Things must be going well.
Dermot Desmond has raised his head above the parapet and spoken to the masses.
He didn’t say much that we didn’t already know, but he did go out of his way to defend Peter Lawwell and Neil Lennon, and by adding a cheeky wee dig about the liquidation of Rangers, he clearly figured that’s what most of us will take from his musings.
A bit like Lawwell’s comment about a bid for a Rangers player coming from another planet in another galaxy.
That sort of thing.
Desmond was interviewed by Gerry McCulloch, and as ever with these arranged chats, the questions were designed to elicit what the main man wanted to say, rather than as genuine enquiries to ascertain facts or opinions.
The full text is as follows… with some additional comments. ( taken from the Record, but nevertheless it’s probably mostly accurate )
Gerry McCulloch: Can I ask you about your future? There has been speculation that your shareholding may be up for sale, that there are interested parties looking to buy them – would you like to comment on that and set the record straight?
Desmond: “I’m very glad to do so. Nobody has ever approached me about buying shares from me, that’s in the last 27 years or so.
“I have no intention of selling any shares, not now or in the future, even if somebody offers me a price three or four times the current share price, I’m not selling.
“I’ve been privileged and honoured to be able to be shareholder of a club I supported as a youth and I’ve been a fan for well over 50 years.
“Therefore I’ll continue to be a fan and shareholder and hopefully contribute to the continued development of the club.”
Aren’t we lucky ? One the one hand, it does protect us from an offshore owner, or owners, using the club to launder money or exploit the fanbase…stop laughing… but on the other it does promise a future of conservative financial policy. You can;t disagree with it to an extent, it’s working, but a little more ambition would have been nice in the past.
Would ange have got the board’s backing for a rebuild if he hadn’t been able to do it within their remit ? That’s the real question.
It could also mean he’s hanging on because he’s concerned one or more of his sons might make an arse of it. Which is probably closer to the truth. They’re not known for their discretion, and certainly don’t have their fathers business acumen.
McCulloch: Is that answer perhaps indicative of the passion that not just you, but your family have for the club?
Desmond: “All of my children are really passionate about Celtic. They’ve got that from me.
“It’s ingrained in them, their love for Celtic. My son Ross, he’s more passionate than me when he’s watching a match.
“Just keep every piece of furniture out of his way when Celtic are playing. But I would hope that they will take over the mantle from me and carry the baton forward.”
That kind of backs up my thoughts that he may not entirely trust them. Throwing furniture about might help run a business if you’re Tony Soprano, but doesn’t usually work in the real world.
But hey…they’re all Celtic fans….just like us. Indeed, just like Peter Lawwell used to say about the board when the support wanted a supporter among their number.
McCulloch: The club has moved on from last season’s challenges and disappointments. There’s a positive feeling around the place now but what did we learn as a club through that period?
Desmond: “As a club we’re continuously learning, we’re continually trying to improve every aspect of the club. Our facilities, structure and personnel, that’s a given every year.
“If we look at last year and analyse last year. Let’s look at it cold, let’s look at the facts. First of all, we wanted to retain all our squad to win 10 in a row – that we did.
“We wanted to retain the players we had on loan, Elyounoussi and Forster from Southampton.
“We agreed terms that both could come, both players wanted to come, those deals would be consummated but unfortunately at the last minute Fraser Forster decided to stay at Southampton.
“In the interim we’d let Craig Gordon go and that was the start of the challenges we faced from the previous year. We were in need of a goalkeeper to replace both Fraser Forster and Craig Gordon. We did that.
“We also recruited other players so that in every position we had cover. We got Shane Duffy at cover for centre-back and we did that throughout the whole squad.
“There was mistakes made, maybe in selection, mistakes made that were Covid related, mistakes made by players going on trips. Again it wasn’t from the lack of having the squad or dedicated manager or coaches to resolve the issues.
“You may say we should’ve got rid of the manager earlier on. This is a manager who was an outstanding player for Celtic, who won the league in his own right during the first period as manager.
“That won basically two Trebles and also that everybody endorsed the view that Celtic were favourites to win the league.
“All the pundits and commentators and, indeed, the betting companies had us odds-on favourites. Unfortunately that didn’t happen.
“I believe support should be given, not when you’re doing well, support should be given when you meet challenges and difficulties and the Celtic culture is to give support when people need it.
“We wanted to show loyalty to Lenny and give him the opportunity to turn things around. Unfortunately that didn’t happen and that was history, so you deal with that, you say to yourself, ‘What can we do about it?’
“The only thing we could do about that then is you always build everything from the top down.
“Lenny resigned and our objective then was to recruit a manager but when do you recruit a manager? What’s the right time to recruit a manager? Maybe not mid season, during the last quarter of a year.”
McCulloch: In terms of recruiting a new manager, there’s always an element of risk in a situation like that – there were some, many who were sceptical when it became clear that Ange Postecoglou was the man you wanted. It’s fair to say those sceptics have now all been silenced. Can you take us back to the recruitment process and what led to Ange becoming Celtic manager?
DD: “I think to provide a bit of history on how managers have been recruited since 2000… in 2000 we had a little bit of a coup at Celtic.
“That wasn’t public but we had a coup at Celtic. This was formed by Brian Quinn, Patrick Sheehy, and myself. We were unhappy with the progress we were making at Celtic. So what we decided was that we needed a new chairman.
“We needed a new chief executive, who was identified as Peter Lawwell. He came a little bit afterwards. Then I went about looking for a manager. I brought Martin O’Neill to the table.
“What Peter and I do is we put five names on a list that we feel could be good managers of Celtic. We’ve always had a list of five and interviewed five.
“In this case we had a list of five, Ange was on the list. I had no idea who Ange was, I couldn’t pronounce his name. Peter was insistent he was a person we should put on the list. He had a great record.
“We pursued another manager which is public. He was excellent to deal with, a person with integrity and ability, I couldn’t say enough good things about him but unfortunately for personal reasons he couldn’t go on with the position.
“I got that phone call at 12.30 on a Thursday and I made arrangements to speak to Ange at 5pm UK time, he was in Japan, to speak with him the next morning.
“In between that I had looked up and researched quite a bit about Ange and what he’d achieved, what his type of personality is.
“I’d watched that Craig Foster interview several times that he gave which showed he was a man of determination, integrity, passion, individualism.
“He was a leader so I was pleased to interview Ange. I got a good lot of background to Ange as well. I spoke to Ange about 5pm and had a long conversation with him. I had no doubt he was the person for Celtic in every way.
“He was the only person ever not to ask, ‘What is my budget? Can I bring X, Y and Z?’ He said he’d evaluate everything when he got there. I was convinced.
“I said to him Celtic is more than a club and it can’t be a mercenary role to take the money and use it as a stepping stone, passing on, being something that you’re going to use Celtic as your career development rather than Celtic is the club you want to intimately pursue and manage.
“He gave this great reply, ‘In the words of the Proclaimers, I will walk 500 miles and I will walk 500 more to manage Celtic’. So I said, that’s our man.”
Presumably Desmond was thinking about the saving on his air fare to Glasgow.
Whilst Postecoglou ticks all the boxes, and is an upgrade on any manager bar one in my lifetime, it does make me wonder when Desmond hired Mowbray, Barnes, and Lennon if he asked the same questions.
He certainly couldn’t say he told Rodgers that the job wasn;t a stepping stone, although in fairness there is more to that relationship than we’ll probably ever know, and Martin O’Neill lost interest when someone took the chequebook off him, so I think the best thing we can say is he finally knows what he is looking for in a manager.
Waiting so long for Eddie Howe to decide f he was coming was weak, and it could have led to all sorts of demands from other potential applicants that could have set us back years.
We were lucky that we’ve found a man who understands the club, and excels in management and coaching, thus saving the board at least one wage, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a mood bordering on sexual ecstasy filled the boardroom when he said he didn;t want to bring anyone with him.
To credit Peter Lawwell with finding him is noble, it may even be accurate, but there is a hidden worry here.
If it was Lawwell’s links with Manchester City that found him, it means that Manchester City are aware of him.
And no doubt their struggling neighbours will be as well.
Which will lead to a few pre semi final headlines about interest in him, but one thing we have seen is that Ange is a man of his word.
He says he is happy here, and he is building something. He has everything he wants to achieve something by his own hand, and that seems to appeal to him more than being a chequebook manager.
Very much in the Stein mould as opposed to the Rodgers or O’Neill style.
As he says…
“As I keep saying, I’ve just felt totally supported from day one. And it’s been really important for me to do what I need to do because, as people are aware, I came in by myself and that can feel fairly isolating if you don’t get support straight away.
“I’ve been really fortunate. The fans have been unbelievable towards me, the staff here, the players, but that includes the management and the board.
What struck me about him was in the Open goal interview at Lennoxtown when he said other clubs had approached him, but given the impression they weren’t really that keen on him. In fairness to Desmond, he made Ange feel wanted, which means his European break came at a bigger club than he could have hoped for, one where he can make a mark in European competition, and I suspect he wants to build a team and style to do that, rather than just buy one.
Which makes him and Celtic kind of made for each other, and hopefully he’ll grow to love the place in the same way as our last world class performer, Henrik Larsson.
It’s not that Celtic rescued Larsson from obscurity, he would have succeeded anywhere, as would Ange.
It’s that we gave them the chance to do so when they needed it.
It’s good for everyone.
McCulloch: The rest is history as they say, but how have you enjoyed watching an Ange Postecoglou Celtic team, and the style that has been developed?
Desmond: “Even when we lost a number of matches at the start of the season, I was absolutely convinced that we were on the right track.
“He was wonderful in the way that he managed the players, he was wonderful in developing players, he was wonderful at improving players. He’s been fantastic and he’s a wonderful person.
“He’s embraced the club in every aspect. He understands the culture of the club, he understands the desire of the supporters, he understands the necessity to play attacking and attractive football.
“One of his words in the interview, which rings with me, he didn’t promise to win the league, he didn’t promise to win cups, he said, ‘I will get the fans off their seats’.
“Part of his duty and function in managing the football team is to make the fans appreciate the style of football.
“Just to clarify the position – it came up in a number of times in misinformed press reports and other commentaries about recruiting players – in the last 20 odd years, the manager of the club decides what players to take in, not the board, not anybody else.
“Searches provide information to the manager, the manager then makes a decision, maybe in conjunction with his coaching staff.
“He makes the ultimate decision, he’s chairman of the board. Ange is chairman of the board at Celtic as far as football recruitment is concerned, and all things football are concerned.
“He is the person, and he is the person that takes the brickbats and the credit, so that’s the recruitment policy.
“It’s not the board that decides yes or no. What the board does do, it will set out the budget of what we can afford, so that we are going to be prudent, financially prudent, in the way we run the club.
“We do not want the club to get in a financial state, where the club goes into liquidation and there is going to be a new Celtic.
“We want our history to be continuous, not to be curtailed through financial mismanagement.”
McCulloch: Looking ahead, what are the next steps for the club? Do you see a bright future for Celtic both domestically and also in a European context?
DD: “Any business I’m involved in we always build from the top down. So if you look at where Celtic is at the present time, we’ve got a wonderful board, who are all Celtic supporters, people of diverse accomplishments but all passionate Celtic supporters.
“We have an executive that is led by Michael Nicholson and Chris McKay, and they are absolutely wonderful people. They understand Celtic, they’ve been with Celtic quite a bit of time, they understand the ambitions, they understand the constraints.
“They understand the developing strategies that we have and they are totally committed and trustworthy, and people we can be extremely proud of running Celtic.
“We have a great manager. Irrespective of what happens at the end of this year, we still have a great manager. He’s only had two transfer windows. Full judgement will be made after transfer windows three and four.
“I think I should also say that all of this came about, the success of Celtic, over the last 20 years. I don’t think it’s been the most successful period of Celtic’s history, the last 20 years, we didn’t win a European Cup, we got a European final.
“But I think we should acknowledge the work of Peter Lawwell. Peter has been instrumental in carrying out that work. He is the one that recruited Michael Nicholson, recruited Chris McKay, he’s the person that developed Lennoxtown.
“People should know this, he was offered three times the salary by English Premier clubs but his commitment and love of Celtic made him stay at Celtic. I want to put on record the value of the job he did.
“So with the board, with a manager in Ange Postecoglou, a management team led by Michael Nicholson, I think it’s bright.
“We will go through tough times, but you need great people to get over tough times and we have great people leading us at Celtic.”
A question about the future answered by a tribute to the former CEO.
He wasn’t even listening to the questions, was he ?