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Decline goes back to January 2012

2011

It feels like rock bottom this morning and, as far as Europe is concerned, it probably is.  The ties against Legia were our worst performances in Europe.  Neuchâtel has a horrible 90 minutes, Artmedia was a 20 minute collapse, and we beat Utrecht comfortably at home, but this was abject over two games.

There are unfathomables, for example, it’s hard to know why a defence which was so solid last season is suddenly inert, but it will surprise no one we didn’t make Champions League football this season.  The day Neil Lennon left I suggested it would be a huge ask and it’s proven to be.

We are less than two years since the high point of recent seasons, finishing ahead of Benfica and Spartak Moscow in the Champions League, but the decline can be traced slightly further back than that.

We had an 18 month purple patch of player recruitment, starting when Fraser Forster, Gary Hooper and Emilio Izaguirre arrived in summer 2010, continuing with the arrival of Wilson and Wanyama, and ending with Mikael Lustig’s signing in January 2012.  We were bringing players in for a few million who were Champions League calibre.

Since Lustig, the strategy hasn’t changed, but despite signing a raft of players, for much the same money, only van Dijk has improved the team.  Most are, at best, misfits or squad fillers.  Things started to go wrong with the bizarre signings of Miku and Lassad in late August 2012 and ramped up last summer with the arrival of Boerrigter, Pukki, Balde and Biton.  There are more, of course.  Some, like Griffiths and Johansen are hitting the modest levels expected of them, but we’ve been missing the target at an alarming rate.

Ronny Deila has so far brought in a six month loaner.  He’s working pretty much with the squad Neil Lennon scraped into the Champions League with last season.  He’ll now know what you and I knew about the squad months ago.  Most importantly, he needs backing from the club as well as the support.

He has to refresh the squad, try to clear out the deadwood, and perhaps accept that one or two of our reliable performers in recent seasons are beyond their peak.  It’s critically important that whatever has been going wrong since Lustig’s arrival is put right.  Stop haemorrhaging millions of players who cannot command a starting place and start finding value.

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  1. macjay1 for Neil Lennon on

    macjay1 for Neil Lennon

     

    12:00 on

     

    7 August, 2014

     

    Jungle Jim

     

    11:48 on

     

    7 August, 2014

     

    That emotional wreck, William Hill, was so devastated by the Celtic performance last night and also after reading on CQN that we will struggle to win the league, that he has left the odds at 1/40.

     

    =================================================================

     

    Hing oan,pal.

     

    If Ronny stays ,I have the impression that your odds will improve.

     

    Dramatically.

     

    Desperately hope I`m wrong.

  2. The strategy is either spent or the tired boardroom personnel cannot deliver it. Either way that’s where the change is needed.

  3. The only surprising thing was the margin of the defeat.

     

    Look at last year’s CL qualifying matches. Legia would almost certainly have beaten us last year when we scraped through against really weak opponents and they went out on the away goals rule to a good team. And this year we had no Samaras, Forrest and Brown.

     

    We lost by an embarrassing margin because of the failure to strengthen the squad, the players who were missing (Brown especially) and because of the transition to a new manager. I think Ronny over-estimated our players or thought he could get them to play the high-tempo attacking football he wants.

     

    Lenny had a midfield that protected the defence – players like Brown, Wanyama and Ledley – but had zero creativity (Kris Commons can only do it in the SPL, where he is given time and space, he’s totally ineffective against decent opposition and Aberdeen snuffed him out and thereby nullified Celtic in the Cup).

     

    Henderson can and should play in our midfield. He is a breath of fresh air: mobile and skilful and full of confidence. And we clearly need to bring in another attacking midfielder, as well as a mobile striker who can hold up the ball. A clear-out of our strikers is needed.

  4. Paul

     

     

    Bingo !!

     

    I doubt if Boerrigter, Pukki and Balde could get a game at Portobello pitz on a Sunday night.

  5. macjay1 for Neil Lennon on

    Stacks of differing divergent and sometimes controversial views.

     

    As expected.

     

    The terrible beauty ?

     

    The number of our people who care deeply.

     

    Hail Hail

  6. 12:05 on 7 August, 2014

     

    paradise windfall

     

     

    11:19 on 7 August, 2014

     

    Sipsini

     

     

    How’s work??

     

     

    ___________

     

     

    Funnily enough, no comments last night from any hunchbacks, think they know what’s ahead of them…

     

     

    Struggle to see their season through financially and the sending offs and dodgy penalties will be more highlighted, as did the hertz manager today in the dr.

  7. Nye Bevans' rebel soldier on

    Good Afternoon Timland.

     

     

    Last night I made a total fool of myself on here

     

    and abused a fellow poster.

     

     

    I would like to apologize to Turkeybhoy and any

     

    other poster’s who were offended by my stupid

     

    outburst .

  8. Snake Plissken on

    KevJungle

     

     

    It won’t.

     

     

    Next year there is a reason to buy one – whether some want to admit it or not.

  9. Heard English and big Packie on Shortbread last night, discussing our failure(s), and the comment was, that Celtic/Lawell, were waiting on sevco reaching the Premiership (or whatever it’s called this season!), before they’ll spend any money. Have to admit, couldn’t argue with that.

     

     

    HH

     

     

    End London rule. YES

  10. I see differently. When we unearth a diamond we should pay them good money . Make a real effort to hold on to them . Because we are not going to be able to find another Wanyama -Ki -Ledley so easily. We would have a high wage bill but we’d have a decent team that would attract fans and do well in europe.

  11. Neil canamalar Lennon hunskelper extrordinaire on

    Neil Lennon a coward ?

     

     

    Looks like old Tom is for the loony bin

  12. I said a few weeks ago I would not be back on this blog,only because of what I considered to be racist views of a certain blogger,he at the time seemed to take over the blog.however after last night I felt I had to come on and give my view.

     

    Firstly I had the misfortune to be allocated a seat in what appeared to be the Green Brigade section,the disgusting racist/ sectarian language from a couple of clowns in front of me was disgusting,( get into these dirty fying Polish orange basses) just for example,I had to stand during the game as I was told we stand you do the same,a apparent organiser shoving by you to pull down a banner from stand above,no excuse me,just move.If the GB are going to continue atCeltic Park it must be in a allocated standing area only and then be told to get rid of the scum within.

     

    We must all get behind the manager,I am confident he will get rid of the dead wood and the bad attitude players,it will take time but he must be given it.

     

    Charlie Mulgrew,some are trying to find a position for him,sorry not for me.

     

    We need pace and strength all over the team,I am sure the manager knows this.

  13. What is the Stars on

    I am surprised that anyone could be surprised at last nights result

     

    Pauls articles in the build to the game seemed to be in the realms of fantasy

     

    Celtic have more in the tank etc,

     

    We had absolutely no chance of beating Legia yesterday

     

     

    This manager seems hopelessly out of his depth and should be sacked immediately

     

    A mistake was made,admit it and move on

     

    This isn’t a case of throwing the dolls of out the pram,Defeat is part of football and we should all accept it gracefully

     

    But if we leave this man in charge we will not win the league this year.

     

    Sack him now rather than at Christmas when we are 10 points adrift of Aberdeen and playing in front of crowds of 10,000

  14. bamboo 12:12

     

     

    I keep harping on about this but teams like Porto have a much smaller wage bill than us but spend more on transfers. As a result they generally have better footballers, hold their own in Europe and sell at Wanyama type prices as the norm rather than as a one-off.

  15. The Battered Bunnet on

    Quick in and out – down south this week, didn’t see the game, couldn’t get it on the radio, and was reliant on this site and twitter for news.

     

     

    It didn’t make for good reading.

     

     

    In terms of Celtic looking ahead, there is a broad consensus that whatever we do, the club needs to be managed within the boundaries of commercial sustainability.

     

     

    We get that. Many of us embrace it. But it’s a balancing act.

     

     

    We are in first principles a Football Club. Everything we do needs to be grounded in that purpose.

     

     

    The sense is that the balance between football performance and commercial sustainability has been lost.

     

     

    Our behaviour as an organisation at times resembles that of a Wholesaler of Footballers.

     

     

    Despite our plc status, we do not distribute profit ti shareholders. The stated aim of the club for the past decade is “to break even over the cycle”. That is, we’ll have good years when there’s a surplus, and lean years when we run a deficit, and over 4 or 5 years of the cycle the sum of profits and losses is zero. We accept that.

     

     

    The concern is that this approach has changed, and surplus is an annual requirement, with no upper limit.

     

     

    Our purpose is not to wholesale footballers for profit.

     

     

    Our purpose is to compete in Football at the highest level within the commercial constraints we face.

     

     

    Time to recognise that and rebalance the approach.

     

     

    TBB

  16. Paul67 –

     

     

    Good article. When you say “Since Lustig, the strategy hasn’t changed, but despite signing a raft of players, for much the same money, only van Dijk has improved the team”, you are correct. Is it possible that we are spending the same money but that with the kind of price inflation we see as a result of the structural issues in the football industry we are getting lower quality players for the same spend? If we want to pursue that strategy then we need to take inflation into consideration – i.e. year on year we need to spend more simply to stand still.

  17. Neil canamalar Lennon hunskelper extrordinaire

     

    12:04 on

     

    7 August, 2014

     

     

    From last.

     

     

    The numbers don’t actually matter. If one of our top paid players is aware he could get twice more down South, it doesn’t necessarily make an improved offer from Celtic derisory. Neither does it make the player greedy for wanting to take the better offer. That’s life.

     

     

    I’ve agreed we should never offer lower wages, as was rumoured to be the case with Sammi.

  18. And so Paul posts and there is no criticism of our board or of our so called strategy.

     

     

    Its just that we have been buying the wrong sort of players dontcha know.

     

     

    This is clearly what the board think – and they are clearly arrogant and complacent and simply wrong.

  19. Paul 67,

     

     

    Stop haemorrhaging millions on players who cannot command a starting place and start finding value.

     

     

    ____________

     

     

    That has been our biggest problem of late and if the board don’t realise the anger amongst the fans, they will be in for a rude awakening with attendances.

     

     

    Even fixed your typo…:)

  20. Another good article on the Lawwell myth this time from james forest

     

    Expect Paul67 to write something good soon

     

     

    Peter Lawwell likes a good laugh. Is it just me who thinks he comes across as smug sometimes?

     

     

    Well, the smile has been well and truly wiped off his face tonight. The strategy he presides over is in utter ruination. His much vaunted ambition to make Celtic a global brand has, in a week, been overturned in spectacular fashion with a Champions League knockout, a tournament organiser threatening to sue and Ronny Delia telling him straight there will be no globetrotting next year.

     

     

    There should be no doubt at all about this. Celtic Football Club is in a bad place tonight, and the men at the very top of our club are the ones who must carry the can.

     

     

    I am not going to offer suggestions for removing them. Not right now. Not on this blog. That’s going to require a major effort and a lot of people getting together in the same room with specific goals in mind and specific plans for attaining them.

     

     

    Yet, for me, the removal of Peter Lawwell is the most important item on the list of Things To Do, because as long as he is at Celtic there will be serious divisions at every level of the football club.

     

     

    We are now a house divided, and it’s his fault and the fault of those above him that this is so.

     

     

    Some are going to accuse me of sounding like a hack, or even worse, they will throw at me the lowest word in their vocabulary, a word they don’t even fully understand. I will, doubtless, be labelled a “hun”, but it’s a word I use rarely and only because I know what I mean when I do.

     

     

    The origins of the word lie in the age of Attila and his nomadic tribes, untamed barbarians who didn’t build civilisations but looted them and burned them down instead. You can see where I have no problem applying the word to certain sub-sects of fans.

     

     

    In my opinion, Peter Lawwell ticks those boxes too. He has wrought havoc on Celtic Football Club. We are no longer a Family. We are no longer a major club, except in our own country. I see no signs of ambition or intent from him or the people around him.

     

     

    We are a club lacking a long term vision, and as that vision is supposed to come from those people it is not difficult for me to point the finger of blame in their direction.

     

     

    Tonight is not about them, or the full scale of what they’ve done. I’ll explore that later. Tonight I want to knock on the head a piece of journalism which, to me, reads as a particularly myopic defence of the indefensible.

     

     

    There is a lot of guff being talked tonight in defence of the strategy, but that one article in particular, by Graham Speirs, is being held up as proof that “the strategy has been a success.” It hasn’t been a success. It’s been a dismal, shameful failure, but I can’t say that without some examination of his “case”, because I have no doubt what he wrote will be held against those of us who can see the writing on the wall over and over in the next few days.

     

     

    The main thrust of his piece is that along with good financial results Celtic have won things and had “European football till Christmas” in five of the last six seasons “and in some cases beyond.” He says this as though it represented success in itself. But let’s look at that record for a moment. In fact, let’s track even further back, and look at the last seven seasons, because I think that’s important.

     

     

    In the first two of those seasons (2007-08, 2008-09) we qualified for the Champions League Group Stages automatically, by virtue of having won the title the year before. In 2007-08 we reached the Champions League Round of 16, and we were finally beaten by Barcelona after getting out of a group including AC Milan and Benfica. This was a good year for the club.

     

     

    The playing squad that year included the likes of Boruc, Hinkel, Nakamura, Venegoor of Hesselink, Aiden McGeady, Jarosik and Massimo Donati. That was the year we bought Scott Brown, the year we bought Scott McDonald, the year Samaras came on loan.

     

     

    The following year – the first of Speirs six – we spent money on Loovens and Maloney, but it was frankly abysmal, and the first sign that something inside our club was stinking to high heaven. A disastrous Champions League campaign saw us finish bottom of a group made up of Aalborg, Villareal and Man Utd.

     

     

    The need for some firepower in the team was obvious to anyone who watched us, with the game against the Danish club at Celtic Park offering a particularly scathing example – a 0-0 which was responsible for our European exit. The need for a potent scorer was obvious.

     

     

    It was ignored. In the January window we signed Wilo Flood instead. Rangers won the title. The decline had begun.

     

     

    Gordon Strachan left at the end of the season, and with him Venegoor, Nakamura, Balde, Hartley, Donati, Caldwell and Barry Robson. Scott McDonald went in the January window. By then things had already taken a fairly brutal turn.

     

     

    When Strachan left Celtic took the “safe”, and the cheap, option, and they appointed Tony Mowbray. Few of us disagreed with the move, if we’re being honest, but we’d gone from Martin O’Neill to Gordon to a guy who had one major success in his career, winning a Championship with West Brom. He lost a number of players, but he also brought in a number. They were nowhere near as good.

     

     

    Ki Seung Yung looked to have quality, but the signing of Mark Antoine Fortune was a disaster, as was that of Morten Rasmussen. Jos Hoovield was not a great signing and the bizarre Danny Fox saga still baffles me today.

     

     

    The highlight, if we can call it that, was the January window signing of veteran Robbie Keane, on loan, as our “replacement” for Scott McDonald, who’s transfer to Middlesbrough netted us £3.5 million. It says a lot for the sheer insanity inside Celtic Park, and the lack of forward thinking, that McDonald finished the season our second top scorer. Keane finished first.

     

     

    Europe was a disaster that year. We went out of the Champions League in the qualifiers against Arsenal – no shame there, of course – but our Europa League experience was shambolic. In a group of Rapid Vienna, Hamburg and Hapoel Tel Aviv we won a single match, drew three and lost two. We finished third, with six points.

     

     

    Rangers again won the title and in March 2010 we appointed Neil Lennon as interim manager after the departure of Mowbray. We had replaced a man who’d failed to cope with the pressure of the Celtic job, but who nevertheless had a managerial pedigree behind him, with someone who had never taken control of a first team game in his life.

     

     

    Most of us accepted Neil as a short-term answer, never expecting it to be more than that.

     

     

    Despite being assured that a search had been conducted for a new head coach, Lennon got the job on a full-time basis. Charlie Mulgrew, Cha Du Ri and Joe Ledley were brought to the club on free transfers. Boruc and McManus were both sold for cash, netting a cool £3 million. Murphy, Juarez, Kayal and Hooper were added to the squad, and for big money, it has to be said.

     

     

    Disaster struck. We were knocked out of the Champions League and then the Europa League in quick succession. Aiden McGeady was sold to plug the financial gap. It was the first clear evidence that the playing squad was funding the business instead of the other way around. It confirmed what many of us had been saying since the failure in January two years before allowed Rangers to win the title; this was a club putting the balance sheet first. The club failed to win the league that season … our third failure to do so in a row.

     

     

    So, of Speirs six seasons, and for our own seven, our record in the first four is that we qualified for the Champions League groups automatically twice, by virtue of winning the title in the previous year. The first time, with a seriously strong squad, we reached the last sixteen.

     

     

    I find it curious that Speirs has chosen the following year from which to base his conclusions, the year in which we suffered disaster in the groups and lost our league title.

     

     

    The following year, Speirs second of six, we crashed out of the Champions League in a qualifier and were awful in the Europa League. In Speirs third season, we went out of both competitions early and there was no European football on the horizon as Santa paid his visits.

     

     

    Worse than that; in all three of Graham Speirs’ first three highlighted years of the strategy’s “success” we finished second in Scotland to Rangers.

     

     

    And what of the fourth European season he highlights?

     

     

    Our board had learned so much from the previous year – no title, and two early European knockouts – that we once again sent the manager into the same arena almost scandalously unprepared.

     

     

    We bought Mo Bangura, who’s goal tally before and since was wholly unimpressive, and an unknown called Victor Wanyama, for a combined total of £3.1 million. We also signed Kelvin Wilson and Adam Matthews on free transfers, bringing in £850,000 for Shaun Maloney. Net spend, just over £2 million. We were still nowhere near equipped for European football, and it showed.

     

     

    We went on to win a single game in a Europa League group of Rennes, Atletico Madrid and Udinese. In itself, this might have been excused except that we only got there by virtue of Sion’s idiotic decision to field ineligible players against us in the qualifying round.

     

     

    Those players weren’t world beaters, but they had the measure of our team by quite some considerable distance, getting a credible 0-0 draw at Celtic Park before beating us comfortably at home. That result was scandalous, and UEFA’s decision to ban their fellow Swiss in no way excuses just how diabolical that scoreline was.

     

     

    That was the year Rangers imploded, collapsed and died. Neil Lennon’s team won the league championship shortly before the death of their biggest rivals was confirmed. McCoist’s team had blown a massive league lead, with a full squad. There were no excuses. We were the better team and we deserved to win back our crown.

     

     

    Yet, as previously noted, in Europe, the first four of Speirs “six seasons” had been a shambles, and that year was our first title win.

     

     

    It is the fifth season of the six that stands out, of course, the season before last.

     

     

    It is hard to believe, but in hindsight it’s that single season that has created the myth that the strategy has been a success, that it has not been doing serious damage to Celtic all the while. The previous four seasons were, in one respect or another, failures, save for the recapturing of the league flag. In none of them did we demonstrate ambition or intent, certainly not in Europe.

     

     

    Yet in that wonderful following year we were almost supernaturally blessed. Neil Lennon and the team rose above all expectations, and a “strategy” which should have left him staggeringly unprepared for what he accomplished.

     

     

    To be fully appreciated, Neil’s achievement that year has to be placed in the context of what came before it in the close season.

     

     

    During that pre-season period we had spent £3.5 million, which had been completely offset by the sale of Ki, for nearly twice that sum. Our two cash signings were to make permanent the loan move of Fraser Forster, for £2 million, and to bring in Efe Ambrose for £1.5 million. We brought in two strikers, Miku and Lassad, on loan, and neither was to play more than a handful of games. There was no net spend. We’d turned a profit.

     

     

    This was the sum total of our “strengthening” for European football and a crack at the Champions League.

     

     

    Let’s be clear; this was no “genius” of Peter Lawwell or the strategy. We had settled for being a Europa League standard team, and there’s no question about that. We had accepted that as our level, and spent nothing to improve our position.

     

     

    Yet, somehow, Neil Lennon found something in those players and elevated their performances when it counted.

     

     

    Not only did we navigate the qualifiers, but we won three out of six Champions’ League Group games, including that memorable night at Celtic Park when we beat one of the greatest club teams of the last 30 years. In spite of all the restrictions, and downsizing, Lennon had managed to build something. We all prayed he’d be allowed to take the team forward, and grow it into a special side.

     

     

    We should have known better. Their performances in the Group Stages had elevated the reputations of guys like Wanyama and Hooper, and English clubs started to sniff round them.

     

     

    Our team and our manager had somehow exceeded the level of ambition in the boardroom. The commercial department sniffed money, and started hammering out the publicity about how a new golden age was on the horizon and we should all buy our tickets for the show.

     

     

    Yet Bankier, Desmond, Lawwell and the rest were about to spectacularly bring us back down to Earth.

     

     

    We drew Juventus in the next round. This was our first taste of European football after Christmas since Gordon Strachan’s talented side had come unstuck against Barcelona over two legs. Celtic fans, starved of signs of ambition since then, hoped to see some. Surely, the January window would see us go out and do the business?

     

    Another good article on the Lawwell myth this time from james forest

     

    Expect Paul67 to write something good soon

     

     

    Peter Lawwell likes a good laugh. Is it just me who thinks he comes across as smug sometimes?

     

     

    Well, the smile has been well and truly wiped off his face tonight. The strategy he presides over is in utter ruination. His much vaunted ambition to make Celtic a global brand has, in a week, been overturned in spectacular fashion with a Champions League knockout, a tournament organiser threatening to sue and Ronny Delia telling him straight there will be no globetrotting next year.

     

     

    There should be no doubt at all about this. Celtic Football Club is in a bad place tonight, and the men at the very top of our club are the ones who must carry the can.

     

     

    I am not going to offer suggestions for removing them. Not right now. Not on this blog. That’s going to require a major effort and a lot of people getting together in the same room with specific goals in mind and specific plans for attaining them.

     

     

    Yet, for me, the removal of Peter Lawwell is the most important item on the list of Things To Do, because as long as he is at Celtic there will be serious divisions at every level of the football club.

     

     

    We are now a house divided, and it’s his fault and the fault of those above him that this is so.

     

     

    Some are going to accuse me of sounding like a hack, or even worse, they will throw at me the lowest word in their vocabulary, a word they don’t even fully understand. I will, doubtless, be labelled a “hun”, but it’s a word I use rarely and only because I know what I mean when I do.

     

     

    The origins of the word lie in the age of Attila and his nomadic tribes, untamed barbarians who didn’t build civilisations but looted them and burned them down instead. You can see where I have no problem applying the word to certain sub-sects of fans.

     

     

    In my opinion, Peter Lawwell ticks those boxes too. He has wrought havoc on Celtic Football Club. We are no longer a Family. We are no longer a major club, except in our own country. I see no signs of ambition or intent from him or the people around him.

     

     

    We are a club lacking a long term vision, and as that vision is supposed to come from those people it is not difficult for me to point the finger of blame in their direction.

     

     

    Tonight is not about them, or the full scale of what they’ve done. I’ll explore that later. Tonight I want to knock on the head a piece of journalism which, to me, reads as a particularly myopic defence of the indefensible.

     

     

    There is a lot of guff being talked tonight in defence of the strategy, but that one article in particular, by Graham Speirs, is being held up as proof that “the strategy has been a success.” It hasn’t been a success. It’s been a dismal, shameful failure, but I can’t say that without some examination of his “case”, because I have no doubt what he wrote will be held against those of us who can see the writing on the wall over and over in the next few days.

     

     

    The main thrust of his piece is that along with good financial results Celtic have won things and had “European football till Christmas” in five of the last six seasons “and in some cases beyond.” He says this as though it represented success in itself. But let’s look at that record for a moment. In fact, let’s track even further back, and look at the last seven seasons, because I think that’s important.

     

     

    In the first two of those seasons (2007-08, 2008-09) we qualified for the Champions League Group Stages automatically, by virtue of having won the title the year before. In 2007-08 we reached the Champions League Round of 16, and we were finally beaten by Barcelona after getting out of a group including AC Milan and Benfica. This was a good year for the club.

     

     

    The playing squad that year included the likes of Boruc, Hinkel, Nakamura, Venegoor of Hesselink, Aiden McGeady, Jarosik and Massimo Donati. That was the year we bought Scott Brown, the year we bought Scott McDonald, the year Samaras came on loan.

     

     

    The following year – the first of Speirs six – we spent money on Loovens and Maloney, but it was frankly abysmal, and the first sign that something inside our club was stinking to high heaven. A disastrous Champions League campaign saw us finish bottom of a group made up of Aalborg, Villareal and Man Utd.

     

     

    The need for some firepower in the team was obvious to anyone who watched us, with the game against the Danish club at Celtic Park offering a particularly scathing example – a 0-0 which was responsible for our European exit. The need for a potent scorer was obvious.

     

     

    It was ignored. In the January window we signed Wilo Flood instead. Rangers won the title. The decline had begun.

     

     

    Gordon Strachan left at the end of the season, and with him Venegoor, Nakamura, Balde, Hartley, Donati, Caldwell and Barry Robson. Scott McDonald went in the January window. By then things had already taken a fairly brutal turn.

     

     

    When Strachan left Celtic took the “safe”, and the cheap, option, and they appointed Tony Mowbray. Few of us disagreed with the move, if we’re being honest, but we’d gone from Martin O’Neill to Gordon to a guy who had one major success in his career, winning a Championship with West Brom. He lost a number of players, but he also brought in a number. They were nowhere near as good.

     

     

    Ki Seung Yung looked to have quality, but the signing of Mark Antoine Fortune was a disaster, as was that of Morten Rasmussen. Jos Hoovield was not a great signing and the bizarre Danny Fox saga still baffles me today.

     

     

    The highlight, if we can call it that, was the January window signing of veteran Robbie Keane, on loan, as our “replacement” for Scott McDonald, who’s transfer to Middlesbrough netted us £3.5 million. It says a lot for the sheer insanity inside Celtic Park, and the lack of forward thinking, that McDonald finished the season our second top scorer. Keane finished first.

     

     

    Europe was a disaster that year. We went out of the Champions League in the qualifiers against Arsenal – no shame there, of course – but our Europa League experience was shambolic. In a group of Rapid Vienna, Hamburg and Hapoel Tel Aviv we won a single match, drew three and lost two. We finished third, with six points.

     

     

    Rangers again won the title and in March 2010 we appointed Neil Lennon as interim manager after the departure of Mowbray. We had replaced a man who’d failed to cope with the pressure of the Celtic job, but who nevertheless had a managerial pedigree behind him, with someone who had never taken control of a first team game in his life.

     

     

    Most of us accepted Neil as a short-term answer, never expecting it to be more than that.

     

     

    Despite being assured that a search had been conducted for a new head coach, Lennon got the job on a full-time basis. Charlie Mulgrew, Cha Du Ri and Joe Ledley were brought to the club on free transfers. Boruc and McManus were both sold for cash, netting a cool £3 million. Murphy, Juarez, Kayal and Hooper were added to the squad, and for big money, it has to be said.

     

     

    Disaster struck. We were knocked out of the Champions League and then the Europa League in quick succession. Aiden McGeady was sold to plug the financial gap. It was the first clear evidence that the playing squad was funding the business instead of the other way around. It confirmed what many of us had been saying since the failure in January two years before allowed Rangers to win the title; this was a club putting the balance sheet first. The club failed to win the league that season … our third failure to do so in a row.

     

     

    So, of Speirs six seasons, and for our own seven, our record in the first four is that we qualified for the Champions League groups automatically twice, by virtue of winning the title in the previous year. The first time, with a seriously strong squad, we reached the last sixteen.

     

     

    I find it curious that Speirs has chosen the following year from which to base his conclusions, the year in which we suffered disaster in the groups and lost our league title.

     

     

    The following year, Speirs second of six, we crashed out of the Champions League in a qualifier and were awful in the Europa League. In Speirs third season, we went out of both competitions early and there was no European football on the horizon as Santa paid his visits.

     

     

    Worse than that; in all three of Graham Speirs’ first three highlighted years of the strategy’s “success” we finished second in Scotland to Rangers.

     

     

    And what of the fourth European season he highlights?

     

     

    Our board had learned so much from the previous year – no title, and two early European knockouts – that we once again sent the manager into the same arena almost scandalously unprepared.

     

     

    We bought Mo Bangura, who’s goal tally before and since was wholly unimpressive, and an unknown called Victor Wanyama, for a combined total of £3.1 million. We also signed Kelvin Wilson and Adam Matthews on free transfers, bringing in £850,000 for Shaun Maloney. Net spend, just over £2 million. We were still nowhere near equipped for European football, and it showed.

     

     

    We went on to win a single game in a Europa League group of Rennes, Atletico Madrid and Udinese. In itself, this might have been excused except that we only got there by virtue of Sion’s idiotic decision to field ineligible players against us in the qualifying round.

     

     

    Those players weren’t world beaters, but they had the measure of our team by quite some considerable distance, getting a credible 0-0 draw at Celtic Park before beating us comfortably at home. That result was scandalous, and UEFA’s decision to ban their fellow Swiss in no way excuses just how diabolical that scoreline was.

     

     

    That was the year Rangers imploded, collapsed and died. Neil Lennon’s team won the league championship shortly before the death of their biggest rivals was confirmed. McCoist’s team had blown a massive league lead, with a full squad. There were no excuses. We were the better team and we deserved to win back our crown.

     

     

    Yet, as previously noted, in Europe, the first four of Speirs “six seasons” had been a shambles, and that year was our first title win.

     

     

    It is the fifth season of the six that stands out, of course, the season before last.

     

     

    It is hard to believe, but in hindsight it’s that single season that has created the myth that the strategy has been a success, that it has not been doing serious damage to Celtic all the while. The previous four seasons were, in one respect or another, failures, save for the recapturing of the league flag. In none of them did we demonstrate ambition or intent, certainly not in Europe.

     

     

    Yet in that wonderful following year we were almost supernaturally blessed. Neil Lennon and the team rose above all expectations, and a “strategy” which should have left him staggeringly unprepared for what he accomplished.

     

     

    To be fully appreciated, Neil’s achievement that year has to be placed in the context of what came before it in the close season.

     

     

    During that pre-season period we had spent £3.5 million, which had been completely offset by the sale of Ki, for nearly twice that sum. Our two cash signings were to make permanent the loan move of Fraser Forster, for £2 million, and to bring in Efe Ambrose for £1.5 million. We brought in two strikers, Miku and Lassad, on loan, and neither was to play more than a handful of games. There was no net spend. We’d turned a profit.

     

     

    This was the sum total of our “strengthening” for European football and a crack at the Champions League.

     

     

    Let’s be clear; this was no “genius” of Peter Lawwell or the strategy. We had settled for being a Europa League standard team, and there’s no question about that. We had accepted that as our level, and spent nothing to improve our position.

     

     

    Yet, somehow, Neil Lennon found something in those players and elevated their performances when it counted.

     

     

    Not only did we navigate the qualifiers, but we won three out of six Champions’ League Group games, including that memorable night at Celtic Park when we beat one of the greatest club teams of the last 30 years. In spite of all the restrictions, and downsizing, Lennon had managed to build something. We all prayed he’d be allowed to take the team forward, and grow it into a special side.

     

     

    We should have known better. Their performances in the Group Stages had elevated the reputations of guys like Wanyama and Hooper, and English clubs started to sniff round them.

     

     

    Our team and our manager had somehow exceeded the level of ambition in the boardroom. The commercial department sniffed money, and started hammering out the publicity about how a new golden age was on the horizon and we should all buy our tickets for the show.

     

     

    Yet Bankier, Desmond, Lawwell and the rest were about to spectacularly bring us back down to Earth.

     

     

    We drew Juventus in the next round. This was our first taste of European football after Christmas since Gordon Strachan’s talented side had come unstuck against Barcelona over two legs. Celtic fans, starved of signs of ambition since then, hoped to see some. Surely, the January window would see us go out and do the business?

     

     

    We brought in an unknown Australian, Tom Rogic, for £400,000. We signed an Israel defender, Rami Gershon, and the goalkeeper of Trelleborgs, Viktor Noring, both on loan. In the same window, we cut our losses on Mo Bangura and sent him on loan to Elfsborg.

     

     

    That was how Lennon’s accomplishment was rewarded in January 2013. That was how our board chose to demonstrate its intent, and set us on the path towards restoring our name in Europe, a name that had taken a savage beating over the previous few years.

     

     

    We seemed to be heading somewhere. They seemed determined to stop us reaching that Promised Land.

     

     

    Juventus casually swatted us aside, the two leg five goal deficit our worst performance over two games in Europe in our history. Earlier this evening, we equaled that record. It must make our leaders very proud.

     

     

    The writing had been on the wall since the board’s parsimony allowed Walter Smith’s Rangers to pip us to the league title in 2008-09. This was a club that had begun to go backwards, and one exceptional European season was the only real highlight of an otherwise bleak period.

     

     

    Graham Speirs calls this a success. He says Celtic is well run.

     

     

    In truth, I see why he might think that. Always Lawwell and co have been able to deflect criticism and blame someone else, or focus minds elsewhere.

     

     

    Gordon Strachan had seen his budget cut, and he’d gone from the moment he realised he’d need to do more with less. His replacement was sacked after only eight months. Lennon’s inexperience offered them an alibi for a time and then Rangers collapsed.

     

     

    Shortly before they did, Lawwell, who’s club hadn’t won a title in three years and who’d suffered the shame of a humiliating double European exit earlier that season, got to have his little moment in the sun where he chortled over Craig Whyte’s claim that Rangers had rejected a £9 million bid for Jelavic. It was shaky ground for a man who’s team had been 15 points behind their rivals only a few months before, but as a piece of theatre it played to the gallery, and his supporters loved it.

     

     

    These guys are still hiding behind other people tonight, on the back of our latest calamity.

     

     

    Rangers’ death saw a club that had already lost focus abandon vision and ambition completely. Neil Lennon’s reward for defeating Barcelona and giving us one of the finest football memories of our lives was to see the heart ripped out of the team he had assembled for a pittance.

     

     

    We went into Europe the following year – last season’s competition – without Victor Wanyama. He had been sold on 11 July, for £12.5 million. The manager was allowed a fraction of that money – £1.6 million for Amido Balde and £2.6 million for Virgil Van Dijk – to “strengthen the team.”

     

     

    Four days after the Dutchman arrived, and before we took the field in our second qualifying round first leg, Gary Hooper had been sold for £5.5 million. We had gone into the first round games weaker than we finished the previous season and we had weakened again on the way into the second round.

     

     

    Despite that, the manager steered us through that round – although Mo Bangura and Elfsborg gave us one hell of a fright. We’d been robbed of our top scorer and it showed. We were only able to beat them 1-0 over the two legs.

     

     

    As a reward, Neil Lennon was allowed £1 million to sign Derk Boerrigter.

     

     

    Were we stronger than we were before the tie? No, of course we weren’t. That’s why what happened next defied belief. We weakened again, allowing Kelvin Wilson to leave for Forest, netting another £2.5 million, inflating the balance sheet some more, and setting us up for a clash in Karagandy where everything hung by a thread.

     

     

    That night, we lost 2-0, in an unbelievably inept display, but one that can be excused by the severe feeling of shell-shock which must have been reverberating around the dressing room.

     

     

    I wrote one of the most scathing articles I’ve ever penned in my life in the aftermath of that game. No lessons were learned because Neil found something in the team again, pulled them up and drove them to victory in the return leg.

     

     

    It was the last hurrah, at least in Europe. The guts had been ripped out of Neil’s side, and he himself seemed to lose a lot of his spirit at the same time. Nir Biton and Temo Pukki arrived, for a combined total of £3.1 million, to prepare his shattered side for the groups.

     

     

    That was nowhere near good enough, and the group games were a calamity. Five defeats in six matches culminated in a 6-1 thrashing in Barcelona. We were back to where we’d been two years before, and it was no more than what we deserved for gambling so long with charcoal dice.

     

     

    Neil was given £3 million in January, after it was too late, for Johansen and Griffiths. The signing of the striker was a gamble, but a welcome one at the time. The signing of Johansen had a sting in the tail, as we realised he would be replacing Joe Ledley, who left on a free transfer.

     

     

    Somehow, we’d been weakened again.

     

     

    The season ended, and Neil Lennon walked. We don’t know for sure why, but we do know he had wanted to make sure the side was not weakened further, and to that end had promised contract talks to Samaras and Commons. The midfielder still had some time to go on his deal, which gave Lawwell and co their alibi for not offering him a new one. Samaras was allowed to run down the remainder of his deal, and he left claiming the club had not even bothered to talk to him.

     

     

    Lennon left shortly afterwards. There was much speculation about who would replace him, including some fanciful rubbish about Roy Keane. When Ronny Deila’s name emerged it looked like a promising sign, a step in a new direction. It later transpired he’d first been considered in the role of Lennon’s assistant, and had been mooted to come in as number two under the Irishman Keane.

     

     

    At his first press conference he was ambushed twice by the chief executive; first over the impending signing of Craig Gordon, who he’d never seen and knew nothing about, and the second time over the CEO’s directive that he must appoint someone with “local knowledge” as his number two. I questioned that appalling intervention in a piece shortly afterwards.

     

     

    Deila has spent no money. Samaras has gone, and Tony Watt followed him out the door. The manager had Gordon imposed on him from above, as a certain replacement for Fraser Forster, and of course John Collins was appointed to work with him as assistant.

     

     

    His faith in the current squad was given form in two decisions he made before last week’s game. The first was to play young Callum McGregor on one wing. The second was to play a player he’d signed on loan only two days before, Jo Inge Berget, on the other.

     

     

    Celtic crashed out of the Champions League earlier, by an aggregate score of 6-1, to a team from Poland, in one of the worst reversals in our history.

     

     

    Graham Speirs thinks no questions need answering. He thinks the strategy has been a success. That three league titles, two early exits from Europe, four disastrous group campaigns and one notable success, as well as the odd domestic cup (where, again, we’ve woefully under performed) is a good return over six years, that and a set of balanced books.

     

     

    Well, I want to know just one thing. When did we add succulent lamb to the menu at Celtic Park?

     

     

    Tonight, for the first time ever, Celtic fans chanted for the sacking of the CEO. He better get used to hearing that particular song. This catastrophe – for which Ronny Deila will pay, of course, with the further downsizing of an already shattered team – is the culmination of years of expectation management, of lowering ambition and of the balance sheet coming first.

     

     

    Mark my words … tonight is a turning point. Everything has changed.

     

     

    I see a Bad Moon Rising. I see trouble on the way.

     

     

    Lawwell’s not laughing anymore

  21. He has to refresh the squad, try to clear out the deadwood, and perhaps accept that one or two of our reliable performers in recent seasons are beyond their peak.

     

     

    This is my favourite quote. Selling our best players is clearly the way forward. Only Celtic can come up with that sort of logic! Oh and its always about the deadwood. But we never sell the deadwood. Forster and VVD and Commons are beyond their peak.

     

     

    What all this tells you and I is that the Celtic Board arent listening. They dont understand and they dont care.

  22. Paul – I thought/was worried that your article was too diplomatic till the last lines…….

     

     

    ‘It’s critically important that whatever has been going wrong since Lustig’s arrival is put right. Stop haemorrhaging millions of players who cannot command a starting place and start finding value.’

     

     

    Quietly written but devastating if it’s probed to its root. But/so will it be???

     

     

    As I said yesterday I accept the buy good/cheap…..develop them…..develop the team…sell for profit to profligate EPL in a controlled and timely fashion.. ..repeat…..strengthen…..repeat.

     

     

    But a strategy poorly executed is as bad (sometimes worse) than the wrong strategy or no strategy at all.

     

     

    Buying? paying much for too much dross

     

    Selling? too low, too soon, without having sourced appropriate replacements.

     

    Result? Last night.

     

     

    We should have been sourcing or developing the right players for this CL campaign at the ‘start of the window’ – but not this one….last winter at the latest….last summer ideally…

     

     

    And if the Board’s plan is to await the ‘return’ of the FOD as a financial lifeline then we’ll be in the sorriest state when they arrive…..split the Sky goodies 50:50 and romp towards the CL qualifiers on the back of our mediocrity and honest mistakes.

     

     

    And in any case…as JJ mentioned last night….how will revenue from matches with thems ever equate to the monies (and excitement) generated by CL nights at Celtic Park?

     

     

    and I’m a pretty chilled out Tim….a lot on here prob have me as a compliant wee happy clapper.

     

     

    As we longed for an incisive pass last night, did anyone still think young Gauld wasn’t worth a £2M punt last season when we could still have afforded him?

     

     

    The list of similar candidates isn’t endless….but it’s long enough and should be well (much better) known to CFC’s scouting dept – whether that’s John Park or PL……or DD’s PA……

     

     

    HH jamesgang

  23. Paul 67 another header not seeing where the real problem is It’s the strategy

     

    James forest dissects our European shambles over the last few years

     

     

    You can unite the support and push for answers

     

    C’mon Paul. The time is right , you have enough energy in the tank

  24. traditionalist88 on

    The consensus in the couple of CSC’s I have been in recently(both outside the UK) is that Sevco Rangers coming to the league will be a good thing.

     

     

    The perception of the league will improve and at least we will have a rival.

     

     

    Hard to argue, those people get sh1t daily from fans of the so called big leagues about it being a one club league.

     

     

    If we’re not careful this season it could be a 3 club league with little between us.

     

     

    Sadly that’ll have more to do with us going down to meet them rather than them coming up to meet us.

     

     

    HH

  25. Ronny Deila will know now that he is a ready made scapegoat.

     

    This team should have been strengthened before the summer. A Robert Snodgrass and AN Other could have made the world of difference.

     

    We might then have looked forward to CL qualifying. We might have been on the verge of CL groups. Some speculate to accumulate. That in turn might have prompted reasonable attendances at CP even for league games.

     

    Now, we’re out, the Europa league is dud and we’ll be lucky to fill the bottom tier for league games. And yet we should sack Ronny ?!?

     

    That’s exactly the sort of reaction that PL hoped for.

  26. Snake Plissken

     

     

    12:10 on 7 August, 2014

     

     

    KevJungle

     

     

    It won’t.

     

     

    Next year there is a reason to buy one – whether some want to admit it or not.

     

    _______________________________________________________________

     

    Yeah, unfortunately it always has been and, always will be the only show in town.

     

    The huns will ‘never’ die – our ‘bored’ will ensure that.

  27. SydneyTim

     

     

    Even keeping the finger on page down it takes 4 seconds to get past that.

  28. TerryONeill Neil ah love yae on

    Good article Paul.

     

     

    Last week ah stood in the pub an dissected the managers failings did it last night as well.

     

     

    The smorning lying in bed with the luxury of a day off ah started that rare thing, thinking.

     

     

    The situation ….a new manager with new ideas facing a pressure tie against a reasonable team .

     

     

    If that team gets beat an looks like its not playing for the manager it shouldn’t be a great surprise.

     

     

    But it always is for most of us.

     

     

    The fact is a whole combination of things including human nature ,resistance to change ,time needed to implement an goin intae a shell when getting beat had us witnessing the inevitable .

     

     

    Av changed ma mind the manager needs time .

     

     

    This article has some parallels

     

     

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2603329/Liverpool-reborn-How-Brendan-Rodgers-silenced-boo-boys-won-round-players-impressive-brand-football.html

  29. The incumbent CEO has failed miserably. Long platitudes are too late now. He has been well rewarded ( 10 mil ) for the mess he has left Celtic in.

     

     

    Lawwell must be sacked.

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