First, an apology. You write a column and then the club sacks the manager. Forgive me for not being the only Celtic fan who assumed that five months of garbage would become six and seven. So February’s column is now here in March!

The original idea for this column was an analysis of what would be the top tasks on Dominic McKay’s to-do list come July 1st, when he takes over from Peter Lawwell. Now, that idea seems a little moot: obviously, getting a Director of Football in, and then getting whoever that is to source a manager are tasks one and two.

Instead, we can pivot to a (believe it or not) optimistic view of this nightmare season. For one Celtic fan, this season has been pretty fantastic: Dominic McKay. Yes, I’m sure he would have wanted us to get the ten, and yes, we’ve all heard how much he loves the club, but let’s be honest: if you’re taking over a job, you want the bloke in before you to have been awful at it. The only way is up, and you can largely only look good in comparison. For a bit, at least.

For the rest of us, next season is the freshest of fresh starts. I’d like to say it’s the cleanest of clean breaks, but…yeah. It took months to happen. I’m still too angry to think about it. For a new manager and, more importantly, a new CEO, it helps when you can instantly impose your ways on the new organisation. There’s no call for continuity. We hired you to do it all differently.

On top of that, we’re likely to lose our captain, our best striker, our best defender, and a host of regular starters on either loan returns or exile for compulsive shooting. We could be in a situation where over half of the XI that starts on the first day of 2021/22 is making their debut. I can tell you that David Turnbull and Callum McGregor will start, and maybe James Forrest if he’s fit, but basically nobody else with confidence. It’s going to be that kind of season next year.

Externally, however you think that Rangers have played this year, it’s unlikely that they’ll get as easy a ride from the other teams in the SPFL next year, and you would hope that we would be at least a little bit better, so the likelihood of a regression to the mean is there. You can insert your own joke about their right back scoring 11 times in four vital months of the title race and the likelihood of that reoccurring.

With pretty much everything up in the air, it presents a clear case for McKay to make clear and strident decisions. He’s forced to do a squad overhaul because of the reasons listed above. As a result, expectation management should be easy: it’s his first go, he was left a basket case and he’s new. Even Celtic fans will cut him some slack.

As incoming CEO, he is operating from a position of strength within the organisation. He can go and tell Dermot Desmond things that he doesn’t want to hear: shock, horror, the manager doesn’t have to have previously played for the club and, yes, I know you’ve heard of him because he plays for Ireland, but no, he’s actually not that good. If he disagrees: well, why did you hire me?

Given that Celtic give managers so much longer than they deserve, surely they give CEOs even more time. There’s a nice smattering of continuity, because we’re not getting rid of everyone, but plenty of scope to reimagine what Celtic is meant to be in 2021 and going forwards rather than pretending that football is the same as it was in 2003.

McKay’s ideas are at their newest and freshest. He should have little assumed knowledge of what Celtic are like and his best practice from the SRU, where by accounts he has been a forward-thinking and proactive executive, will thus, given the nature of Lawwell and Dermot Desmond, probably be light-years ahead. The rugby league journalist in me wants to mock myself for having referred to a rugby union organisation as progressive, but compared to Celtic, the SRU are certainly that.

I hope that McKay spends the next few months studying football, and not necessarily Celtic. If he’s a fan, goes to games and follows the club closely, he likely knows enough about where we are right now. What we have lacked for years is a leadership that sees Celtic’s actual place in the hierarchy: not as Scotland’s biggest club, but as a big fish in a small pond that competes with Ajax, Benfica and their ilk on a continental second tier while providing talent to the wealthier leagues.

McKay can be the new broom that sweeps out the proper Celtic man, knows-the-league, give 110% nonsense. This is the time when we might forgive poor performances on the park the most, if we think that real change is coming. If a permanent culture change occurs because of this season, maybe it won’t completely have been in vain.


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