Separating the Candidate from the Employer and where we should be Directing our Ire

When I first started interviewing for jobs the process was a one-way street. An hour to 90 minutes of being grilled on my skills qualifications and knowledge of the ambitions and principles of the company I was applying for. From there, hoping I’d inject enough of the parts of my personality I wished to reflect and then deflect from my weaknesses enough to gain a role I wanted and needed to get a foot in the direction I wished to head. Essentially at that stage the end game was to meet the rent, pay the utility bills, run a car, get to the football and have enough for a social life and a girlfriend. Just get a job.

Soon however once you’ve built your own reputation interviews are very different, they become a two-way street. The interviewee and the interviewer both being a little nervous becomes a very new experience. The probing questions come from both sides as does the preparedness for the event in detail, as potential employer and employee manoeuvre to impress, sell, and to weed out inaccuracies, be that from your CV or their business model, projections, funding, staffing and future plans. You already know they want the version of you portrayed, but you are aware they will consider others, probably the next day. Now, instead of an hour in front of a selection panel, you are in a full day assessment testing skills and reactions to scenarios, sometimes it goes to day two.

What happens is one side picks apart the other until both are satisfied. The job offer that used to happen at 5 o’clock on the day of your appointment doesn’t happen until both sides have had a chance to digest the new information you’ve both gleaned from the intensive exchange of information. Both parties separate and discuss with those on both sides they trust, looking for a further insight and opinion on each other. That can last days if not longer, subsequent due diligence on top of initial due diligence if you will. There is then a reaching out, to discuss the possibility of acceptance or rejection before a formal offer arrives. If both sides have read the room, then either side can pull out, ego intact and reputation protected, with a simple parting of the ways based on some kind of unease at something learned during the process.

By that stage in your career you are settled, comfortable in the job you have and simply looking for a new challenge. As such the need for jumping into a job when not 100% satisfied is negated. You can find another employer after all, and the firm you work for can find another employee if you or they are not satisfied. In truth it could be you are not a fit for the company but it could also be the company you applied for were selling you a pup and when you looked under the bonnet, or pushed on assurances, they came up short and you walk away.

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Photo: Steven Paston

For Celtic at this moment in time it is looking like the latter. Celtic can attract candidates, as they did with Eddie Howe and even Fergal Harkin. They have a reputation hard earned over many years that remains an attraction. As such when they approach, or when someone applies, both parties enter positive negotiations, initial meets can be progressive and then both sides dig a little deeper.

For Celtic it appears the standard of candidate they can attract is now required to come with a great deal of assurances as due diligence is finding Celtic coming up short.

(L-R) Head of Football Insights at City Football Group Lee Mooney, Football Partnerships and Pathways Manager Fergal Harkin of Manchester City Football Club, assistant trainer Jefta Bresser of NAC Breda during the Dutch Eredivisie match between NAC Breda and sc Heerenveen Photo: Maurice van Steen

Sold as a Champions League club, the figures show there is no evidence to back it up. Drop to Europa League level and it remains patchy, group stage candidates at best, the evidence probably now points to far less. Now we look to a domestic game where Celtic have ended 25 points behind a functional but far from spectacular rival.

This indicates the structure and indeed the playing squad are dropping standards, the ‘world class in everything we do’ claims seem outdated if not entirely disingenuous. Add to that recruitment is no longer well thought of and youth talent is heading for new pastures and career development offered elsewhere.

If the new coach coming in is being tasked with changing domestic fortunes, ultimately progressing to a Champions league club on a regular basis, they need assurances on the support available. They need to be convinced funding and preparation matches the ambition portrayed, and ultimately what the candidate is being tasked with. And then are those promises acceptable on a hand shake or do they have to be included contractually? And if that assurance is needed in ink, does the company have a reputation of adhering to those or moving the goalposts? When it comes to the big jobs at Celtic, in one of those two way interviews, it is safe to say which side is more likely to decline advances as negotiations conclude is it not?

Eventually that message gets out there, top candidates don’t even apply or when they are approached representatives politely decline.

To the Celtic support and to many other supporters of other clubs Celtic remain a big attraction, however to candidates, particularly the modern version of the Coach and Director of Football, the reputation of those running Celtic and the structure the club operates is lacking upon examination. It needn’t even be particularly forensic to see Celtic is viewed as a micromanaged organisation, where a board outside the CEO and principal shareholder, have little impact. The structure is outdated and a properly funded reformed replacement is needed.

READ THIS…The Coaching Genome – Ange Postecoglou’s Football Philosophy in his Own Words

We know changes have been promised but nothing has been communicated to the support. However, you’d assume whether there is a new structure being presented or whether the old one is being re-hashed, when offered up for scrutiny to candidates for management or Director of Football, those approached do not feel it stands up alongside the demands being asked of the prospective candidate.

That scenario is on the custodians of the club. What they are offering does not match the history and reputation of the club, yet even with an inordinate amount of time available of late for introspection, it appears Celtic are still unable to sell Celtic. That is a worrying state of affairs.

It is all too easy at this moment in time to say Celtic are a big pull. They should be, they could be – they are not at present. That reputation still attracts but those running the show are selling Celtic short. They are criminally out of touch, structures outdated and worse, their reputation for meddling and interference is now a reputation hard to shake.

As top-level candidates drop off it forces the club to look further afield as they can no longer reform quickly enough and need a good standard of employee immediately. It doesn’t mean, like Ange Postecoglou, that the candidate is poor. The NHS seek staff from abroad who will work for public service salaries, it doesn’t mean they are poorer nurses or physiotherapists, but it does mean that candidate may accept less assurances or be looking for a window of opportunity to move to a new continent, having built up a good reputation outside of the prism we as a support parochially view through, and as such could lazily be viewed as not the standard required.

It is however important at this juncture to separate the candidate from the real problems, the real ire and that is the company, the organisation, the club and the custodians of it.

Ange Postecoglou is a fine coach, his reputation in Asia is excellent but it is a gamble, in that he has no real European or British reputation. His coaching credentials are all gained in Asia but we don’t know they can transfer.

For what it is worth I have read and watched enough of late on Postecoglou to believe they can but I don’t know they will any more than anyone else can be certain they will fall short, that is all opinion and nothing more.

READ THIS…Fergal Harkin decides to stay at Manchester City, what now for Celtic’s restructure?

Jesse Marsch

However, someone such as Jesse Marsch or Eddie Howe probably would have had more certainty and the fact they are refusing and Ange Postecoglou is now being considered is no slight on him as a coach. The fact we need to take a risk and pick talent from further afield than we’d prefer to is down to a Celtic board, one that has managed decline of reputation and ambition we once had, now having waned in the markets we’d wish to shop.

Celtic now have been publicly rejected by Eddie Howe, probably also by Fergal Harkin. They now have two choices, employ Celtic men who still have a love for the club, like Shaun Maloney that may negate due diligence, or look abroad beyond Europe and try and attract the top candidates there and hope the skills and qualification transcend the switch of continent. Hope that they, wishing to expand their horizons, will also accept a structure creaking in the belief the risk is worth taking to get an opportunity to manage a big European club. Expect Celtic to now do both.

Remember these candidates may not be sub-standard, indeed they may be excellent, in fact they possibly are. The fact it is a gamble and one unnecessary had Celtic modernised when they had the chance, without a rival and at a point where football was having its own version of the industrial revolution, then all of this could have been very different.

READ THIS…Hartson Unimpressed by Postecoglou Appointment: “I just think Celtic need to be thinking bigger, in terms of their next manager”

As such as separating our ire, directed at Ange Postecoglou, or the rejecting of advances from Eddie Howe, from the Celtic Board responsible for it is essential and fair.

Yet the worry remains, what if we do now get good candidates, despite parochial protestations at the standard? What if they too end up failing or walking away due to an ineffective and outdated structure supplied by the custodians of Celtic. Once we’ve cast the net further afield and still the age-old issues impact the Club, what then?

If Ange Postecoglou is appointed, I hope and believe he will receive the full backing of the Celtic support, one his time in the game and career built up deserves. My worry is not about that, it is whether that support is capable of being mirrored by the custodians he will have to lean on as he sets about his task.

Niall J

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 the finest gift anyone ever gave me when he walked me through Parkhead's gates.


  1. There has been so much written about the circus that is Celtic, much of it rubbish. Thank you for a report that gets right to the crux of the problem – an inept, incompetent board & an outdated management structure. Hail, Hail.

  2. David G. Smith on

    A few takeaways from this article;

    1. Lawells stamp is all over the debacle as per the usual
    2. Desmond is completely out of his depth in football club issues (see reliance on Lawell)
    3. The board are no more than AGM box tickers
    4. No one of 1st choice will touch the job under the current regime
    5. Shaun Maloney will not come as NFL type joey (he is far more accomplished than NFL for that)
    6. Ange Postecoglou will probably take the job and may or may not right the ship sans Wim Jansen and leave after a season
    7. We will have to endure another season of the comedy club duet of Kennedy and Strachan
    8. No one of the calibre desired by the support will touch CFC until the present caretakers, because thats all they are, are gone.
    9. Taking into consideration points 1-9 it can be fairly said that CFC at the current business juncture are a strategic shit show
    10. All of the above observations will remain extant until we can buy back the shares of CFC (AGAIN) and start afresh (AGAIN)


    • Nope David, spot on. Perhaps a repeat valium prescription may be worth consideration 🙂

  3. Absolutely hit the nail on the head Niall. I’ve been watching Celtic since the late 1950s (all over Scotland and Europe) so have been through the good and bad several times. I’m retired a few years now having spent the last several years here in Australia as a partner in a successful Executive Recruitment firm.

    The errors you highlight in the latest debacle are basic recruitment errors- of no structure, no plan then trying to fit whoever into the non existing structure and then asking the candidate to go out and recruit his own management team! I ask you!! Who was doing the interviewing and asking the thousands of questions of every candidate as to their suitability and their view of the future? The to-ing and fro-ing is each party buying and selling each other! The flow- on of this shambles to the club’s reputation is exactly as you are forecasting – word gets around.!!

    Finally let me say Ange is a great proven football manager and I, and i hope we all wish him every success.

    Hail! Hail!