EYE OF THE BEHOLDER by T. O’Malley
Celtic supporters tend to get sentimental over players who are no longer at the club, a sort of revisionism sets in where players become better than they actually were. The tacit argument being that our best players are always the ones we didn’t sign or the ones we let go.
The last few months have given oxygen to this fallacy. Even if you were to humour that our squad is enervated since the days of “The Invincibles” we still can’t escape from the fact that investment in football matters has been pronounced in the two years that have passed since season 2016/17. It is self-evident therefore, that any blame for the squad being a “shambles” is somehow the fault of the board or Neil Lennon is nothing more than calumny.
Any problems we face right now is the logical conclusion to the vandalism committed by Brendan Rodgers. Supporters however, looked the other way as the poverty of Rodgers’ management took hold. Fans were more inclined to judge Rodgers through the prism of their own agendas rather than the evidence that was presented before them. It is precisely because of this that fans claiming the board are compromising ten-in-a-row or falling asleep at the wheel is not only redundant but rich in irony.
Opinion replacing fact is nothing new. Ronny Deila was immediately considered as a milquetoast figure who was out his depth. A project, an experiment not worthy of managing Celtic. Supporters indulged in piecemeal, straw man arguments to suit a pre conceived narrative that he wasn’t good enough. If Deilas Celtic won a domestic double his critics argued it should’ve been a treble. Nothing was ever good enough. Anything and everything was used as a stick to beat him with, including tenuous criticism that we didn’t win enough corners or score enough late goals. The sneering portrayal of Ronny Deila was simply sophistry from start to finish.Listen to the award-winning A Celtic State of Mind podcast
An apocryphal story emerged in the wake of Celtics elimination to Rangers in the 2016 Scottish Cup, it was claimed that Dermot Desmond, embarrassed and indignant decided, in the heat of the moment, that a paradigm shift was needed in how the team was being run. This yarn was as much about condemning Deila as superfluous as it was about setting the scene for a hero to ride to our rescue. The snide, transparent campaign to hound Deila out was complete. Step forward Brendan Rodgers.
The coronation of Brendan Rodgers on the day he was unveiled as manager fulfilled every quixotic fantasy of the Celtic support. Here we had not only someone who was viewed as a redoubtable manager, he was also Irish and a Celtic fan too. The idolatry around “Brendan” had begun even before a ball had been kicked. Any criticism of Rodgers was seen as an act of heresy. Nothing was to be questioned. Every signing, for example, was met with tedious obedience that “Brendan knows best” and “In Brendan we trust”. The aggrandisement of Rodgers’ managerial skills was underpinned by an irrational sycophancy. This blinkered perception led to all sorts of counterfeit claims that he’d improved players, taken us to another level or that he was the best manager we’d had since Jock Stein. The event called “An evening with Brendan Rodgers” probably epitomised the toe curling fawning that was served up towards Rodgers. The servile, dewy-eyed nature of the fans that night would’ve made even the most myopic propagandist blanch.
The backdrop to all of this however, was in stark contrast to how Rodgers was portrayed. We progressively witnessed some of the most anaemic displays in the modern era. Sterile weeks and months were coupled with defective transfer windows. In the two and a half seasons of Rodgers’ premiership, he laboured through the poorest league campaign of the eight in a row era and failed to progress any further in Europe than previous managers. Other ignoble records under Rodgers included the heaviest defeats in living memory and the worst start to a league campaign in two decades. I could go on. The burglarizing effect that Ronny Deila supposedly had on the club now looks trivial in comparison when measured against Rodgers substantial failings.
Logic and consistency has inevitably been the victim to fans contrived portrayals of managers and the team. The hypocrisy as to how Brendan Rodgers was characterised compared to Ronny Deila is a perfect illustration of this. Nonetheless, now that Rodgers has left, the beer goggles have had to come off. In the unforgiving harshness that any hangover brings, fans are having to acknowledge the reality of where we are. Once the lucid nature of sobriety fully kicks in, there may be a realisation that blaming Lennon or the board for any current afflictions is simply to deflect and deny the transgressions of ourselves and the man from Country Antrim.