The Thick of It – The Celtic Board’s Howe Omnishambles

The timeline and reasoning for what ultimately culminated in Eddie Howe’s decision to walk away from the opportunity to manage Celtic will undoubtedly come out in the wash eventually. What seems clear is Howe’s side certainly knew a few days ago this was unlikely to be concluded and perhaps Celtic still harboured hopes of changing his mind.

Howe, we know had committed verbally for whatever that was worth with caveats attached around backroom appointments and the structure of the club – there are also rumours from down south that the level of rebuild required and the funds available to carry that out were as tough to connect as the button on my jeans post lockdown.

There are plenty of questions we all have and I guess they’ll be answered eventually as both sides leak their preferred version of events and the truth will lie somewhere in the middle of it all. Celtic seem to have been assured enough to put all their eggs in the Howe basket and willing to wait until he could assemble his backroom staff, and even apparently hang on until Bournemouth had finished their play-off campaign, to even approach them.

Yet even if Howe was the perfect gentlemen towards his previous club you have to question why Celtic were so relaxed about it all. What if Bournemouth had won last weekend against Brentford and were promoted today in a final against Swansea? Would the backroom team have been likely to stay anyway with another crack at the Premier League? Surely Celtic considered that. Surely, they knew how many were coming, what it would take to move them North, and please tell me they’d asked if they don’t come for any reason what is the Plan B Eddie? Do you still go with half and find alternatives for those who decide to decline, or will your own commitment waver if you don’t have all your entourage accompanying you?

Unless of course Howe had told the Board to ‘relax I’ve got this’ only to find those he trusted on their word to move, no matter the result of Bournemouth’s season, reneged on their promises to their former manager and left him high and dry.

Credit: Getty Images

Did Peter Lawwell pull another move the goalposts moment on promises made to Howe’s team, and did Howe, having done his due diligence via Brendan Rodgers, jump at the first sign of a renegotiation on an already agreed subject as he would undoubtedly been told to look out for?

Or has Eddie used his own team’s reluctance to head north as a smokescreen and ready-made excuse as his head has been turned by a Premier League club or even a return to his safe wee world in Bournemouth following his former club’s failure to get promoted back to the Premier League?

The strange thing from Celtic’s point of view is just how much they seemed assured this was a done deal, to the point the players themselves were told Howe would be taking pre-season. And as much as I understand Celtic’s wishing to exude positivity after a bin-fire of a season and unparalleled pressure bestowed upon the Board, it is very unlike a conservative risk averse board like Celtic to go so gung-ho with assurances, verging on promises, to media behind the scenes and even the playing squad.

Something changed and I’m not convinced by the conscious uncoupling statement yesterday, like a mutually agreeable separation from a celebrity couple, yet Celtic and Howe had never been on anything more than a promise. Strange behaviour.

Perhaps Eddie and his team got the jitters after George Square imagery and the awful fire-bombing of Peter Lawwell’s cars and thought Glasgow appeared more Boca Juniors than Bournemouth and family members across his team had second thoughts, we are after all viewed as two cheeks of the same backside in certain quarters and our ‘noisy neighbours’ have been ramping it up so much lately the coverage has gone international.

Or perhaps even in the three months this has been going on the suffocation of being owned in some way by the Celtic support made Howe himself have second thoughts as to whether he was cut-out for all of that. Managing Celtic after all is like an abusive relationship, showered with love if doing well, told you’re useless if you lose two in a row and we think we own every minute of a manager’s life.

I guess that sort of management position isn’t for everyone. However, if so, Howe’s undoubted coaching talents are always going to be limited to football clubs without pressure and passion. If that is how he likes it, then perhaps a bullet has been dodged somewhat. After all that kind of personality would melt in Glasgow and that would have cost Celtic dearly. Even if everything is taken at face value and the backroom team refusing to come north is the genuine reason for this protracted deal collapsing a manager in need of a chaperone may not be suited to a footballing City like Glasgow.

Photo: Glyn Kirk/NMC Pool

And now we are high and dry, back to square one. Possibly the most worrying side effect of this omnishambles is there have been assumptions aplenty that Howe was working behind the scenes, planning pre-season, targeting, even speaking to players, and now with seven weeks until the first ball is kicked in our European campaign we are minus a manager, still without a Director of Football, have no idea what our new ‘structure’ is, without a club captain and in need of some eleven or twelve players to come into a squad already ravaged by inconsistency, lacking in confidence and just been told the apparent new boss doesn’t fancy it after all.

As such it is no wonder the Celtic Board were keen to brief another candidate was imminent. Call me cynical but considering we were so confident on the last chap that we’d told the players they already had a new manager just last Tuesday, we haven’t exactly had long to target an alternative or even a perceived need to do so. I hope I’m wrong but that particular message seems economical with the truth and a soothing in nature response, akin to the holding reply to a tough query at work while you dive around frantically trying to cobble something together that’s in some may viable and palatable to respond with further down the line, but unlikely to be as thorough and thought out had you been able to suitably prepare.

Yet cobble something together is something we’ll probably do now and the concern is due diligence now gets overlooked in the rush. There is also the issue of Plan B being viewed as a lesser option in the eyes of the support and the players with the new man being up against it from day one.

Yet there are names and good coaches available if we are willing to move our ambitions to the likes of Paulo Fonseca, Bruno Lage or Marco Silva. Or if those are out of our financial reach, previously been discounted or declined our advances, then perhaps a short-term appointment such as John Collins or John Hughes comes in while we start the search again and do so thoroughly.

Yet confidence to get any of this right involves trust in a Celtic Board who have been impotent for years as the outgoing Chief executive has micromanaged the whole shebang and the Board and NED’s have nodded along. And given the shambles Lawwell has overseen in the appointment that never happened of Eddie Howe he needs to be far removed from any negotiations with the next candidate as he probably should have been on this one.

As I was told last night ‘Lawwell is a walking talking disaster for us, history will not be kind to him.’ This particular shambolic embarrassment for Celtic is a sign those sentiments are spot on. Yesterdays’ events were simply further evidence of a Chief Executive and a Board no longer looking in any way fit for purpose. When Lawwell leaves at the end of June there are a few who should consider their own positions also.

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.

Comments are closed.