LEGENDARY goalscorer John Hughes hopes he doesn’t hear the name Eddie Howe mentioned with Celtic again.
Big Yogi, the club’s seventh-highest scorer with 189 strikes, insists the failed quest for the former Bournemouth manager is now in the past, the club must move on – and QUICKLY.
In another CQN EXCLUSIVE, Hughes, speaking to Celtic book author and friend Alex Gordon, said: “I was as shocked as anyone when the news came through on Friday that the move for Howe had collapsed.
“I was convinced Celtic had their man three months after Neil Lennon had left the club. Of course, there would have been rounds of negotiations between both parties and it would have been a massive step for the Englishman.
MARK OF A WINNER…John Hughes slots the ball past keeper John Arrol as Celtic beat Dundee 5-3 in the 1967 League Cup Final.
“Let’s face it, you cannot even begin to compare Bournemouth with Celtic. The Vitality Stadium holds something like 11,000 spectators. How many Celtic fans turned out to welcome Brendan Rodgers to the club on a May afternoon in 2016? It was clocked in the region of 13,000. That’s the sort of difference in scale we are talking about.
“And, yet, at some stage in the talks, Howe must have thought he could cope with the demands and the pressures of following in the footsteps of managerial giants such as Jock Stein, Billy McNeill, Martin O’Neill and Rodgers and so on.
“I’m pretty certain Dermot Desmond is a skilled negotiator. I doubt if you can become a double billionaire by making too many mistakes.
“So, when the news originally emerged that Howe had met with the Celtic majority shareholder, executives Peter Lawwell and Dominic McKay, I naturally believed everything was in motion.
“It didn’t matter that we hadn’t seen images of Eddie Howe holding a Celtic scarf above his head at Parkhead, I genuinely believed things were going on in the background that would see the green light triggered on a day and date that suited both parties.”
ED-ACHE…Eddie Howe looks pensive and puzzled.
Hughes, now 78, added: “We might never know the reason why the move did not materialise.
“However, I am not buying into two of the three possible theories that have been put forward as to why the switch was derailed.
“I’ve read that problems over the budget and backroom staff were two of the insurmountable hurdles. The other was given as personal reasons.
“Budget? I’m fairly sure that would have been among the crucial topics on the agenda in the first meeting. There must have been a satisfying outcome on that front or the news would never have become public that there was even the faintest possibility of Howe coming to Celtic.
“Backroom staff? Howe would have sounded out his Bournemouth coaches long before it reached this stage. He would have known if they were up for it or not.
“Very possibly, they asked for time and that is understandable. They would be uprooting their families from the south coast of England to move to Glasgow or thereabouts.
“However, I doubt if they would have needed three months to make up their minds. If they did, they are not the type of guys you want in the dug-out with you when you have to make instant decisions when the pressure is at its most intense and the clock is ticking down.
“Presumably, Howe would have known if his coaches were up for the move or not within a week or so of putting it to them in the first place.
BY THE RIGHT…John Hughes in rampaging form during his glory days.
“So, I would veto those two so-called pointers as to why the deal fell apart. Personal reasons? Only Howe can reveal them, anything else would be guesswork on everyone else’s part.
“I read Alan Stubbs’ quotes in CQN yesterday and he is adamant that Celtic may have dodged a bullet in missing out on Howe.
“I am beginning to believe he could very well be spot on with that judgement. Maybe Howe’s role in football is at a club where staying in the top flight represents success.
“That’s not what is required at Celtic. We demand winners. Possibly, Howe does not have that sort of mentality and, deep down after months of deliberation, he has acknowledged that fact.
“He has been out of work since August last year when he left Bournemouth following the club slipping out of the Premier League.
“I have no doubt he will get a job in the summer. It will be more than interesting to see which club he joins and the sort of requirements he will face.
“For the time being, Celtic must get a manager in place – this week, if possible. We’ve wasted too much time and that is a precious commodity in football. Howe is yesterday’s man, let’s get back on track and wipe last season from the memory banks.”