WELCOME once again, folks, to the fourth instalment of CQN’s EXCLUSIVE new feature which will appear here every Saturday.
‘ALEX’S ANGLE’ will go behind the headlines with Alex Gordon, the former Sports Editor of the Sunday Mail and Chief Sports Sub-Editor of the Daily Record when they were the biggest sellers in Scotland.
The veteran newsman will reveal some tales from his journey through the inky trade while giving his view on current topics.
THE WRITE STUFF…Celtic legend Bertie Auld presents author Alex Gordon with a signed Lisbon Lions shirt during the writing of his best-selling autobiography, ‘A Bhoy Called Bertie’, which was published in 2008.
Alex has also authored fifteen books on Celtic, the team that has always been closest to his heart, including co-writing the autobiographies of legends such as Bertie Auld, Tommy Gemmell, Davie Hay and John ‘Yogi’ Hughes.
His other Celtic publications include ‘The Lisbon Lions: The 40th Anniversary Celebration’, ‘That Season in Paradise’, ‘Caesar and The Assassin’ and ‘In Praise of Caesar’, his tribute to Billy McNeill.
Here is Alex’s fourth EXCLUSIVE CQN column.
IT was around the turn of the century when Rangers chairman David Murray made his crass and ill-advised statement along the lines of “for every five pounds Celtic spend, we’ll spend ten pounds”.
I wrote in my tribute book to Celtic’s 51 titles, ’50 Plus One’, that “such vulgar and doltish remarks have a habit of coming back to haunt an individual and, of course, that was the case as time and justice caught up with such reckless spending and the club collapsed under the weight of liquidation in October 2012.”
In 2017, the same David Murray appeared in court in Glasgow as a witness in the Craig Whyte fraud trial.
He was asked about the use of the now-outlawed Employee Benefit Trusts between 2001 and 2010 to give stars millions in “loans” rather than wages.
Murray was forced to admit: “It gave us an opportunity to get players that we perhaps would not be able to afford.”
I love the use of the word “perhaps” in that glib comment.
PARADISE…Ange Postecoglou at home in the Celtic dug-out.
You would be forgiven for believing there should be a blanket ban on discussing any sort of financial matter emanating from that part of the universe. Michael Beale, though, put his head above the parapet earlier this month to say Ange Postecoglou was “a lucky man because he’s spent a lot of money.”
Possibly through gritted teeth, the Englishman did add: “He’s a good coach.”
Well, at least, Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s successor got that right.
Good fortune, though, has got little to do with what the Celtic manager has achieved in such a short space of time after inheriting a shambles in June 2021.
Postecoglou moved from one hemisphere to another to accept the daunting challenge that frightened off Eddie Howe and his sidekicks.
He arrived in Scotland to sift through the wreckage of the previous campaign in which the team had underperformed to such unimaginable levels that any remote chance of the historic tenth successive championship was blown with four months of the season still to be played.
SEALED WITH A MISS…Odsonne Edouard fluffs a chance at Ibrox during his final appearance before his exit.
It was one of the most wretched terms in recent memory with the team wandering aimlessly through a maze of mistakes on their way to the first trophyless crusade in 11 years.
Odsonne Edouard, Kristoffer Ajer and Ryan Christie had gone about their business in an alarmingly lacklustre fashion and the summer saw the departure of three players who had punched well below their weight in a consistent manner that confused onlookers.
Could be just a coincidence, of course, but the trio were in the line-up that nosedived 1-0 to relegation-threatened Ross County in Dingwall on the evening of February 21 2021, Neil Lennon’s final participation as Celtic manager.
By a strange quirk of fate, Edouard, Ajer and Christie were also on the pitch for the full 90 minutes on the bleak Sunday afternoon of November 29 2020 when the same Highland opposition ended the club’s hopes of a fifth consecutive League Cup with a 2-0 victory at the home of the champions.
KISS-OFF…Mohamed Elyounoussi had two years at Celtic on loan from Southampton before departing.
Joining the exodus at the same time as the England-bound threesome, loan signings Jonjoe Kenny (Everton), Diego Laxalt (AC Milan), Shane Duffy (Brighton) and Mohamed Elyounoussi (Southampton) were heading back to their parent clubs.
According to most Hoops followers – and shrewd judges of football talent – only the last named would be missed.
Alarm bells were ringing all over the east end of Glasgow. The Celtic Way was paved with thin ice, but Postecoglou had the courage of his own convictions to stride forward and take his place behind those front doors for the first time.
Players were brought in at a furious pace. Liel Abada, Carl Starfelt and Kyogo Furuhashi were among the vanguard as a new Celtic came to life.
The recently-appointed incumbent of the dug-out had to bring in recruits at breakneck pace while also inserting a fresh spine to his formation.
WE’RE BEHIND YOU…Joe Hart has solved Celtic’s No.1 problem.
It was obvious Vasilis Barkas was never going to cut it as a reliable keeper, Duffy and Ajer were on their bikes, Scott Brown was heading for an ill-fated move to Aberdeen at the end of his contract and Edouard said farewell with an astonishingly lacklustre performance at Ibrox where he was hauled off before the end, the visitors lost 1-0 and he was a Crystal Palace player a few days later.
The team had a new backbone when Joe Hart, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Carl Starfelt, Filipe Jota and Kyogo were integarted into the team and, of course, Callum McGregor stepped up to the plate to accept the captaincy from the outgoing legend that was Brown.
The wheeling and dealing continued as a grimly-determined Postecoglou remained focused in turning also-rans into a force to be reckoned with and he deserves overwhelming kudos for what he has achieved.
Luck has nothing to do with it. It’s easy to adopt a scatter-cash policy, but if you don’t spend the money wisely it could lead to disastrous consequences.
Just ask David Murray.