THE past year or so at Celtic is perhaps best defined by change. The conclusion of the 2020/21 campaign already feels like aeons ago in just about very respect. Ange Postecoglou arrived and has recruited a virtually brand new squad of players. New faces, such as former Australia internationalist Harry Kewell, have been added to the coaching staff. Up in the boardroom, too, the merry-go-round has been in full swing.

It all started when Peter Lawwell, the club’s former chief executive, announced his decision to retire in January 2020. Supporters weren’t happy as the club’s bid for ten-in-a-row flew off the rails and much of the ire was directed towards Lawwell. There was criticism from outside the club, too, for the decision to fly out to a warm-weather training camp in Dubai as the pandemic raged.

It was announced that Dominic McKay, the then chief executive of Scottish Rugby, would pick up the baton from Lawwell that summer. McKay barely warmed the seat behind the desk, lasting a grand total of two weeks in the hot seat before deciding to up sticks and move on. Michael Nicholson was promoted to CEO on a temporary basis before the decision was made permanent in December, while financial director Chris McKay was made chief financial officer.

Just as things appeared to be settling, though, further disruption struck at the tail end of last week when chairman Ian Bankier announced his impending retirement, prompting all the usual well-wishers and their salutations paying homage to a job well done. The 70-year-old said he would see out the rest of the year but come New Year’s Day, someone else would be occupying the seat at the top of the boardroom table.

After a prosperous decade at the helm of the Parkhead outfit – both in terms of trophies lifted and in filling up club coffers – the congratulations were well deserved. But once the tributes had finished poured in and Bankier received his pats on the back, the question soon arose: who’s next? 

A few hours passed and no one was any the wiser until reports on Saturday morning suggested that Lawwell is the frontrunner for the position. According to the Daily Mail, the 63-year-old is the club’s preferred candidate to replace Bankier and it is certainly an idea that carries a little weight.

Lawwell has never strayed far from Celtic. The former chief executive stepped down from the role a year ago as he announced his retirement but in the intervening twelve months, he has remained in and around the club.

Perhaps quasi-retirement is more fitting. After all, Lawwell remains on the club’s non-plc board as a company director and continues to represent its interests at the European Club Association (ECA). He is a regular fixture at matches – at least, last season he was – and he is still required to be tied to the club as part in line with his ECA responsibilities.

Speaking in June 2021, Lawwell’s successor, McKay explained the situation. “Peter will certainly finish up at the end of this month with his responsibilities at Celtic,” he said. “He'll extend — we've got two years left to go on the ECA.

“And that's a really important role, for Scotland and for the club, to have a representative there. He'll stay engaged with that.”

Lawwell represents Celtic and Scotland’s interests at the ECA and he is also a member of UEFA’s Professional Football Strategy Council (PFSC), where some of the biggest issues facing the continental game, such as Champions League reform, are debated and policies are finalised. As an elected member voted in for a two-year term, Lawwell was required to be affiliated with a team. At the time he was chief executive so that was no issue but once he stood down from the position, a seat on the board was made available to him to continue in his role.

That two-year term still has another twelve months to run, so it is safe to assume that Lawwell will be staying put at the club for the remainder of his time on the PSFC – and is therefore an obvious candidate to replace Bankier, even if only on an interim basis.

Lest we forget, Lawwell spent 18 years in the boardroom at Celtic Park. Barring majority shareholder Dermot Desmond, no one can claim to have as firm an understanding on the inner workings of the corridors of power in Glasgow’s East End as the long-serving former chief executive. He already knows how the club operates, he already knows the people involved and he is already on the board.

A return seems likely, then, but there is still the question of just how long the job will last. A sizeable chuck of the Celtic support have not forgiven Lawwell for supposedly ‘throwing away the 10’ and his long-term appointment would be viewed as a regression by those same fans. Despite delivering the best part of two decades of success, the final days of his reign were characterised by bitterness and even resentment directed towards Lawwell as the team’s title bid unravelled in disastrous fashion.

The pitfalls to offering Lawwell the job on a long-term basis are clear – this is a man that sparked scenes of open rebellion amongst supporters less than two years ago, after all – but they become far less hazardous should the gig be more in keeping with that of a caretaker. Few are better qualified to provide a safe pair of hands on a short-term basis than Lawwell and it is worth remembering, too, that his retirement suggests he would no longer fancies the hustle and bustle of leading one of Scotland’s top clubs. It would appear that an interim arrangement suits all parties.