In football the manager’s office is where the buck stops because it is his decisions about the team that are final.
He decides who is signed and who plays.
Except that might not be the case at Celtic.
News that the Celtic management team wanted Boudewijn “Bolo” Zenden , but that the transfer of the free agent was scuppered by the people higher up the Parkhead chain of command should not come as a surprise to seasoned Celtic watchers.
At Celtic there is, in effect, a Director of Football in everything but name.
Usually a DoF is an experienced football person a manager who “goes upstairs” away from the mayhem of the dugout to oversee the entire football development plans of a large club.
At Celtic the DoF has none of these job titles on his CV.
When this period of Celtic’s history comes to be written then it maybe that the last truly autonomous manager of the club was Martin O’Neill.
Of course all managers work within a given budget, but after that the manager should have complete freedom to allocate resources free from interference for non-football reasons.
The Fletcher transfer from Hibs in January 2009 was scuppered because of the transfer fee. The point of difference being, I am told, was £27,000. That’s “twenty seven thousand” dear reader.
Kelvin Wilson did not join Celtic in January of this year because the Parkhead club would not pay a transfer fee of £300,000 to his club Nottingham Forrest.
There was much frothing on the Celtic internet that the REAL reason that the player was not being released to Celtic in that January window was because of some tribal obstinacy from manager Billy Davies.
I know this to be nonsense. It was about money.
Whether Steven Fletcher in 2009 or Kelvin Wilson last season would have made a difference we won’t know. However what is a fact is that both Gordon Strachan and Neil Lennon identified players in the January window that they wanted and the club did not strengthen the squad because of disputes over very small amounts of money.
There is a recent pattern of Celtic managers getting players that perhaps they don’t really want (Du Wei, Ljunberg) and not getting players that they really do want (Fletcher, Zenden).
The unwanted players are usually at Celtic for marketing reasons.
I believe the term “selling the jerseys” is appropriate to use here.
When you try to work out who really is in charge at Celtic apropos footballing matters is does start to look a bit Ruritanian.
I have no idea if Zenden would have made a difference to the Celtic cause.
What I do know is that there is reason to believe that Neil Lennon is a prisoner of circumstances not of his own making.
While he is confined within those arrangements then we cannot judge him on his merits as “the man in charge” because, quite simply, he isn’t.