Two years ago, current Inverness manager, John Hughes, was guest of honour at the CQN Golf Day. For around two hours during the meal he spoke privately to me about John Collins.
Hughes worked alongside Collins at Livingston and regarded our new assistant manager as the most insightful, tactically aware and innovative person he’d met in the game. According to Hughes, Collins could see things hidden to others, including himself. He could spot weaknesses in opposition teams and make telling observations about his own players and formations.
When recruiting anyone to the management team we want to hear endorsements like this. Most of the CQN demographic are old enough to remember times when managers’ and assistants’ most important attribute was their ability to bang his first on a table and yell “Get stuck right intae them” with a legendary level of authority.
This model of the desirable manager is still valued by British clubs, it’s a superstition which has been fed by famous and successful table bangers like Sir Alex Ferguson, but Ferguson’s Fist was not the source of his magic touch. More than anything else, Ferguson’s successful longevity was his insistence on appointing insightful, tactically aware innovators as assistants, who were often more switched-on than he was.
I wanted a student of the game as manager but I also want another strong tactical head as assistant. The last thing a manager actually needs as his assistant is his pal, or someone who is good at shouting, or even someone to be a buffer between him and the players. Whoever puts the cones out at Lennoxtown, like the Scottish physio at Chelsea, can be the players’ pal, cum-go-between, cum-nag.
One of football’s many inefficiencies is the managerial structure. Unlike other industries, the responsibility and wage gaps between the man with the top job and his assistant are huge. There is no reason for this, in fact, it’s mad. You always need a hierarchy but the no. 2 should have duties, responsibilities and pay only a fraction less than his immediate superior. The huge disparities in authority which are common do not give you a functioning team, at best you have a less efficient autocracy.
As we’ve said for years, guru managers don’t exist, but good, properly constituted, management teams do.
Those in the management team, responsible for spending millions of pounds of our money each year, of making tactical decisions against the best teams in Europe, need to be oracles of the game. Anything less and we’re indulging in one of football’s glaring and costly inefficiencies.
John Collins fits the profile. He also doesn’t suffer fools, with strong ideas on training, fitness, laxity, drinking, diet and off-field behaviour. For Celtic, all of this is necessary. Footballers are elite athletes but there is enormous variation in how dedicated they are to their personal development. This doesn’t exist in elite participants in sports like athletics, where you don’t get near the podium without a puritanical level of commitment to your development, and to your coach’s instructions.
You can also forget any concerns about Scott Brown. The Scott Brown of 2014, who as Neil Lennon’s captain was responsible for imposing misdemeanor fines on players, is more like John Collins than he is like the Scott Brown of 2007.
Over the last seven years we have built the sports science, medical, technical analysis and scouting capacity, all of which are particularly impressive, but the management team has always had a homespun feel about it. In 10 years of CQN I’ve never backed a Celtic management appointment, but with the appointment of Ronny Deila and John Collins we have a new type of management team. There are no guarantees of immediate success in any walk of life, and Champions League qualification this season will still be exposed to the vagaries of sport, but I’m delighted we finally have what looks like a properly constituted team in the dug out.
Visit the CQN Bookstore to get Tommy Gemmell to sign your personal copy of his book, All the Best.[calameo code=0003901719d82038831a9 lang=en page=126 hidelinks=1 width=100% height=500]