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.[calameo code=000390171873c910154bd lang=en page=106 hidelinks=1 width=100% height=500]