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Trouble in Paradise: How can Celtic stop the rot?

Thursday 14th January 2021
There's a certain gloom around Celtic Park. Not even a sun-drenched trip abroad seemed to help.
There's a certain gloom around Celtic Park. Not even a sun-drenched trip abroad seemed to help.

When winter comes to the United Kingdom, we all find ourselves after a bit of sun. It’s especially prevalent in the Glasgow area where grey clouds and rain are likely to be the order of the day even in summer, while January is a miserable hell month in a category of its own. Half the population is walking round dreaming of a sunny getaway.

But of course, in this virus-ridden era we’re living through, we can’t go jetting off at the drop of a hat. Unless you’re Celtic Football Club. Then the rules don’t seem to matter so much...

And so it was with Glasgow’s green and whites. The Hoops jetted off for a warm-weather training camp in Dubai despite the many glaringly obvious problems with such a trip. It ended as badly as could be expected. Centre-back Christopher Jullien, included on the trip despite a three to four-month long injury lay off, tested COVID positive on his return, resulting in a total of 13 players forced into isolation for last weekend’s game against Hibernian.

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Despite claims from the Celtic powers that be that the club has “no regrets” over the fiasco, the whole thing has to go down as a colossal blunder. The Celts’ weakened side dropped points against a poorly-performing Hibernian side last time out, relying on youth players to fill the bench and untried American teenager Cameron Harper to lead the line.

Far more important than the squad issues and resulting lost points is the far-reaching damage to the club’s reputation. With the league campaign likely a lost cause already, another couple of points down the drain is neither here nor there. But unlike the COVID crises that face other clubs, Aberdeen’s bar-visit scandal or St Mirren’s un-socially distanced team coach, Celtic’s ill-advised jaunt to the Middle East represents greater problems behind the scenes at the club.

It seems every element of the club at the moment, from player recruitment to coaching, media team to forward planning, Celtic are stale and unimaginative. Key figures in the boardroom are beginning to attract serious resentment from the Parkhead faithful, while fans of other Scottish clubs can hardly contain their glee at the latest botched press releases and blunders.

So, how does this cavalcade of catastrophe come to its conclusion? The answer? With change at the highest level. Getting Neil Lennon out of the door is certainly a good start. The manager has proved over two spells that he isn’t the person to take Celtic forward. But the authorities behind the scenes who allowed Lennon to take charge and keep his job, even after so many slip ups and poor results, are the real ones running the club into the ground.

Celtic need new blood. They don’t necessarily need to be outsiders to the club, but at the very least they ought to be people not afraid to make a controversial decision. In fact, they should look to their mortal enemies for inspiration. A quick look at Rangers and how they’re doing should spur Celtic on. A young manager from outside the club, a clear plan for development and a healthy business model. True, it took Rangers being liquidated/relegated depending on where you stand on the new club/old club argument. But Celtic need nothing so drastic to turn things around. The time to make changes is now before further damage is done. Whether it’s through pressure from fans or stakeholders or, better yet, voluntary resignations, matters won’t start to improve until the boardroom reshuffle is underway.

Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell underlined the inept leadership issue further recently, claiming Celtic had been affected more than any club during the pandemic. A bizarre claim to make considering the fact Scottish football below Championship level is postponed and the fact he made these comments in an interview with club personnel, able to edit or reshoot at will.

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Jonny Keen

Glasgow based writer keen (geddit?) on the cultural elements of football. More interested in the fortunes of Cefn Druids or HJK Helsinki than the latest goings on at Manchester City or Real Madrid.

Once played 10 minutes of a game in the 17th tier of English football. He thinks the best food in football is to be found at Forest Green Rovers and Rayo Vallecano are the only club in Madrid. 

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