On my 33 different team selections blog yesterday I said I would follow up on changes to formations, changes to our front two partnerships, dropping players and when we have dropped them etc but I'll leave that till next week and focus on Peter Lawell today instead.
11 in a row
On discussing Peter Lawell today with my son Aidan I asked him if he remembered me talking about 11 in a row a few years ago. I discussed 11 in a row with others at this time as well.
A few years ago when thinking of 10 in a row I was confident we would do it but I did think about the risks and any potential possibilities of us not achieving the biggest objective in my lifetime as a Celtic supporter. I say the biggest as it is an objective that has been alive with our support since 1998 when we stopped "their" 10 .... and an objective we believed we would achieve since 2012. The longevity of the objective makes the failure to do so even more seismic. (I remember singing "1 in a row, 9 to go" on the supporters bus on 3rd May 1998 heading to Dunfermline on the day we thought we were going to stop "their" 10).
Brendan Rodgers had signed a 4 year contract taking him to the end of this season and was then giving the "10" hand gestures to the Green Brigade and I was then starting to think about this season. What would we do after achieving the 10? Start a new structure with the long term aim of European success giving up domestic success if need be? For the first time in recent history the fans would be supportive of risking short term focus. What would the 10 season be like? Would it be a risk that every player would know it was Brendan's last season? That's what happened with Walter Smith at Rangers. He didn't announce it till after the season had ended but it was planned it was his last season. Did the Rangers players know officially or if not did it leak to them? How does that affect your focus? It must.
I'm not saying players wouldn't be aiming for 10 in a row under Brendan Rodgers or that Brendan Rodgers wouldn't be either but there is definitely something in the mindset that can be affected when you/they know you are leaving. Did Walter or the Rangers players not try? Of course they did. Even the men in black tried harder. However when trying harder mistakes can be made. Just ask Bobby Tait about the 98th Kilmarnock winner at Ibrox on May 2nd.
It was at that time I suggested a strategy for 11 in a row to get the 10. All the big changes to happen after 11 in a row, Managers signed up for 11 in a row and players too. 11 in a row could be the transitional year. If we didn't achieve the 11 then we could live with it.
Even the Vegas Convention got in on my Plan cancelling this year's event and moving it to next year saying it would be the 11 in a row event. I kept my booking for the Convention and let it run for next year's rescheduled event.
Similar to Managers and Players focussing on 11 in a row, after 17 years as CEO when was Peter Lawwell planning on stepping down? After the 10? Possibly. Should it have been after the 11 for Peter as well?
Some fans hate Lawwell and some totally respect the job he has done for the club. Whilst I always acknowledge that there are loads more he could have done (and as a club we should always challenge to be the best we can be .. and more) I was generally in the camp that he has done a fantastic job for us. Probably summed up by the fact other fans claim he runs Scottish Football. To get that accusation (true or not) when we have been up against the establishment for over a century is definitely recognition in my book. Yeah relations with the fans could have been better (Offensive Behaviour at Football Act amongst many) but in terms of financial footing and results on the park (domestic dominance) he has been a roaring success.
However in October (if not earlier) it was clear to the majority of fans that we were in severe danger of not winning the league (and the 10) if we retained Neil Lennon as Manager. It would always be a risk bringing in a new Manager in this important season as they would need to hit the ground running with no room for error. But it was something that had to be done. Not to punish Neil, the fans love him (or maybe I should say loved), but because we all could predict that a) we would drop more points in the upcoming games and b) we would not win at Ibrox on January 2nd. It wasn't punishment for dropped points it was prediction of failure.
After 17 years in the role, successes and decisive actions taken why did Peter Lawwell stall at this moment? Maybe it was a blind spot in the moment but then when the "disastrous event" in November happened it could no longer be described as a blind spot or mistake. Defeat to Ross County was the final straw moment, similar to Barnes's Inverness Caley Thistle, Burns's Falkirk Semi Final, Mowbray's Love Street and Ronnie Delia's penalties defeat at Hampden to a lower league club. It was now unfathomable to believe Lawwell was still backing Lennon. At that time was Lawwell thinking "I made a mistake in appointing Lennon but too late now to change so let's continue and hope it turns round?" A Lawwell ffs moment to himself? But now realising he is in a hole does he keep digging?
These decisions were all uncharacteristic mistakes from Peter Lawwell.
We now know the decision was to leave at the end of the season. So basically Lawwell is working his notice this year. As is probably Neil Lennon. All the mistakes that Rangers encountered in 1998 (with Walter Smith) were being repeated. Don't get me wrong Walter Smith could have still won the league in the end but with the players he had we shouldn't have had a chance. Our leveller was their transition period and the fact we were the ones chasing and the chasers will always have that extra motivation. Psychologically it just can't be matched no matter how much you try.
Similarly we had the on field advantage coming into this year. A Manager with proven success, a team of quality players with proven success. However against us;
- they were chasing and had that extra motivation we couldn't match, and
- we had the ending of a tenure.
We might have still had enough to overcome this but another leveller outwith our control (COVID) would be too much just in the end. Would a Manager appointed in October have been enough to overcome the motivation of The Rangers and the COVID impact? Possibly, possibly not but it would have given us a better fighting chance. As would have been the case if Brendan Rodgers was still here and the exceptional performance levels and standards he had installed in the team/club could have been enough just to overcome all the headwinds we have faced.
One of those headwinds was Neil Lennon's decision making. Some may say he is not good enough and many will argue against that. However even his biggest fans will say that this year has been a nightmare for him in regards to decision making and effectiveness.
This season Neil Lennon is trying too hard and he's hurting. It's clouding his judgement & stressing him. An output of that is his indecisiveness and his wrong decisions. The indecisiveness is permeating through the club and includes wrong decisions all over the pitch by our previously successful squad of players.
Working your notice
I've been a Manager for 30 years and have managed Managers for 20 years and I was thinking about Lawell and his situation today. How many of you are Managers and have worked your notice before? During that time you will work to the best of your ability and even may give a bit more to end on a high and your determination to succeed won't diminish. However what about strong relationships you have with the people who work for you? Especially those who have been loyal to you and have performed greatly for you in previous years? Would you dismiss them during your notice? Honestly I think most wouldn't (if they were being honest) and I think that is what has been Peter Lawell's mistake this year. Loyalty and respect for his team ... at a time when he is working his notice.
I remember the start of the season 1998/1999 when we were flying the league flag for the first time since the Centenary Year (another year that is owed to psychological motivation given the players Rangers had) and Fergus McCann was booed. We had just won the league but he was booed because of current decisions being made (losing Wim Jansen for one). What is the view of Fergus McCann now? He's a legend in the majority of supporters eyes.
Some will see Peter Lawwell as a legend already but many others will struggle greatly with that given this year's errors in decision making that has cost us the 10. I believe the hatred towards Lawwell will dwindle over time.
My feelings today
I have been wanting Lennon removed from role from October (defeat to Rangers without shot on goal) and have moved my anger on to Lawwell since then. How do I feel today? A bit helpless and a bit numb to be honest. I've got what I wanted (someone being held accountable for the failure) but it won't bring the 10 back.
As a supporter I'm not any better off. Yeah, next year will start a new era for us as a club but we were going to get that anyway.