The Art of Winning an Unfair Game

After Neil Lennon resigned we discussed how Celtic have recently appointed managers to address the most glaring deficiency of the previous boss.  Gordon Strachan bought in value markets, whereas Martin O’Neill pretty much bought players who appeared on Match of the Day or Sportscene.

Despite his success, Gordon was manager of Celtic, not the leader of the club; there was always some distance between him and a section of the support.  As a consequence, we next appointed the guy who ‘invented’ the Celtic huddle.

Tony Mowbray was close to our hearts, but he was also a flop of a Celtic manager.  People inside the club knew this from the first week he was there when he asked to spend close to £4m on Marc-Antoine Fortune.

Tony was out of sync with scouts and coaches.  How do you fix that?  You appoint one of the coaches who saw it all happen.

Neil Lennon didn’t have many obvious deficiencies.  If we were to ask what his weakness was, there would be a range of answers.

Perhaps as a consequence, we’ve gone out with a clear remit: our manager should be intelligent, technically capable, insightful, and have a progressive and modern approach to the game.  He must dovetail with the infrastructure we have worked so hard to build up, and be in tune with strategy.

All we know today is that the criteria for the job was correct and our man matches that criteria.

Ronny is one of the scientific innovators in the game who has had the ‘Moneyball’ tag applied.  Back in 2009 I wrote about the books, Moneyball, and the football spin-off, Why England Lose (now re-launched as Soccernomics).  I also put a copy of Why England Lose into the hands of a senior decision maker at the club.

The point about Moneyball and this type of analysis cannot be abbreviated in few short sentences, and it is certainly not as prosaic as ‘buying low and selling high’ – that’s old news now, which makes it a dead topic as far as Moneyball is concerned.  The Michael Lewis book which did so much to publicise ‘sports economics’ was actually titled, Moneyball – The Art of Winning an Unfair Game.

The Art of Winning an Unfair Game

The game is unfair because others have more money, or more experience, or more sympathy with officials, or whatever your circumstances dictate.  But most sports are also full of enormous inefficiencies.

Football clubs are hostages to ridiculous forces, just listen to the names within the game who urged Celtic to appoint a well-known name in order to put bums on seats.  Some clubs do this – put a ‘name’ in, in the hope they sell some tickets, without realising there are enormously difficult football games ahead.

The football industry is top-heavy with fools with big budgets who don’t know what they are doing.  Celtic’s job is to build a team who can compete at an ever-higher level in the Champions League.  To get there we need a ruthless conviction against the inefficient nonsense which paralyses the rest of the game.

In 10 years I’ve never once agreed with a Celtic managerial appointment.  I welcomed Gordon, Tony and Neil while saying the board have made the wrong decision.  All of these appointments are risky, there are no guarantees – for short-term or long-term success.  Guru managers don’t exist and Ronny has years of work ahead of him to build Celtic ever-higher, but I couldn’t be happier at his appointment. Eye on the prize…. it’s all about winning.

Welcome to Celtic, Ronny, you’re going to love it here, but keep your kilt on.

All of this and 300 Celtic fans at the CQN the Lisbon Lions gig in Greenock tonight! Hold me back!

Lladro replica World Cup trophy

My thanks to Liam, from East Kilbride, who donated his prize memento, a Lladro replica World Cup trophy, commissioned by the Spanish FA in 1978, and acquired by Liam in 1982. It will be auctioned on Saturday with proceeds going to our Mary’s Meals school kitchen appeal. You can get involved in the auction, or keep an eye on it as it happens, here. The auction takes place at Great Western Auctions, on Dumbarton Road.

Visit the CQN Bookstore to get Tommy Gemmell to sign your personal copy of his tome, All the Best.

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  1. Logical Optimist on

    Glad it’s sorted.


    Think he’s gonna be ok,


    Once he remembers


    To play the Glasgow Celtic way !



    Free poetry Friday !





    See,that’s what I get replying to TSD.



    Relegated to the bench!

  3. Dontbrattbakkinanger on

    I’m intrigued and excited by this appointment- it is the complete opposite of the process that gave us Neil Lennon as manager.



    It’s goin ‘ to make for an interestin’ season, that’s for sure.

  4. Hamiltontim is praying for Oscar on

    Welcome Ronny to the greatest club on earth, Celtic Football Club.



    Hail Hail

  5. JonnyRambo67 on

    I bought my season ticket after a 5 year absence on Tuesday night, before any word of Ronny Deila, but I am feeling vindicated right now in splashing my hard earned cash. This is a much more exciting and inventive appointment than Coyle or MacKay.



    Yes it’s risky. Yes it may end in tears. I’m sure there will be many on here who will be quick to say I told you so if it does. But Pochettino was a huge risk at Southampton, who were ridiculed when he replaced the successful Adkins, Klopp was a risk, Rodgers a risk, Guardiola a risk, Martinez a risk. It appears from Lennon’s comments that he has been on our radar for some time.



    It’s a brave appointment. You might put bums on seats by appointing a Larsson or a Keane, but you keep them there by playing entertaining, attacking football. I can’t say I knew anything about him, but a quick bit of research(and by research i don’t mean whichever rent a quote the record wheel out to talk up whoever was appointed) and I can’t help but being impressed. I wanted a Garcia or a Yakin, and I hope and think he is in that mould, bringing fresh ideas to a stale environment.



    A new era begins.

  6. Welcome Ronny, delighted you are our coach-manager.



    Shopping cancelled due to Mrs TET not being able to see, feckin mossie bites has made her eye swell up.





    bobby murdoch’s curled-up winklepickers



    12:11 on 6 June, 2014





    I don’t care about the colour of someone’s skin.



    When someone writes that,it is deeply offensive.



    That you choose to repeat it is,while no surprise,still deeply offensive.



    Should you ever come out with such comments in a pub,I wish you well.



    Wouldn’t want to spoil the cabaret at the next dayooooot,would I?

  8. leftclicktic We are all Neil Lennon on

    Welcome to the celtic family Ronny


    May your time with us be trophy laden.



    just try yer best and always remember from this day forth Y.N.W.A

  9. Paul67:



    Perfect timing, just back from our wedding anniversary trip at Kinnaird Estate House. What a wonderful place, top notch.



    What of a No. 2, any news, John Collins a name mentioned to me?



    Welcome to Ronny we expect big things, especially in Europe, no pressure…:)



    Keep the Faith!



    Hail Hail!

  10. Geordie Munro on




    I agree….I’ve only went ‘wow how did they get him?’ once in the last umpteen years regarding a managerial appoint in Scotland



    And that was about Paul le Guen.



    Welcome to paradise Ronny



    Good luck.

  11. Truth_Beauty_and_Freedom on

    Hi Folks,



    I haven’t posted in a long, long time; an amazing amount of negativity on the blog on most topics…



    I for one, for what my own humble opinion is worth, am more excited about Celtic’s future than i have been for quite some time. I am so confident in Ronny Delia’s appointment that I will put a small wager on Celtic reaching the CL Last 16 this year.



    Yours in Celtic,




  12. Can’t believe I’m so excited about a man who three days ago I’d never heard of getting the job! But all I’ve read and heard are good and it’s great to see so many Celtic fans united in welcoming him to our club.



    Good luck Ronny and god bless you too.

  13. Pre Lunchtime Quiz comment:


    I would like to welcome our new manager and in listening to what he and others have had to say, I am looking forward to the future.


    I cannot believe some of the pessimism out there. Who did you expect for Godset sake?



    p.s. I don’t think the previous incumbent covered himself in glory with his comments. Let’s hope they were just out of content.

  14. I’m very pleased that we have apponted someone on merit rather than on affiliation. Good luck Ronny I look forward to an interesting few years of innovation and success.





    Hope you both had a marvellous time,bud.




  16. First 5 questions from MSM sweep.



    1. How excited are you about playing *Rangers next year?



    2. Andy Walker is underwhelmed. How can you recover?



    3. What do you mean ‘who is Andy Walker?!’



    4. Will you apologise for the hurt you caused by shamelessly stripping off, that one time, 5 years ago? ( but is relevant because it we had it front page yesterday)



    5. Who’s your favourite in Game of Thrones?

  17. Impressed with the custodians making a bold imaginative appointment.


    A coach who seems to understand and embrace modern sports science and tactics.


    Welcome Ronny you have me excited.

  18. Good article, Paul.


    Some silly comments on the blog yesterday around Moneyball. Of course, it is not just a baseball or a statistics thing. It is about unearthing value where others don’t. I hope that we have done just that with the singing of Ronny.



    I agree with your point on inefficiencies. This is clearly an area where we have a lot of scope for improvement. I don’t know who is responsible for decisions on signings, or what that decision making process is – but improving our success rate is absolutely vital.



    Disappointed in the comments attributed to Neil regarding Ronny Delia.



    I hope that all of our supporters will welcome and support the new manager.

  19. Ronny welcome to the fairytale!



    Paul should have invited you but he’s rubbish with directions. Head west on M8 to roundabout at Port Glasgow and keep straight on until you reach the big roundabout at Greenock. You’ll see a Tescos at the right and the Greenock CSC is across the road at left hand side.



    A ticketless man wearing cowboy boots will be outside – ignore him and head straight in to meet the Lions and a samof the best supporters in the World.

  20. Paul67 – I am in agreement. For some reason, even though there is no empirical evidence, I just seem excited by this appointment.



    The last time I was this excited was for Tommy Burns

  21. Garngad to Croy on

    ‘our manager should be intelligent, technically capable, insightful, and have a progressive and modern approach to the game.’



    Oh no Paul67 have we employed the Norwegian ‘Paul le Geun’ ?



    Only Joking!



    Welcome Ronny , you have my full support !

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