Why Celts Shouldn’t Be So Keane on Roy

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By Johnny Connelly

So Neil Lennon’s reign at Celtic is already a distant memory, and with the Champions League qualifiers just weeks away, the Parkhead faithful nervously await the announcement to unveil his successor.

Several names have been batted around – Owen Coyle, Henrik Larsson, David Moyes, Malky Mackay, and Michael Laudrup to name a few. There seems to be no obvious choice lying in wait to take over from Lennon. It looks like even the bookies are somewhat in the dark on this one, but if their current favourite, Roy Keane ends up landing the job, I fear that the Celtic board may have made a grave error.

There have been few more fiery and controversial characters in British football than Roy Keane over the past 20 years. Undoubtedly a world-beater of a player at his peak; but the Irishman became a figure of ridicule throughout the twilight of his playing days, and arguably more so into his management career.

Celtic pride themselves on cultural acceptance, sportsmanship, and a positive moral flamboyancy from the support. Does Keane fit the mould to carry on these traditions? His well-documented instances of emotional spontaneous combustion would indicate that he doesn’t.

Amongst other things, Keane walked out on his country during the World Cup, walked out on Manchester United after a disagreement with the man who made him, and ended Alf Inge Haaland’s career with a tackle that can only be described as savage.

Do Celtic really want a man who condones this thuggish behaviour to be calling the shots at the club?

I’ll give Keane his due. During his first season as manager at Sunderland as manager, he did well. He took the club from 2nd bottom in the Championship, to end up winning the league, all in one season. Just as things were looking good for the current Republic of Ireland Assistant, he continued on a phenomenal spending spree from the previous season, assembling a huge squad in a less than frugal manner.

His splurges at Sunderland included:

  • £8m on Anton Ferdinand
  • £9m on Craig Gordon
  • £6m on Kenwyne Jones
  • £5.5m on Kieran Richardson
  • £2.5m on El-Hadji Diouf
  • £4m on Andy Reed
  • £4.5m on George McCartney
  • £5m on Michael Chopra

In total, he spent over £75m in just over two seasons, adding 39 players to the Sunderland roster. How would a manager that spends so recklessly cope with stringent budget of around £5/6m per season at Celtic, bearing in mind that a £3m outlay on a player that doesn’t turn out to be a first team regular is considered as a catastrophe?

Keane’s demise at Sunderland came about thanks to a 7-1 skelping at the hands of Everton, a 4-1 trouncing by Bolton, a 2-2 draw with Northampton, and a run of five losses from six Premiership games. Keane managed to shoe-horn in a spat with the FIFA Vice President Jack Warner, (calling him “a clown”), a fall out with club chairman Niall Quinn, and a war of words with majority shareholder Ellis Short, before eventually resigning, leaving Sunderland languishing in 18th position in the Premiership.

The Irishman was out of the game for just two months before taking over as manager of Ipswich with a view to guiding them back to the Premiership. A series of weak signings, including Martin Fulop, Grant Leadbitter, David Healy, and Daryl Murphy scuppered any hopes of the Tractor Boys making it back to the big time. Keane’s side managed to draw an astounding 20 matches in the league, which saw them finish in 15th place. His next (and final) season saw things go from bad to worse. In a season where the club were expected to challenge for promotion, Keane guided them to a lowly 21st place, sitting behind the likes of Doncaster Rovers and Barnsley, before he was sacked in December of 2011.

Keane had been out in the managerial wilderness since then, before Martin O’Neill appointed him as Republic of Ireland’s Assistant Manager. In his only two experiences as a club manager, his record compares unfavourably against the likes of Steve Bruce, and Peter Reid at Sunderland (Premiership), as well as Joe Royle, and Jim Magilton at Ipswich.

He has no experience managing in Scotland. He has no experience managing in Europe. He has no experience working on a tight budget. When we factor in all these things, it’s hard to imagine how his name is in contention for any job, let alone the Celtic hotseat.

Who knows which way Celtic will turn as they seek Neil Lennon’s successor. They have plenty of options at their disposal, but if they want to continue a tradition of success, financial prudence, and universal appeal, then surely Roy shouldn’t be the bhoy for them.

How would the Old Firm fare in the English Premier League?

by Johnny Connelly

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How would this look South of the border?

For as long as Celtic and Rangers have held their seemingly relentless stranglehold on Scottish football, fans both north and south of the border have speculated as to how the Glasgow giants would handle themselves against the top clubs in the English Premiership. The Old Firm over the past decade to 15 years or so have regularly met with English opposition in European competition. These battles of Britain have rarely led to the Glasgow clubs taking a real heavy defeat, which does indicate that they can rough it up with the best, but how would the Old Firm do if English opposition was on the fixture list on a weekly basis?

The truth is we can only speculate, as there is little we can do to identify any kind of common denominator to allow a clear, direct comparison.

The first, well documented factor that puts the respective leagues at polar opposites in terms of stature is TV and prize money. Celtic or Rangers can expect a paltry £2.7m for winning the SPL title this year, while the teams who’ll suffer the cruel fate of relegation from England’s elite division can be comforted by a ‘parachute payment’ of £48m over 4 years. The same disparate revenue totals are echoed when it comes to TV money. The Old Firm will pick up a reasonable few million pounds per year for their troubles in the SPL; but some of the top English clubs are raking in up to £4.3m per televised game!

This almost embarrassing difference allows teams who’re far smaller in stature than Celtic or Rangers to make significant inroads in the transfer market. I’m sure all readers would unanimously agree that the Old Firm dwarf clubs like Bolton, Fulham, Aston Villa or Stoke to name but a few – but just look at the money these ‘wee English teams’ can throw at players.

  • Bolton sign David N’Gog for £4.5m
  • Fulham sign Bryan Ruiz for £12m
  • Aston Villa sign Charles N’Zogbia for £10.8m
  • Stoke City sign Peter Crouch for £11.3m

The Old Firm, and Scottish clubs in general can only dream of these budgets. The truth of this hits home when you see Dundee United, one of Scotland’s biggest clubs, bid a miserly £25,000 for Hamilton’s Dougie Imrie, without the means to increase their bid to capture the player’s signature.

Another prime example is the once legendary Fernando Torres. Chelsea splashed an exorbitant £50m on their misfiring striker; a fee that if levied to Rangers in the ongoing HMRC tax case could be enough to force the club into liquidation (hypothetically speaking of course).

I firmly believe that if given the lavish financial buoyancy aids that come along with the Premiership, the Old Firm would be a force to be reckoned with, but again, it’s just a speculative thought in the seemingly infinite cyberspace cosmos that is the football forums of Twitter, Facebook and social media in general.

So, an alternative means of comparison is necessary. An altogether more simplistic one. The crystal clear comparison created by the monitoring of clubs’ ability to put bums on seats.

In Scotland, England, and across Europe as a whole, for decades upon decades, the clubs with the highest attendance figures tend to celebrate more domestic success than those with smaller crowds. This direct correlation is not relative to circumstance, and does stand up to our cross border comparison.

Celtic and Rangers, despite the shocking state of Scottish football, are still pulling in crowds at a remarkable rate, so much so that the average gates would currently put Celtic and Rangers 3rd and 4th in the English Premier League table in this respect.

Team

Average Attendance

Stadium Capactiy

% full

Man Utd

74,864

75,769

98.8%

Arsenal

59,927

60,361

99.3%

Celtic

49,462

60,832

81.3%

Rangers

45,943

51,082

89.9%

Man City

45,513

47,805

95.2%

Newcastle

43,388

52,339

82.9%

Liverpool

42,864

45,276

94.7%

Chelsea

41,439

42,449

97.6%

Sunderland

40,355

48,707

82.9%

Aston Villa

38,573

42,783

90.2%

Everton

36,725

40,157

91.5%

Tottenham

35,794

36,230

98.8%

Wolves

28,366

29,303

96.8%

Stoke

27,162

27,500

98.8%

Norwich

26,515

27,033

98.1%

Blackburn

25,428

31,154

81.6%

Fulham

23,909

25,478

93.8%

West Brom

22,199

26,500

83.8%

Bolton

21,881

28,101

77.9%

Swansea

19,822

20,532

96.5%

Wigan

18,006

25,133

71.6%

QPR

17,024

18,360

92.7%

However, the statistics also bare out that Celtic and Rangers would see a significant rise in attendance figures if they ever did play in the Premiership. Looking at the SPL as a whole, on average, a whopping 43.6% of seats are empty. This figure is heavily skewed by the smaller clubs in the league; if we judge it purely on matches at Celtic Park and Ibrox, the empty seats figure shrinks to just 14.4%.

The story in the Premiership is somewhat different as you’d expect. Across the board in the EPL, you’ll find just 8.8% of seats are empty. If we assume that by playing in the Premiership, the Old Firm saw a similar level of ticket uptake (conservatively estimating the aforementioned calculated 5.6% increase between the leagues) the approximate average attendance at Celtic Park would jump to 52,232 with fixtures at Ibrox being 48,007. These figures put the Glasgow clubs even further afield of the likes of Manchester City, Newcastle, Liverpool, and Chelsea; but still considerably short of Manchester United and Arsenal at the summit of the Premiership. Surely it’s more than just a coincidence that those clubs with the highest attendance figures are the clubs who, buy in large, are fighting it out for the illustrious crown that is the English Premier League title?

Supposing entry was ever granted to the Premiership, Celtic and Rangers would be given an equal share of the over inflated TV money, putting them on an even financial playing field with the rest of the teams. This would make the Glasgow clubs a much more viable option for the top players in Europe and beyond, as the Old Firm could engage in an evenly matched bidding war with any of the other English Premiership club, with the added draw of the huge crowds, legendary atmosphere, adoring fans, and largely incomparable history.

The international brand identity and marketable commodity that Celtic and Rangers possess perhaps may not be as grand in scale as Manchester United or Liverpool currently; but it dwarfs the bottom 10 clubs in the Premiership, and is at least on a par with the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea, Spurs, and Arsenal in my opinion.

Given the opportunity to compete in what’s billed as ‘the greatest league in the world’ by many, would see the Glasgow clubs (after a few years of bedding in) replicate the attendance table positions in the actual league standings.

The Old Firm have everything that a global footballing giant would need, except the financial galvanising that a league like the Premiership offers. The remarkable history and the passion of the adoring fans who turn out in phenomenal numbers, together with the abundant budgets that come as part of the EPL, would almost certainly see Celtic and Rangers challenge for honours with the very best England has to offer.

Sadly though, it’s not as simple and as straightforward as this. Now, and for the foreseeable future, Sky television hold all the cards in this stagnant game of poker. As the Scottish game continues to dwindle and the English game reaches financial saturation, we can but hope that those who call the shots at the television companies come to realise that the royal flush they’re in search of, lies north of the border in the heart of Glasgow.

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