Why the ‘dressing room leaks’ shouldn’t be construed as insider sabotage

It is safe to say there has been a lot of coverage and indeed fallout to the Athletics’ story yesterday that highlighted both training ground issues with James McCarthy’s getting up to speed with Ange Postecoglou’s methods and expectancies, and perhaps even more so the claim McCarthy was a player purchased without ‘meaningful input’ from the manager or the Scouting department.

The story itself has had a mixed reaction, and from the comments section below it and other coverage you can see it was divisive. That’s understandable of course. There will be frustrations amongst the support at stories being leaked and some will see that as Ange Postecoglou is some way being undermined by people within the club and close to the camp. But you have to ask is it really so divisive or is it someone with the right intentions here wanting to highlight pertinent issues?

Celtic v AZ Alkmaar – James McCarthy at the end of the match at Celtic Park. Photo Andrew Milligan

For instance, the story wasn’t passed to a sensationalist outlet, The Athletic isn’t that kind of outfit and the journalist in question is a well-respected writer and one who’s articles appear well researched and thoroughly checked. Indeed, Kieran Devlin subsequent to the article clarified that this was not a singular source from which he gained his information and indeed pointed out quite clearly, he hadn’t gone with the content until it was double sourced, both the training ground information and the transfer. That would indicate there are at two at least within the camp who perhaps feel Celtic fans need to know what is going on and they would wish that information to be handled professionally, which it was.

Indeed, on the fitness issue of the player in question, such information regarding the performance and fitness on players in training and subsequent readiness for matchdays must be a twice weekly question to sources, much like the press conferences we all watch where squad updates on availability are regularly asked of the manager, if such a relationship is one on one perhaps trust between the two parties has been earned on both sides.

David Turnbull and James McCarthy. Photo: Andrew Milligan

The author also clarified that the timing of the story had been delayed as it hadn’t fitted with any content he had been working on up until the point of the story, further evidence of a lack of sensationalism and indeed fact checking along the way, and Devlin also stated when challenged on why he hadn’t included McCarthy’s suffering from Covid-19 that it wasn’t in the article because it hadn’t been verified. Yet we know of one former Celtic goalkeeper who had already made that public knowledge on BBC Radio Scotland, but then that is just one and perhaps the lack of belt and braces was the reason the writer chose not to include it.

Now it is not beyond the realms of possibility that despite multiple sources this story is remains flawed but you can’t argue the journalist hasn’t done what is expected in the verification process.

Livingston v Celtic – Ange Postecoglou. Photo Andrew Milligan

So, what of the claims Postecoglou’s rebuild is being undermined by leaks such as this? Well, I’m not buying that either. This story does not undermine the manager it highlights a recruitment and footballing operations model that is not supporting the manager fully; indeed, it simply publicises what has long considered to be common practice at Celtic, namely a disjointed and flawed recruitment process often influenced by others at the club. That isn’t something that benefits the manager if it is kept quiet, indeed it may well help to ensure such practice is checked in the future.

Going back to Gordon Strachan’s time he later told the story of being unaware of Paddy McCourt when he signed at the club and there were further rumours of the Roy Keane deal being much the same. Further down the line we had Brendan Rodgers and his ‘millions of wingers’ quote when advised Maryan Shved was due in the door and last season the Shane Duffy signing had many a story out there that Neil Lennon may not have had the final say and the same for Vasilis Barkas. I’m sure others could add more to that list.

Photo by Kirk O Rourke

Now none of this is uncommon at other clubs either and as such it perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise when it happens at Celtic, but often the difference with other clubs is it occurs when conflict arises between sporting directors and head coaches and the sporting director backs his own judgment over that of his head coach.

At Celtic it would appear a former CEO would act as de facto Director of football in what was a not so amusing standing joke. And now? Well now without a director of football, de facto or otherwise, the transfer dealings, if not from a former CEO, hint strongly to the boardroom nonetheless, and unlike a Sporting Director those involved in this particular story, and previous issues around the signing of players, indicate players being added to the squad by individuals without knowledge of a stye of play or with a footballing background. After all who in the boardroom has any kind of football experience to warrant such direct input?

So, you ask the question, is a leak or two from the dressing room undermining Postecoglou’s rebuild or is it more harmfully being hamstrung from within? And if that is the case then with a club who don’t exactly do open lines of communication or welcome any kind of questioning, is the only way to ensure the support find out to go through a more reputable media outlet where it could be better handled than say those the club have a habit of using when they decide a particular angle is required on a certain story. Is that harming or is it trying to protect and inform? Is it someone with the club at heart trying to point out the narrative being fed isn’t exactly as it is being portrayed?

Celtic’s former chief executive Dominic McKay Photo: Andrew Milligan

What this ultimately highlights however is the much-needed reform of the club, now delayed further by the resignation of a 72 day in the job CEO seems a long way off. It also points in my opinion to why there could be perceived reticence on the part of the board to spend the money and modernise our footballing operations, after all why would they, when they may feel they know enough about the game to assist the manager in choosing his players for him and have possibly done so since Strachan was in charge?

And furthermore, if certain influential individuals believe they can influence who is and isn’t part of a playing squad can that go further, can it go as far as matchday squads and starting line-ups and even if it hasn’t so far, is there a worry from some that it ultimately could? If such concerns cannot be rectified by internal routes where genuine concerns can be raised, then keeping it all in house and apparently protecting the sacrosanct nature of the dressing room may not be so much detrimental and rather beneficial.

For too long Celtic has been a closed shop and it is clear in the absence of transparency and accountability there may have been practices allowed to develop that cannot be beneficial to the club, perhaps then those who chose to get their version of events into the public domain are people with the club at heart, much like the journalist they spoke to.

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

1 Comment

  1. Starfelt definitely wasn’t a Big Ange signing either imo

    The Celtic Board have been able to get away with this nonsense for way too long as in any other industry if you wasted approx £8 million & more on the likes of Barkas, Starfelt, Duffy’s loan wages etc the they would be out of a job, or at least answerable for it.

    Graeme Mathie has recently left Hibs as DoF & he is well respected in the game & did a great job at Hibs and we (Celtic) should’ve been snapping him up, but as usual nothing happens as Celtic have regressed to the Board pre-Jock Stein era where they have way too much power & too much input into the football decisions when they clearly have no clue and should leave that side of things to actual football men with a pedigree. All clubs should follow the Bayern Munich/ Ajax models and have ex-players in the boardroom but too much self-interest from these fossils will always win out. Time for them to go!