionary tale, but it’s not the only one.

It’s dangerous to carry out an assassination if you’re unsure of what might follow it, and you should never assume you know what that will be.

I think often of the Rangers fans who danced and celebrated Inverness’ stunning victory over Celtic in the Scottish Cup back in August 2000, which led to the sacking of John Barnes.

Had they known what would follow that night I doubt they’d have partied so long or so hard.

Likewise, I know of no Celtic fan who was happy on the day that McCoist fell, or on the day Sevco decided Stuart McCall would not lead them into a full season. We never wanted those men gone; we liked them just fine right where they were.

I know that some of the Sevco fans who danced in the stands at Hampden on Sunday last week did so with a heavy heart; they never wanted to see Ronny Deila fall. Celtic winning the double would have appeased enough supporters, maybe, that the board would have risked keeping him in place for another year. That would have suited Sevco just fine.

As it is, Deila is packing his bags.

Without knowing who’s coming in, it’s hard to say what Celtic will look like this time next year, but one thing is for sure; we’ll be better off for it.

As if watching Deila fall wasn’t bad enough for them, their victory may just have shaken up more than just the dugout.

If it has, then it’s truly been a  Pyrrhic win because the last thing their fans wanted to see was a fundamental shift in the approach at Celtic Park.

Yet to outsiders it still looks like Celtic is in meltdown. The fans are staying away. The board is unpopular and teetering on the brink of crisis. Many of the players are a waste of a jersey. The manager is shockingly inept, with woeful tactics.

And yet … it’s impossible not to see this as the storm before the calm.

And at the end of the storm is a golden sky.

Because Celtic is changing.

This is what change looks like.

It’s painful and it’s dramatic and it’s often scary when you’re in the midst of it.

Even as our slumbering club comes fully awake for the first time maybe in years the club across the city is celebrating victory before the war’s even won … and you know something? I think they’re going to get the biggest shock since Cassius and Brutus stood watching Marc Anthony give the most inflammatory funeral speech of all time.

For one thing, they’re not as good as that media would have you believe. The league table never lies, they say; well try this for size. After the same number of games as Celtic this season they’re not much better off, points wise, than we are. The difference is that we’ve not been playing second tier, even amatuer, teams all season.

The media which lauds them, and the fans who follow them blindly, are labouring under an enormous – and dangerous – misconception, that just because Celtic is stagnant and vulnerable looking that we are somehow as weak as they are.

It’s not true.

Our club is immeasurably stronger than theirs is.

They are mistaking weak leadership for a flaw in the system itself. No such flaw exists. Leadership aside, Celtic is a machine. It’s been running on 20% power, and some have taken that to be the maximum it’s capable of.

This is foolish in the extreme.

The resources at our disposal absolutely dwarf what they can bring to bear.

Our financial position is rock solid. With the right man in the manager’s office and the right strategy behind him we are capable of burying any threat they, or anyone else, is likely to pose.

This is all about the fundamentals, and when you break down the facts and the figures we are in front of them by every accepted standard. We appear less than we are at the moment; a consequence of that appalling management.

Get that part of it right … and this isn’t even a contest.

Let’s take but one example; the stadium.

Our stadium has a higher capacity than Ibrox, and this haunted David Murray all the way through his last years at Rangers. Those 10,000 extra seats represent more than just bragging rights. As Fergus understood full well when he laid the plans for Celtic Park, they confer a huge financial advantage upon us if we can fill them.

With a plan in place to restore us to our rightful status, and the supporters on board with that and returning in numbers, those seats allow us to open up a gap King and his cronies simply cannot bridge, no matter what they do.

Their club is still six years from a favourable merchandising deal.

They are at least ten away from being able to navigate beyond the earliest rounds in Europe, should they ever manage to get there. Without real European income, their chances of catching a Celtic side that has that advantage are somewhere between slim and none. To open up that gap, we have to do our own part but even that isn’t as difficult as some would have you believe.

I would suggest that a better manager than Deila would, with the players to hand, have gotten us past Maribor and Malmo and possibly even Legia Warsaw. Those who say our chances of qualifying are getting worse by the year are looking at the world through blue tinted glasses. We had the measure of these clubs. Our squad is better than theirs. Managerial failings are what made the difference.

Even without Champions League qualification next season, however, there should be no question of us failing to reach the Europa League groups at the very least and this, in itself, will put us on another financial plane entirely unless Warburton – completely untested at that level and with a second tier squad of players – was able to achieve the same; unlikely if we’re being generous.

It’s been five years since Rangers was washed away in the aftermath of Craig Whyte’s disastrous reign, but what Whyte did was simply acknowledge the truth that still dare not speak its name; Rangers was a financial basket case.

What we think of as that club’s strength and power was built on sand.

Stripped of the bank funding that allowed their glory years, they fell into complete ruin and then oblivion.

Whatever the club playing out of Ibrox might call itself, no matter what history it might shamelessly and fraudulently claim, the similarity ends with blue jerseys and the logo on them.

I cannot accentuate this point enough, and yet I’ve had to over and over again.

The Rangers we knew never really existed; it was smoke and mirrors, a shadow on the wall. They were never a financial superpower, merely a club whose owner was hyped up and feted by a bank that was out of control in an era when reckless spending seemed almost virtuous. Without the criminal indulgence of Masterton and Cummings there’d have been no nine in a row, no Gazza, no Laudrup.

On its own, Rangers could never have bought these players, and these before EBT’s gave them another advantage they wouldn’t otherwise have had and which is denied to them today.

When Murray and his flexible friend were no longer on hand, that club was only heading one way;

“Express elevator to Hell … going down.”

Without a sugar daddy in charge, this was inevitable and if Sevco is ever to scale those heights it’s going to take another one to get them there.

And those are in short supply.

In the meantime, as King goes cap in hand to his fellow directors and Paul Murray pulls up the sofa cushions looking for loose change, over at Celtic Park, a long dormant engine is growling back into life. The gears may need a little grease and some of the spark plugs might need replacing, but this machine is essentially sound and when it gets rolling it will be a ten ton tank next to their refurbished Vauxhall Velox. Oh they can pretty up theirs as they like, but when the time comes we’re going to drive our war machine right over it.

But first, a period of turmoil when to the outside world it will look like we’re mired in crisis.

To Brutus and Cassius, Marc Anthony’s political manoeuvring must have looked a little like that, like the scrambling of a desperate man, determined to hang on to what little he had left in the world.

They were wrong, as so many of those looking at Celtic are wrong.

They ought not to feel bad when the reversal of all they thought they knew finally comes about. The historical tendency of those who win a major victory is to believe it’s the same as winning the war.

One of the most potent examples was on 7 December, 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour, achieving as they saw it the conditions that would allow them dominion over the Pacific.

One senior admiral knew it was not so, and although there’s no evidence he used the words which are often ascribed to him, Yamamoto’s foreboding proved warranted. “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”

Sevco fans, take note.

Celtic is awake. You’re the ones who did it.

Enjoy your moment.

For you, this is the calm before the storm.

(This site couldn’t run without the support of its readers. If you like what I do you can make a donation at the below link. If every reader was able to give just a small sum this site would be all the healthier for it.)

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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.

18 thoughts on “The Storm Before The Calm

  • 26 April, 2016 at 9:18 pm
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    ET tu Kingus

    Great to see OFOG back.

  • 26 April, 2016 at 9:52 pm
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    Hail Marc Anthony and Hail Hail Celtic great article

  • 26 April, 2016 at 10:10 pm
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    Livingston 1 huns 0! Found out again. LOL

  • 26 April, 2016 at 10:24 pm
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    Great article mate. Too few and far between though.

  • 26 April, 2016 at 11:29 pm
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    Excellent article. One of the best that I have read for some time.

  • 26 April, 2016 at 11:46 pm
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    Even Hearts didn’t have the temerity to suggest they would even get close to Celtic in their first season back in the Premier League. And they skelped the arses of Sevco last season. Those audacious comments will come back to haunt the new club. Nice to see some positive commentary after the past week, well, past few months to be honest.

  • 26 April, 2016 at 11:53 pm
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    The new rangers may be built, like previously ,on a foundation of sand . They do have momentum and a manager. We have disconnect between a lazy board room giving a nod and wink to flawed governance while navigating a sturdy ship with no captain or crew. Over to you, Desmond ?

  • 27 April, 2016 at 2:36 am
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    Your spot on James, we have woken up and we are hungry for vengeance.
    Next season we will put all in Scotland to the sword.
    No team fears us at the minute but why should they, we have been terrible but all of that is going to change….oh yes they will all fear us again next season

  • 27 April, 2016 at 6:53 am
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    Brilliant James!

  • 27 April, 2016 at 7:32 am
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    I think much of what you write is actually wishful thinking. I have no faith at all in the people who are running Celtic. The disgraceful way they have dealt with the cheating at Rangers and the SFA and their refusal to act against this has shamed the club. Be under no illusion, the Celtic board are the reason that the International exist at all and their refusal to support the Resolution 12 demands are incredible. Do you think anyone at Rangers would have ever allowed Celtic to get away with this? These mercenary scum -bag Tories are delighted to have any Rangers back and will happily share the next 50 titles with them to ensure that the gravy train that they are on, and others like them will join in the future, keeps rolling along. I would be shocked if there is not a new secret four way agreement between the SFA, the TV companies and the boards of Celtic and Rangers to prohibit the relegation of either one of the ‘Old Firm’. They really are a ‘Firm’ dependent on each other and the mug punters they sneer and laugh at. When Celtic appoint Neil Lennon as manager, rather than show any ambition at all by going for a Roberto Di Matteo figure, wyou will see where it is heading. The religious bigotry aimed at Lennon is pure box office and will ratchet up the ‘phoney war’ a littel bit more. The first fixture next season will see the same sickening hype from the media and the same turgid, crappy football as we return to the status quo. ‘One to you Billy, one to you Tim’ distribution of league titles will continue the mug punters can brush up on their party tunes and Europe becomes a distant memory and playing a game in Europe after Christmas a dream. Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated? They have had the last of my cash – it is the only power I have.

  • 27 April, 2016 at 8:07 am
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    Brilliant piece James.

    Football success, at the highest level we have, is dependent upon money.

    Our turnover is around 3 times theirs.

    End of argument.

    With a competent manager, (not even a good one) we will wipe the floor with them for years to come……

  • 27 April, 2016 at 9:46 am
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    Well said John,so so true.
    The whole set up in sectarian scotland
    is all about the money.

  • 27 April, 2016 at 9:53 am
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    Love your optimism James and actually said to some Hun (friends!?) they have probably done us a massive favour after that result.
    There is no reason to doubt your scenario but for progression the new man must be given complete autonomy. A long shot from me would be the guy at Bournemouth, Eddie Howe. Seems to be a forward thinking manager, no nonsense and held his own in such a strong league getting the max out of his players.

  • 27 April, 2016 at 10:03 am
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    Quite a rousing piece James, but I suspect John may have a point. We really need Desmond to take the bull by the horns and appoint a management team that will once again fill those 60000 seats. Hail Hail.

  • 27 April, 2016 at 11:18 am
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    A very interesting piece James. It may even have been worthy of being read at a slain leaders funeral. I hope and pray your assumptions are correct, in that, a sleeping giant is awakening. Somehow though I have the feeling that it isn’t just our manager who should have fallen on his sword.
    Personally, I don’t agree with some of the rhetoric of my team downsizing since the greed and envy driven death of Rangers. We haven’t downsized, we have bought cheap, as we have done in the past, but without the big financial gains of FF, VvD and VW. I don’t have the actual figures at hand, but I would think the actual squad size is pretty much the same as 2012.
    In my opinion the board made the mistake of buying in players who were usually good enough to win the SPFL. But European football is a different animal. And we didn’t have the ringmasters to control that. Celtic should have been wiping the floor with every team put in front of us in Scotland. The SPFL games should have been used as training matches for upcoming European matches. This Celtic fan would like nothing better that to watch his team rattling in 4, 5, 6 goals every week. Knowing you’re going to watch your team play good attacking Celtic style football and scoring goals is what brings fans on to the terraces. It is not 4 games a season against whatever “basket of assets” that happens to be playing out of Ibrox at the time. I’ve been watching Celtic for over 45 years and the one thing that has kept me coming back is the knowledge that we have played good attacking football.
    I really do hope we are about to awaken from our slumber but I think there is still some blood letting to be done.
    HH

  • 27 April, 2016 at 1:40 pm
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    And a shaft of sunlight and calm commentary emerges at last. Thank you James.

  • 27 April, 2016 at 4:25 pm
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    John, much as many things stick in the craw,when it comes to business,and football is a business, pragmatism is required. There is no benefit in the long term for Celtic to be seen to be hounding Sevco. The long term damage has been done to them from within so why stoop to their level. Let’s concentrate on making Celtic great again while Sevco struggles for a future!

  • 27 April, 2016 at 9:11 pm
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    Great to see OFOG back, no offense but much better writing than the blog.

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