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Chief Executive or Yes Man? The Times produces blistering attack on Celtic hierarchy

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Michael Grant of The Times has written a devastating attack on the hierarchy on the back of Dom McKay’s sudden departure.

In just over 1,000 words the most stinging criticism ever published is aired with much of the content familiar with the views shared by supporters on message-boards and across social media.

Among the barbs are references to

annual summer pantomime

If there was a tournament for dithering, would miss the deadline to enter.

McKay’s face didn’t fit they were so clear-headed about it he was gone in 71 days.

Peter Lawwell, the former chief executive, was an omnipresent micro-manager their approach to the recruitment was a mess as three months were wasted waiting for Howe

There will be no humility or transparency from Desmond over any of this

There could be an element of journalistic rivalry to the opinion piece. Several publishers including the Daily Mail, Scotsman and Herald produced articles very supportive of the board for their swift action in getting rid of McKay with those pieces appearing less than 24 hours after the ‘personal reasons’ club statement.

Since then there has been nothing official to come out of Celtic. Chairman Ian Bankier hasn’t outlined a timescale for appointing a new CEO with no sign of a successor to Nick Hammond who resigned as Head of Football Operations in March. Gordon Strachan appears to be halfway through a vague consultancy appointment.

Clearly getting a few things off his chest, but hidden behind The Times paywall, Grant writes:

recently rolled out the annual summer pantomime of conducting their main transfer business amid the fading vapour trail of their most significant European ties of the year. Furuhashi, Joe Hart, Josip Juranovic, James McCarthy, Carl Starfelt, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Jota, Giorgos Giakoumakis — the expensive new troupe carrying all their hopes — all appeared too late to save from the Champions League bin.

When a car park mob gathered to demand Neil Lennon’s head in November, those in the boardroom were so thrown that he stayed in charge until February. Odsonne Édouard and Kristoffer Ajer were sold this year when they should have been shifted 12 months ago. The board waited an eternity for Eddie Howe to piss or get off the pot only for them to be the ones caught with their pants down when he eventually said no. Nick Hammond, the recruitment guy, left at the end of March and still hasn’t been replaced more than five months later. They either do or don’t want a director of football, no one is letting on. If there was a tournament for dithering, Celtic would miss the deadline to enter.

So, just to be clear, this is not a club synonymous with decisiveness and swift decision-making. Landing Ange Postecoglou within days of the custard pie from Howe was done out of panic and necessity. For years prided themselves on being financially prudent and stable when in fact that caution and conservatism on the board — both small and capital C applies — also informed and underpinned their wider decision-making. All of which makes Dominic McKay’s swift departure especially intriguing and all the more out of character for Celtic.

They don’t sign players quickly enough, they take aeons to get rid of a manager or appoint one, and they have three senior directors who have been on the board for a combined 62 years, yet it’s being suggested that when McKay’s face didn’t fit they were so clear-headed about it he was gone in 71 days.

The club has “a board like no other” according to a fans’ banner raised at Park on Saturday. Dermot Desmond, the majority shareholder, Tom Allison, Brian Wilson, the chairman Ian Bankier, Michael Nicholson, Chris McKay and Sharon Brown know better than to interpret that as a compliment. The competence of any set of club directors, or at least the perception of their competence, is shaped by performances and results on the pitch and there is no question this board has been able to cling to Postecoglou as if he was a human shield.

The belated arrival of a generally promising set of new signings rebuilt the squad and at times have played some exhilarating stuff. The simplicity of that can exasperate those malcontents who permanently agitate for regime change. To them, years of systemic directorial stagnation isn’t alleviated by putting three goals past Ross County.

They see Desmond, Allison, Wilson et al as the dead hand which has been in charge for too long and yearn for the turnover of directors rumoured to be coming soon. But McKay’s swift departure amounted to the removal of an outsider who was seemingly intent on modernising the club from within. Peter Lawwell, the former chief executive, was an omnipresent micro-manager and that suited the usually absent Desmond. The idea of McKay delegating to capable departmental heads, the standard modus operandi for most chief executives, seems to have been too revolutionary.

A couple of issues emerge from all of this and neither of them is encouraging for the supporters. Firstly, if the Celtic board is at all resistant to change, it is surely condemning itself to repeating previous mistakes and misjudgements when it comes to erratic and wasteful recruitment, unimaginative appointments and a generally tired and pedestrian approach to many aspects of the business. Lawwell lost his touch towards the end of his long reign, and he does seem to be much less involved now than cynics would have you believe, but their executive is weaker without him than it has been in nearly 20 years.

Secondly, if it was quickly realised that McKay was in the wrong movie what does that say about those who cast him in it? So far it looks as if Celtic will deserve credit for having the boldness to appoint Postecoglou and they have given him plenty to spend, but their approach to the recruitment was a mess as three months were wasted waiting for Howe. Even longer had already been spent on identifying a new chief executive only for their choice to be a spectacularly poor fit. Even if McKay was making bad calls and didn’t deserve to stay, are we to believe there was no inkling of his intentions before the board gave the thumbs-up and ushered him in?

Nicholson is the interim CEO and a “team player”, according to Bankier. That might have been a veiled dig at McKay although perhaps that is giving Bankier credit for subtle communication skills he has otherwise kept to himself for a decade. Nicholson is a capable and respected legal and administration man but he isn’t likely to reinvent himself as the major leader Celtic need as their face and voice.

There will be no humility or transparency from Desmond over any of this. He does not deign to attend the annual general meetings let alone feel that those who plough hundreds of pounds into the club each year might be entitled to insight or information. The Alfred Dunhill Links Championship is coming up at the end of the month, mind you, so he might pause in front of a microphone for a soundbite or two on Celtic if he’s in the mood. It is astonishing that no senior figure speaks for Celtic except a Greek-Australian who had never set foot inside the place before June.

The club still looks desperately thin at the top of the football department. It will soon have a second-choice manager working under a second-choice chief executive, and this during a period in which Desmond supposedly has been “more hands-on”. Who they appoint to succeed McKay will be fascinating, but the real issue is whether what they want is different from what they need. Is this a search for a chief executive or a yes man?

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