Celtic are now so far behind the curve but that isn’t on Ange

Celtic’s defeat to Bayer Leverkusen last night was a chastening experience yet the gulf between the sides on the park doesn’t even come close to the chasm between the clubs off it. And this was in a secondary European tournament, this was a 4-0 humbling at home in a tournament too many had said was now our level and in a short space of time has become one we are struggling to compete in.

Last night is not on Ange Postecoglou and it is not on the players, and surely to see how far off a modern thinking football club we are at this time is enough for the last of those willing to give this Celtic board the benefit of the doubt to have a fresh appraisal of their views.

Florian Wirtz of Bayern Leverkusen celebrates with Jeremie Frimpong after scoring his sides second goal during the Europa League group G match between Celtic FC and Bayer Leverkusen. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Bayer Leverkusen are a side themselves in transition. Their manager only started the job in July. Yet what Celtic saw last night was a composed, controlled and ruthless performance from a group of players who knew their job inside out. It was a balanced football team and one who in their rotational play showed almost telepathic understanding of each other’s movements and runs.

To get a team to work like that you need to get players who play like you want them to, and that comes down to a footballing philosophy that is consistent throughout a club. The players must be thoroughly scouted and a footballing structure built on a player trading model that means when exposure and success attract attention and big transfer fees that the next star in the making is waiting in the wings. Kai Havertz teenage successor Florian Wirtz is the ultimate example.

Amine Adli of Bayern Leverkusen celebrates scoring his team’s fourth goal during the Europa League group G match between Celtic FC and Bayer Leverkusen. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

And that is not only the case for the players. Such a well-oiled and organised structured ensures the next head coach, scouted just as thoroughly as any player, can come in and the show roles on with minimal disruption.

Leverkusen’s footballing model is built in such a way that all of that is possible, meanwhile Celtic believe we can do such a thing on the cheap and with a haphazard approach to recruitment, scouting, analysis and coaching. As such none of last night is on Ange Postecoglou and all of it is on a Celtic board frozen in time who believe that can do it all on the cheap and without a cohesive vision.

Celtic cannot yet compete for top talent on the park; indeed, we struggle to retain our own youngsters never mind attract the 17,18- and 19-year-old footballers’ teams like Leverkusen earmark for transfer and future development.

Yet in the absence of all of that we can compete for the best of the staff and we can adopt a modern footballing structure to support it. However, the evidence at this time is those running this club are stuck in a time warp and decisions are being made without the level of modern professionalism that has seeped into football in the last 10 years, and without a sea change in attitude we will simply be left further behind.

Ange Postecoglou, Manager of Celtic reacts during the Europa League group G match between Celtic FC and Bayer Leverkusen at Celtic Park . (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

This is not to say Ange Postecoglou cannot get things right eventually, indeed his attacking style of play caused our opponents problems but our team in footballing transition remains week in on field defensive transitions and all of that will take an inordinate time to fix if Ange Postecoglou is doing this pretty much by himself.

There was a great deal of pride to take from some of Celtic’s attacking play and chance creation against an excellent side last night, but it is clear there are a limited number of players who are not capable never mind comfortable sustaining that style of play for 90 minutes, week in week out.

The Postecoglou philosophy may well start to slowly come into place but it is going to take much longer without a supporting cast to help this manager, and from the club’s point of view one that can be in place for the next manager and the one after that. All of that is possible for Celtic, indeed it is perfectly achievable by taking on the right advice from the right people at modern football clubs and then getting the staff to support it. And from there you target the next manager who plays a similar philosophy to your club’s culture and you go again.

That is where Leverkusen are, that is where many football clubs are going yet Celtic remain in a state of footballing paralysis and there appears no plans to adapt modern ways under this archaic Board.

Celtic v Leverkusen – . Photo Andrew Milligan

In Ange Postecoglou we have a manager trying to implement a footballing style that is modern and there was plenty of evidence on show last night that with the right players and support the new manager is just the man we need to join this Century. For him to achieve that aim Celtic needs a plan, it needs a vision and it needs to start building it yesterday.

That however takes appetite and even simply a realisation at Boardroom level that with the right structure in place the man they stumbled across to take on the manager’s role might not only bring them on field success but may also build this club’s reputation, attract the best of young talent and in turn give Celtic the player trading model that would deliver a team on the pitch and a sustainable and increasing level of profit for shareholders too. We can see that, other clubs have seen that, and have stolen a march on Celtic and many have done so with less resources than we do at our disposal.

But it matters not a jot who can see any of this if those in charge of the club believe we can somehow compete without a root and branch modernisation of our football club and who evidence a level of ambition that seems to have disregarded European ambition for a parochial and localised ambition that stretches no further than a rival across the city.

This Board needs to add youth, diversity and a realisation they are behind the curve to its ranks if Celtic are to once again compete on a European stage. While at present even a plan suitable enough for their localised vision seems lacking.

Celtic have a manager who can deliver but it is evident the Celtic Board clearly needs help also, and it needs to ask the right people for that assistance or step aside and admit the job is too big and too modern for their skillset.

Niall J

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About Author

As a Bellshill Bhoy I was taken to my first Celtic game in the summer of 1987. It was Billy McNeill’s return to Celtic Park as manager and Celtic lost 5-1 to Arsenal . I thought I was a jinx, I think my Grandfather might have thought the same. It was finest gift anyone ever gave me when he walked me through Parhead's gates.

1 Comment

  1. Great article,directing the critism where it deserves to be directed. They are interested in continuity though….. Kennedy and Strachan will take over for half a season or so when the manager goes until the end of time. You have to admit though a fair proportion are happy as long as we’re beating Rangers too.