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Time is right for Celtic to adopt a new strategy in running the club

The image is irresistible.

Oscar Garcia would work comfortably under a director of football
Oscar Garcia would work comfortably under a director of football

Peter Lawwell is crunching on his Happy Hoops Cheerios of a morning when he notices in the papers Paolo Di Canio wants to talk to him about the Celtic job.

Cue the introduction of the Heimlich technique - a manoeuvre to prevent choking rather than a Bayern Munich set-piece - as the Celtic chief executive swallows hard on his cereal. There may be many responses to the Italian chucking his tammy into the ring but "what possibly could go wrong?" is not one of them.

The list of candidates for the Celtic job is long, but its quality has little depth in terms of achievement or experience, particularly in the atmosphere that surrounds the Scottish champions. There are question marks above the head of every contender. Most are available for a reason and that usually involves a swift and abrupt departure at a previous club.

Celtic stand at a crossroads. They can pursue a Roy Keane or a Henrik Larrsson who, at least, would boost season-ticket sales, or they can choose to set in place a new structure on the football business.

There is an opportunity now for Celtic to consider seriously the introduction of a director of football with a coach reporting directly to him. Celtic under Lawwell have stuck closely in recent years to a business plan in terms of finance and player recruitment.

The mantra has been to find the gems, polish them up and sell them on. This strategy has been successful financially with the sales of such as Victor Wanyama and Gary Hooper for a combined £18m. Fraser Forster, Virgil Van Dijk and James Forrest are all likely to be coveted in the summer.

This, though, places a demand on the understanding of the fans and the patience of a manager. The first group accept the financial reality but still quietly mourn the departure of the best players. Managers, too, claim they buy in to the system, but when its effects are felt they are bruised by it.

Domestic success has, though, been smooth in terms of league titles and Celtic have a window of opportunity to put in place a new system with little or no effect on their championship-winning potential.

In the short term, Celtic are so far ahead of the other SPFL Premiership teams that more than the odd blip could be accommodated in terms of league results.

The long-term benefits could be substantial. Celtic would have a football strategy that would run from the director of football down to the first-team coach and through the under-age system.

There would be a cohesive system that covered recruitment, development and style of play. It is a model that has been the norm in Europe but has rarely been employed in the United Kingdom because of personality and outdated football politics.

The key to the plan working is to employ a first-team coach that is not only comfortable with the system but a supporter of it. This is why Oscar Garcia, the former coach at Brighton and Hove Albion, and youth team coach at Barcelona, would be an excellent contender if this policy was adapted.

Most contenders for the Celtic post, though, would baulk at having a director of football in charge of them if this meant that their final say on player recruitment was compromised. There are variations on the European model, but most have the director in charge of recruitment and the coach in charge of the training field.

This would not appeal to such as Malky Mackay, Owen Coyle or Keane, who would want the power to sign players in their own hands, citing that their jobs would depend on the success of those they brought to the club. There is then the option for Celtic to bring in such a model but to give the coach powers of veto on signings.

The decision-makers at Celtic Park have more than just cvs to peruse or calls to field from interested parties. They must decide their strategy. Is it to be a traditional manager in a tried system? Or is there the opportunity to change the culture completely?

In public, Celtic have remained relaxed about the process but a decision must be made quickly, with July heralding the start of the Champions League qualifiers, the most crucial phase of the season for the Parkhead club.

One need not have a long memory to divine that new managers can have a difficult start and the treacherous ground of Champions League qualifiers are a dangerous place for the coach to take his first steps. The words Gordon Strachan and Artmedia Bratislava come to mind.

Cue a mass choking among Celtic fans over cereal . . .

Contextual targeting label: 
Football

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