Rewind back to the year 2000, and Celtics search for a manager to replace the ill fated regime of John Barnes, and the story is an interesting one. Guus Hiddink had been mooted for the post, but instead it was an up-and-coming manager from England’s top tier, Martin O’Neill, that eventually took the helm.
Fast forward to 2009, and Celtic find themselves in a similar situation—looking for a new manager—but in an entirely different league.
O’Neill had taken Leicester up to the higher echelons of the English Premier League, whilst also reaching the heady heights of European qualification. Compare O’Neill’s CV then, to that of the candidates being bandied about now, and the difference is obvious.
Roberto Martinez oversaw Swansea City’s promotion from League One in his first season, and finished a creditable eighth in the Championship last term.
Tony Mowbray, in only his second season at West Brom, won the Championship and promotion to the Premier League, before being relegated. Owen Coyle, the former St. Johnstone manager, has just seen his Burnley side promoted to the Premier League, via the play- offs.
No one is denying the achievements of these three managers, yet they pale into insignificance with what O’Neill achieved at Leicester.
The difference between now and then is that Celtic were in the position to attract a candidate such as O’Neill, who had already established his reputation in England’s top flight. Now, when Celtic look to England for a manager, it is towards the second tier.
The reason for this is simple: economics.
In O’Neill’s first season in charge, Celtic had reputedly the fifth highest wage bill in British football, with big earners such as Chris Sutton, John Hartson, and Henrik Larsson on the books. O’Neill was also able to splash out £5m+ on players like Neil Lennon, Chris Sutton, and Alan Thompson.
It’s been rumoured that the club were prepared to spend big at the time, as they saw entry into the English Premiership a real possibility, and wanted to build a team capable of competing in that environment.
Now, though, with that idea cruelly exposed as nothing more than a pipe dream, the club have had to continually downsize, the end result being that Celtic cannot compete financially with the likes of Hull City, Wigan, and Bolton, nor even some of the top Championship sides.
The sad fact is that any manager of any club in the Premier League will be able to attract a better level of player to their respective clubs than Celtic, whoever the new manager is, because of the huge budgets afforded to these clubs due to TV money and sponsorship deals.
Davie Moyes, a name favoured by the Celtic support as Gordon Strachans successor, dismissively stated he was simply “not interested” in the Celtic job, preferring, presumably, to fight for fifth place in the Premier League with Everton.
Moyes has as much chance of breaking England’s ‘Top Four’ with Eveton as Celtic do of winning the Champions League- buy why swap the comfortable wealth of England, where big budgets are handed out by chairmen, and fifth or sixth place represents a successful season, for the poverty stricken pressure cooker of Scotland’s top flight, where anything less than top spot is considered abject failure?
Celtics quest for a manager continues, and the fans will be hoping there is little truth to the latest rumour that Tony Adams is set to move into the hot seat, in a 'dream team' partnership with fromer boss Wim Jansen.
Most fans would welcome the return of Jansen, the man who stopped Rangers ten in a row quest, in some capacity, but the idea of Adams, a failure at both Wycombe Wanderers and Portsmouth, will not whet anyone's appetite.