Cooney and Black

After their £20m Euro fiasco, I imagine Celtic are desperate to sell players. I tuned into BBC 2, fully expecting to see Peter Lawwell turn up on Flog It.

Celtic art


PLEASE stand up those of you guys who have either drunk all your wages or punted them on the 5.05pm at Ludlow? Is that a stampede of shoe leather I’m hearing?

Well, I, too, have known the desperation of that feeling. Known it intimately. You’re all alone, quite possibly in a darkened room, wondering how the hell you can extricate yourself from the pit you’ve tumbled into.

But when you look down, there’s inspiration. Maybe even salvation. There’s that wrist watch you bought in better days. It’s got a sprinkling of jewels and it’s the product of Switzerland. Suddenly, you’re off and running down to the pawn shop as quick as the wee legs will carry you.

That, gentleman, is the sort of predicament Peter Lawwell Esq. finds himself in at the moment. Celtic have forfeited the £20million that Champions League qualification would have guaranteed them, so the chief executive, I imagine, has taken occupation of that darkened room.

He can’t help thinking of the immediate past: “That money should be in the kitty by now,” he tells himself. “Hey, I’d written it in my business plan. If it had gone according to that plan, I’d have probably been due a big bonus, me and Eric Reilly.”

But it’s the present that’s gnawing at his innards even more cruelly. So, he’ll be wondering who he can sell to try and at least fill a portion of that £20m. If my guesswork is correct, he’ll be arriving at the only real logical conclusion: Virgil van Dijk.

The Dutchman is probably the only one he could probably sell for a handsome price. So, unless my radar is failing me, Lawwell will be actively on that phone now. I’d wager people who imagined he was deceased will be receiving messages from him now, trying to get rid of this defender.

I mean, van Dijk will probably not command the 12 or 15 million pounds that Lawwell was looking for previously, but it’s more a case of whatever a club wants to bid. Desperation? I’d say so. In fact, I expect to put on my telly at 4.30 and see Peter Lawwell making an appearance on Flog It.

What’s more, if Virgil is not out of the door by Monday’s deadline, I’ll be very surprised. It would probably be as well, in any case. If, by any chance, someone in there – by that I mean Celtic Park – thinks they can keep him till Christmas time, I predict he’ll cause all sort of ructions.

Anyone who thought Pierre van Hooijdonk was trouble would have to reappraise his thinking if this big guy lets loose. I don’t know the man and have never even met him, but from my history with Pierre and the Dutch, he has “handle with extreme care” tattooed on his torso.

His toys are right on the edge of the pram at this moment…and he’s just about ready to kick them out onto the ground. So it might be as well for Ronnie Deila if he vamoosed.

While the position of Deila is intriguing, Lawwell’s is absolutely fascinating. He’s perched precariously as far as I can see. Hey, he’s made such a powerful empire for himself that you don’t knock that down with one blow of a sledgehammer. You chip it away with a chisel.

But, from the hour Neil Lennon walked out, there were four or five weeks that Celtic weren’t making active inroads to find a replacement. Events subsequently have been chipping away at the power base.

I don’t know if Dermot Desmond was at the Maribor game. If he was, the intention would have been to have had the engines of his private jet running at nine o’clock the next morning. But after that 1-0 defeat, those engines might very well have been cut and put on standby.

Oh, I’d like to have been a fly on the wall of the Celtic boardroom in midweek when everybody was asking: “Where do we go now?” The Europa Cup doesn’t really ring anyone’s bells, that’s for sure.

I’ve been asked if Lawwell will be looking at Deila in a different light. Well, they took long enough to find someone we’d never heard of before. Can they afford the process of doing it again this early? I wouldn’t have thought so. Maybe it’ll work in reverse here. Maybe Celtic will say: “No, it’s easier to get rid of you, Peter, than it is to get rid of Deila.” Probably not, mind you. But that’s the way it should be.

Let’s say I’m managing Scotland’s favourite company, Clyde Blowers. The recruitment is done through an HR company. Let’s say they bring in a hundred new workers and they’re bloody hopeless. They don’t go back to the manager and say that he’s employed a hundred duds. They go back to the boss of the HR company and he gets the bullet.

You can only be responsible for what you actually do. Lawwell scoured all over Europe to finally find some poor soul who was daft enough to take the manager’s job. The rest – Henrik Larsson and co. – apparently didn’t want it.

Roy Keane? Not only did he flick the brake lights, he put his car into reverse and reversed all the bloody way back down the M74 and M6. He demurred probably because he had the foresight to see what was coming.

I imagine he said that he needed to strip the place right down to the bare bones, and watched Lawwell’s face turn the colour of whitewash. My theory is that Keane discovered the phrase: Reverse Tardis. Celtic are an absolutely massive club on the outside – but tiny inside.

With Ronnie Deila, Celtic have gone for obscurity. They’ve done a Dr Josef Venglos, but at least the latter had managed at Aston Villa, and people vaguely remembered him. So Deila and Celtic are in a situation by their own making. They both agreed to it.

But, importantly, Lawwell’s got to take some kind of responsibility for that.

Significantly, there were about 200 angry people outside Celtic Park the other night – they weren’t screaming for Dalia’s head, they were chanting: “Sack the board!” It took mounted police to move them on. Players had to be escorted to their cars by security people.

So, it comes ever nearer Lawwell’s doorstep, Ever since Neil Lennon went out, Lawwell has had a target on his back. Why? Because he’s continued the same process under Dalia as he did under Lennon. Lack of investment: that is the business plan the club has adopted.

Now that the plan has gone tits up, a delivery of manure has got to be dumped somewhere. I can’t imagine Peter Lawwell has been sleeping well this week. Manure does tend to interrupt sleep patterns.

(Andy Ritchie was formerly chief scout at Celtic)


PICTURES COURTESY OF: Gregor Smith and Iain Mullan

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