AN ERA has ended at Celtic with the player exodus led by long-time skipper Scott Brown in the summer.
That’s the verdict of the manager who brought a halt of the spectacular sequence of 35 successive triumphs in domestic knock-out competitions.
Stuart Kettlewell was the man who led unfancied Ross County to a stunning 2-0 win at Parkhead in November last year to send the Hoops toppling out of the Betfred League Cup, a trophy that had been in Hoops’ possession for four consecutive years.
Ironically, he was sacked by the Dingwall outfit – or “relieved of his duties”, as the Highlanders so politely put it – the following month with ex-Celtic defender John Hughes taking over in a caretaker capacity until the end of the campaign.
Neil Lennon, of the vanquished holders, followed in February, coincidentally after a 1-0 loss to County in Dingwall.
END OF AN ERA…Scott Brown waves a final farewell after the 0-0 draw with Hibs at Easter Road in May.
Ange Postecoglou, of course, has taken over residency of the Parkhead dug-out while another former Hoops centre-back, Malky Mackay, has been appointed team boss at County. Kettlewell has joined the media and is perfectly placed to view the meeting of the teams in the east end of Glasgow on Saturday afternoon.
He said: “The big thing for me is the amount of players at both clubs who you would normally associate with being at Celtic and County who have moved on.
“First team mainstays who’ve been around for a long time and were in with the bricks. Big personalities who’ve played a lot of games over a lot of years. That can often be a big change at a club and it’s something I would always look at as a manager as most managers do. Players who know the club inside out and have a history of being successful are all of a sudden no longer there.
“You look at boys like Iain Vigurs and Michael Gardyne at County and their success and you have Scott Brown, Ryan Christie and Odsonne Edouard at Celtic with the amount of games they’ve played and the trophies they’ve won.
“That’s not an easy fix or an easy change to replace these guys.
I’M IN CHARGE…Ange Postecoglou has some words of his advice for his players.
“You see the amount of changes at both Celtic and County this summer, it’s been huge and it creates a whole new dynamic within both dressing rooms.
“There are a lot of similarities at both clubs, it’s only the size and finances which are worlds apart. The money which has been spent by Celtic is on a different scale to County, but in terms of the task of bedding in the number of players who’ve been brought in is the same.”
As well as Brown, Christie and Edouard, the Hoops have parted company with Kristoffer Ajer while loan players Jonjoe Kenny, Shane Duffy, Diego Laxalt and Mohamed Elyounoussi returned to their parent clubs and Leigh Griffiths joined the upheaval with his season-long loan switch to Dundee.
To offset the exits, Postecoglou has brought in 12 new faces including instant fans’ favourite Kyogo Furushashi, exciting Istaeli winger Liel Abada and Joe Hart as a safe pair of hands in goal after the problems that beset the team last term.
Thirty-seven-year-old Kettlewell, speaking to the Daily Record, continued: “The early signs at both clubs have been positive and I don’t think Ange or Malky could have asked for much more during the time they’ve been given to bring in the new players.
ON THE BALL…Kyogo Furuhashi in action at Ibrox.
“I look at some of the performances from Celtic and they’d have wanted more points, but the disruption through Covid-19 is still having an impact. Ross County have been hit especially hard with their Covid outbreak, but both managers are trying to implement their own style and there will be peaks and troughs going forward.
“I’ve watched both clubs and I feel that they will both be incredibly happy with where they sit just now given the amount of changes there has been.”
The ex-gaffer added: “I’ve never been privy to sitting inside the Celtic dressing room, but the dynamics will have changed. What I do know is how much of an impact a guy like Scott Brown had on that. Sometimes when big personalities leave then it creates an opportunity for others to make their presence felt.
“They have a new club captain in Callum McGregor and there will be other boys having a big influence. It’s about others showing just how the respective dressing rooms have been run in the past and showing the new boys the ropes.
“The onus will now fall on the shoulders of players who have been around the club for a while.
“I’m certain that both managers will be stamping their authority on those squads just now.
“Ange and Malky will be finding out which players can listen and carry out their message and that’s the challenge they face.”