In the time I’ve been writing CQN, this is the eighth managerial change Celtic have gone through. A feature I have always noticed before is that we try to correct for the previous incumbent’s biggest weakness. Did Ange have a big weakness? The sense I am picking up from most on here is that, if anything, we would like more of the same. Change as little as possible and keep the caravan moving. But what was it about Ange that made him successful and, therefore, what do we need in the new man?
He must control alpha males who have often achieved more than you as players. They are usually from a different generation and are therefore culturally remote. The good ones have options and will leave if they don’t take to you, so a Mastery of Contained Authority is required.
Tactics are incredibly technical. Five or six players need to act on a cue from an opponent in tandem, get it wrong, and you will be shredded. Three years ago, we saw how a straightforward technical task like defending a set-piece is far more difficult than non-players could believe. Until recently, managers could survive on their eye for a player and by being the apex alpha, not anymore.
Celtic are on a good road technically. Recruitment and scouting have been focussed to deliver to Ange’s requirements. I would be very reluctant to throw that out for a new plan. We should choose a manager technically in-tune with our current strategy – or one prepared to learn quickly.
Leadership qualities extend beyond the dressing room. Ange excelled here, leading the entire club: fans, board, players, staff, even the media were under his spell. If you think this is easy, we should talk about Gordon Strachan’s time.
Recruitment can be the most important part of a football club. Gordon grew up a Hibs fan and would often watch them. Consequently, he signed three players from Easter Road. Martin O’Neill was once described to be by someone who worked closely with him as a “Match of the Day manager”. If he saw you play well on TV, he would want to sign you. It was not an efficient strategy.
The problem with recruitment is that the net needs to be cast worldwide. Managers often have two games a week and spare time to travel to watch a player is almost non-existent. Modern recruitment is more of a team effort than it was when many of today’s crop of managers first took charge. They need to be prepared to let go of some controls they had before. The manager is either a cog in the wheel, or he is a spanner. Too many are micro-managing spanners.
If players are not good enough, managers get the sack, so you can understand why they want this control, but changes in the game make them a liability. A manager who excels is one who can curtail his apex instincts and become primus inter pares at recruitment meetings.
Not all environments are the same and none are quite like Glasgow. The next Celtic manager needs to take a team to Ibrox in front of 50,000 hostile fans and fortify them for the task. Success or failure in this task alone could determine the outcome of your job in its entirety. Brendan Rodgers, Neil Lennon and Ange were all up to this job. Would a technically brilliant manager who has never faced anything more than a Scandinavian chill cope? How can we know?
Celtic have a shortlist of names that meet the criteria, one that has been curated since before Ange was appointed. It inspires some confidence, but I sense a lot of trepidation among those with the decision to make. Ultimately, you can do all the checks you want, but we all know it’s a throw of the dice.