STEPHEN MCGOWAN: Celtic's failure to land Howe leaves a bitter taste

STEPHEN MCGOWAN: Celtic’s failure to land Eddie Howe as their next boss will leave a bitter taste in the mouth of fans… his U-turn on the job is a fitting way to end a disastrous season

  • Celtic’s talks with Eddie Howe to become their next boss collapsed on Friday 
  • Pressure is mounting on Parkhead chiefs to find a successor to Neil Lennon
  • Howe’s U-turn on the job perfectly summed up a calamitous season at the club
  • Whoever the club decide to appoint will know they are not the first choice 
  • The eventual boss could arrive to an underwhelming reception at Celtic Park 

Peter Lawwell turned 62 on Thursday. And a week after some maniac set the outgoing chief executive’s property ablaze with accelerant, hopes of a peaceful birthday disappeared up in flames when word came through of Eddie Howe’s Celtic U-turn.

Howe’s rethink feels like a fitting climax to a calamitous season. A Parkhead campaign earmarked for greatness has assumed epic proportions for all the wrong reasons.

The list of mishaps is lengthy. From Fraser Forster to wantaway players, to crashing out of Europe, to Boli Bolingoli, Covid-19 outbreaks, Dubai and the loss of ‘The Ten’, Celtic’s season has lurched from one catastrophe to another. If Howe really has taken the club for mugs, then he’s only the latest in a long line since Ferencvaros in August.

Eddie Howe’s decision to snub the Celtic job sums up their disastrous season perfectly 

If the former Bournemouth boss has taken the club for mugs, he is the latest in a long line 

Due to retire in a month’s time, Lawwell can take solace in the fact he is handing all this over soon to Dominic McKay, his chosen successor.

When a new chief executive arrives he usually has five weeks to get his feet under the table before the questions start. In contrast, McKay doesn’t take the reins from Lawwell until July 1 and, already, he’s under scrutiny.

The chief executive of a football club has a number of jobs. He sets the ethos and values of the club. He oversees their commercial interests, budgets and departmental functions. But nothing is more important than getting a manager in the door capable of winning games on a consistent basis. Get that right and the rest tends to fall in to place.

CEOs who fail to catch the worm don’t usually last long. Searching for a Scotland manager to replace Gordon Strachan, former SFA chief Stewart Regan staked all his chips on Michael O’Neill. The gamble failed when O’Neill stayed put with Northern Ireland and Regan lost his job shortly afterwards. Two minutes in the door, McKay will be fine. But it’s far from the best of starts.

Celtic could argue they could have done no more after Howe began talks with Celtic’s major shareholder Dermot Desmond (R) in London two months ago

With or without Eddie Howe, Celtic were always facing a daunting rebuilding job.

With Scott Brown already gone, Odsonne Edouard heading for Leicester and Newcastle keen on Kristoffer Ajer, Celtic are looking at a turnover of around a dozen players.

On Friday night, that rebuilding process suffered a damaging setback.

Sent back to the drawing board, Celtic issued a statement where they spoke of ‘engaging with a number of candidates’.

Whoever they talk to now already knows he is second choice. He will also know just how desperate they for a new appointment and his salary demands will reflect that. For Celtic, Howe’s volte face threatens to prove an expensive disaster.

Howe’s appointment seemed inevitable, but the club’s show of faith in him backfired badly

The club failed to agree a deal to bring first team coaches Stephen Purches (right) and Simon Weatherstone (left) to Glasgow

Celtic argue that they could have done no more. When Howe walked into Dermot Desmond’s front room in London two months ago, he was earmarked by the major shareholder as The Bhoy.

On the basis that Irish billionaires tend to get what they want, some assumptions were made prematurely. Out of work since leaving Bournemouth last August, there seemed no reason for Celtic — or Howe — to mess around. His appointment looked a matter of when rather than if.

Yet Fergus McCann — no stranger to a lengthy managerial hunt — used to say that hindsight was the only perfect science. In retrospect the Parkhead hierarchy must regret giving Howe all that time to piece his backroom team together at leisure. A show of faith backfired badly.

Outgoing chief executive Peter Lawwell saw any hopes of a peaceful exit dashed after talks with Howe collapsed

Bournemouth technical director Richard Hughes was the target to head up recruitment. Howe also wanted first-team coaches Simon Weatherstone and Stephen Purches to join him in Glasgow. A role would have also have been found for former Celtic striker Mark Burchill, a Cherries scout.

Bournemouth’s defeat to Brentford in the Championship play-off semi-final was supposed to prise open the door to completion. The contracts of Howe’s trusted backroom staff were always contingent on which league they were working in. Consigned to the second tier for another season, a swift conclusion seemed likely.

Until the Ed-Bhoy was standing on the Parkhead pitch with a green and white scarf raised over his head, however, the grim fatalism of fans seemed justified and wise. After a season of woe, Howe’s decision follows a now familiar pattern.

Where Celtic go from here is the question. They waited so long for plan A that plan B — Enzo Maresca — joined Parma on Thursday. Roy Keane? If he’s willing to act as a backup to anyone he’s going soft in his old age.

It’s difficult to determine where Celtic go from here with a race on to appoint a new coach before the start of pre-season

Fans of a certain vintage will recall the last managerial saga to follow a ten-in-a-row season. Then, as now, it dragged on forever. Then, as now, it ended in unsatisfactory fashion.

In the summer of 1998, Wim Jansen announced his resignation as head coach in the Palacio Hotel in Estoril in the days after winning the title.

Hellbent on appointing an overseas coach, Celtic failed to land their first choice of Gerard Houllier. They turned to former Norway manager Egil Olsen and ran into difficulties with a quarantined dog. After an interminable summer of speculation and rumour, Dr Jozef Venglos was finally unveiled to an underwhelmed public.

That was unfair to Venglos and if the new man gets the same treatment this time he can feel hard done by as well. Whatever happens now, it’s not a situation of his making.

Brendan Rodgers was unveiled as Celtic’s boss in 2016 to a rock and roll reception 

But with little known Ange Postecoglou (left) linked to the post, the eventual coach could be greeted by three men and a dog 

The problem is that the fans had set their heart on Eddie Howe and the failure to land the top target will merely add to a simmering sense of serious disgruntlement with the current board of directors. Keeping the faith has never been harder.

When Brendan Rodgers arrived in 2016 he did so to a rock star’s reception. Whoever Celtic land now could find themselves standing on the steps of Parkhead holding a scarf aloft and talking to three men and a dog.

On Friday night Ange Postecoglou, a 55-year-old former national team coach of Australia, emerged as the new name in the frame. With players due to return to pre-season training on June 17, Celtic need someone out of work and ready to start quickly. The search for the new Jozef Venglos starts now.

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