CHRIS SUTTON admits Dermot Desmond was not keen for him to join the Martin O’Neill revolution in the summer of 2000.
The manager had been brought in to steady the ship after the Celtic ‘Dream Team’ of Kenny Dalglish and John Barnes had seen the team disappear in the slipstream of Dick Advocaat’s Rangers.
O’Neill was about to lose Mark Viduka to Leeds United in a £6million deal and earmarked Sutton as an ideal replacement.
The one-time England international had struggled at Chelsea and scored one goal – a flying header against Manchester United – following his £10million switch from Blackburn Rovers where he had been half of the famous SAS double-act along with Alan Shearer which had brought the title to Ewood Park in 1995.
WINNERS AND LOSERS…Chris Sutton celebrates a goal against Rangers keeper Stefan Klos.
The departing Leicester City boss argued the case and Sutton was his first signing, arriving in Glasgow for the same cash that took Aussie Viduka to Elland Road.
Now the top media pundit insists Eddie Howe, still favourited to replace Neil Lennon, MUST be given the same power as his ex-gaffer.
And the former fans’ favourite has emphasised the job that awaits the former Bournemouth manager in a summer of upheaval.
Sutton said: “The start of the Eddie Howe era at Celtic will have more than a few similarities to the scene which faced Martin O’Neill when he swept into Celtic Park 21 years ago.
“A record points gap behind champions Rangers. A serious summer overhaul required. And an expectant support.
“It appears to be a matter of when rather than if Howe is installed in the east end of Glasgow.
“I can only hope – with 23 points separating them and Rangers after a disastrous campaign – he has the same clout as Martin did when he arrived on the back of a 21-point deficit in 2000.
HEAVENS ABOVE…Martin O’Neill is all smiles as Celtic win again.
“What do I mean? Well, using myself as the example, it’s no secret Dermot Desmond didn’t want me when Martin moved to bring me north from Chelsea as one of his first signings.
“You can’t really blame him – I’d been sh*t at Chelsea. No doubt about it
“But Martin said: ‘Leave the signings to me’. The deal got over the line and the rest is history.
“Martin knew what he wanted and got the players in that were required. Joos Valgaeren was brought in early along with myself and Alan Thompson and Neil Lennon soon followed.
“It was a different era in terms of the market Celtic were working in, but the fundamentals remain the same – the manager has to be given the backing of those who employed him in the first place.
“Eddie needs to make sure he has that backing. Without the right calibre of players coming in, Celtic are not going to stand a chance of eating into the gap on Rangers.”
FOCUS ON THE FUTURE…Eddie Howe during his days as Bournemouth manager.
Sutton, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “Martin O’Neill was fearless. Inside the sanctuary of the dressing room he was always clear in his mind what he wanted to do. He never had any doubts and that’s because he had the backing of those above him.
“Eddie might not have the CV of Martin, but he needs to carry the same sort of clout if he wants success. He also needs help, time and patience. From those in command and from the supporters.
“I’m certain he’ll have a few players earmarked to come in. If that’s not happened and Celtic haven’t been in a position to get in touch with targets, then they are in big trouble.
“The new chief executive Dominic McKay has come in early, so you’d wonder what he has been doing if that has not been the case.
“Back in 2000, Martin signed players with a point to prove, players from a Premier League level.
“They’ll be working to a different level this summer, but Eddie has to be every bit as clever and target players who are hungry and ready to hit the ground running.
“Nobody expects Celtic to bring in the finished article. They’re not in the market to do that. But, hopefully, enough work and due diligence has been done to bring in players who are hungry to succeed.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how much Howe has to spend. How many players he gets to bring in.
“They certainly need a keeper, a right-back, a left-back, at least one centre-half, Mo Elyounoussi will go back to Southampton, so they need a left-sider and a striker for when Odsonne Edouard leaves. That’s the minimum.”
POWER GAME…Dominic McKay is the new Bhoy with a massive challenge.
Sutton added: “Celtic is a totally different stratosphere to Bournemouth in terms of the expectation, pressure and demands to win.
“Eddie will realise that when he turns up and sees thousands of fans outside the stadium to greet him.
“At Bournemouth, it was probably one man and his dog. But that doesn’t mean he won’t be able to cope.
“He is a sharp thinker and a smart guy. He will have weighed things up and will back himself to succeed. He has to turn the team round from a side that has been soft and rolled over in games, a team of individuals, into a proper side who can challenge.
“I don’t care what anyone says, 23 points is a hell of a lot to make up and they are going to have to do it having lost two or three of their best players.
“There’s going to be turbulence along the way. But if he gets the backing of the board and has the authority of Martin, then I’m sure good things will come to Parkhead.”
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