It's the 7th of March and Rangers have won the Scottish Premiership, 20 points in front of Celtic and the final challenge is to stay undefeated in the league all season. Steven Gerrard deserves all the praise which will be coming his way, the job was a difficult one considering Celtics dominance and the catch up Rangers had incurred by being demoted to the bottom division back in 2012. Since coming back to the top division in 2016 the club has slowly built towards challenging Celtic, that was the short term goal but to win the title by this margin, style and preventing their rivals to 10 in a row is unreal. Serious questions need to be answered from all those involved at Parkhead, how did this occur? Losing to your rivals is never acceptable for the fans but being embarrassed is unforgiveable. How Celtic has lost the title means they are now in a position similar to Rangers back when they won promotion. Whether Gerard stays or not the infrastructure is in place for continued success for the Ibrox club. If Celtic are to bounce back they need a serious review from top to bottom and I've looked into some of the issues:
10 in a Row Mindset - Before any management or playing issues can be addressed the obsession of 10 in a row has clouded so many decisions within the club and its support. Their eye has been on that notion for a few years its helped build a culture of arrogance. Long term goals can only be achieved by fulfilling short term ones.
Poor Recruitment - During the 9 in a row period top, top class players have trod the Parkhead turf driving the club to success whether Rangers have been there or not. Unknown foreigners, domestic talent, homegrown lads and English club rejects have found success. If one player did not succeed their was 3 or 4 that did. If the talent did not stay long term they was sold for a profit which would be reinvested. If you are unsure of the players who have been plucked and nurtured by Celtic over the last 10 years review this list:
Fraser Forster, Scott Sinclair, Gary Hooper, VVD, Stefan Johansen, Didrick Boyata, Anthony Stokes, Leigh Griffiths, Victor Wanyama, Izaguirre, Tom Rogic, Paddy McCourt, Kris Commons, Moussa Dembale, Stuart Armstrong, Ki Sung-yueng, Joe Ledley, Kieran Tierney, David Turnbull, James Forrest, Ryan Christie, Odsonne Edouard, Charlie Mulgrew, Aiden McGeady & Callum McGregor.
Bar Turnbull & Edouard the players above came in years ago, too many of the title winners who have left were not replaced satisfactually. Its even become apparent recently that players brought in and subsequently sold like Btcham or Frimpong did not affect the team over any period of time. Its like they have come in on loan and then moved on. Celtic are too big a club to be a short term building block destination.
The last youth product to come through with any note was Kieran Tierney, where is the next star from the academy? From reviewing the last Scottish Under 21 squad Celtic only had 2 players within it, you cannot even argue that maybe some talent have been fast tracked to the full squad as that only consisted of 4 players from Celtic all well above the 21 year old threshold.
Blame recently has been firmly lodged on Nicky Hammonds lap and he can take the responsibility for players like Ajeti, Klimala, Bolingli & Duffy who've come in but nurturing youth talent is a wider long term issue. Celtic & Rangers have the pick of youth and domestic league talent, it seems the green and white hoops are not acquiring these lads. To regain the foothold of domestic dominance the academy system at Celtic needs to be stripped down and attacked with vigour.
The same should be said with 1st team talent, its well known that Celtic are behind the times compared to Premier League and EFL Championship recruitment departments. The club need to strip back and upgrade their scouting system, this would start by hiring a Director of Football. This search has already occurred for this summer and if you believe the names in the running then its the usual suspects who are highly rated within the football world. To me this search should not be inclusive to men already in a DOF role but put their search out for application. Tap into the many scouts or analysts in football. Even if you do not hire the person within the interview process you can tap into the applicants knowledge of players, who would they bring in? Maybe someone unknown impresses the board enough for the role, the main aim is to bring the right man with the ideas and drive to succeed. Its time to think outside the box and reinvent the club to more titles.
Manager - Neil Lennon's 1st spell was special , Ronny Delia benefitted from Rangers not being in the top flight & Brendan Rodgers is one of the bright managerial talents. These are the men who lead Celtic to 8 of the titles, the last was Lennon again but its fair to say he should have never got the job again. Upon leading them to success he left for a unsuccessful spell in England and then an aggressive time at Hibs. Baby sitting Rodgers team to a 8th title should have been his limit. Under his tutelage the staleness within Celtic escalated to a level which has cost them the title this season. Rodgers run that club when there, as you see with Leicester recruitment is key, he may not decide but he innovates. Would he have gone along with the Celtic player recruits over the last 2 years? What was his thoughts regarding the youth policy?
The opportunity now is to rebuild the franchise, a new mindset will be adopted by hiring a DOF and the search for a new manager/head coach should garner a open mind when selecting. Rebuilding is the priority, challenging at a satisfactory level optimum but winning back the title is a goal. Whoever is hired should be given a 3 year window along with the DOF to reinvent the 1st team squad while the board and academy bosses review the youth players.
I can think of 3 candidates to consider, I am a football fan from Kent so what do I know but even if the selection committee thought along my lines it would show some open mindness:
Scot Gemmill - Ignore Steve Clarke, he was lucky to get the Scotland job, he's barely showed any ability at club level let along lead a powerhouse like Celtic. Gemmill would be a risk of course as he has never lead a domestic football team but he has been in charge of young Scottish talent since 2014. In a national role your coaching skillset is at the forefront, this is what he would bring to the party along with a relationship with all players 24 or under from Scotland. Hiring a DOF will allow Gemmill to coach the team.
Sol Campbell - No one can argue within the depths of the EFL Sol has worked miracles for both teams he has managed and it can definitely be argued he has encountered some racial bias when applying for managerial positions. After the horrendous public relations incurred via the Dubai trip a open mind to race, colour and religion would not be a bad thing. Sol may not be the answer but thinking outside the box should be a viable option.
Cowley Brothers - These lads turned around Lincoln and was unduly pushed out from Huddersfield, if you listen to Danny he is an impressive talker and what was achieved at Lincoln was recreating a club let along a team. Danny has talked about a project and if he and his brother was allowed this chance and the time it could be something they build. You have to be a CEO for a small company sometimes before upgrading to the top.
Leader (Big Time Player) - Scot Browns run as Celtic leader is coming to a close very soon and when they sold Kieran Tierney his heir apparent was lost. Its so clear Scot was the only diehard, fighter in the squad, lads like McGregor and Forrest and long time players & talents but they are jigsaw pieces rather than key element. After hiring a DOF and manager/coach the first recruit should be a new leader on the pitch, This does not have to mean a bellowing voice or aggressive player. Over the 9 years winning the title Celtic have only provided the leagues top scorer 4 times. That is not good enough and only once a striker has hit 30+ goals (Leigh Griffths). You can argue among the elite Celtic teams the goals were shared but while the squad is rebuilt if an elite striker can be discovered or a leader they can hit the right direction while making the fans proud.
A new culture needs to be introduced to Celtic, this starts from the top to the bottom and does not occur overnight. It will be good for Scottish football if no team wins multiple titles in a row but if its a tight title run every year with well run teams fighting it out.