Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has offered a stinging rebuke to those who moan that Peter Lawwell wields too much power in Scottish football by maintaining that it would benefit the game if the influence of the club’s chief executive was overarching.
Former St Mirren chief executive Stewart Gilmour said on radio this week that Lawwell was “pulling the strings” at football’s top level in the country. According to Gilmour, Lawwell “has too much power on other clubs” and that, while he had done a “fantastic job” in his primary role at Celtic, it was questionable whether he had done a great job for Scottish football. Gilmour put this down to his belief that, whenever Scottish football broadcasting rights were up for renewal and the game in these borders required promoting, Celtic moving to England came “out of the box again”.
Rodgers was scathing over Gilmour’s stance. “He should be glad, eh [if Peter Lawwell is running the game in this country]?” said the Irishman. “My experience of Peter is he’s a wonderful ambassador not just for Celtic but for Scottish football. He should be glad if he is because I believe if Celtic does well everyone else does well. Celtic are a club that are not just representing ourselves but Scotland.
“In terms of the operation of Celtic, over how many years Peter has run it very well. That’s why the club is in such a stable position, such a good position. That’s leadership. That leadership has given him a profile in Europe with other top presidents and directors. That’s through his behaviour and the quality of leadership in his work. I think he does a great job and he represents Scotland very well.”
The Scottish Cup tie on Sunday that will pit Celtic against third-tier Albion Rovers brought Jock Stein into focus. The third leg of a treble bid beginning against the club where Celtic’s managerial colossus began his career made sure of that. As did the the current side being only two games away from equalling the Scottish post-war record for an unbeaten domestic start to the season set at 26 by Stein’s all-conquering European Cup-winning side of 50 years ago.
Stein is half of a two-person club – Martin O’Neill is the other member – Rodgers is seeking to emulate in claiming a treble for Celtic.
Rodgers, who will include Kieran Tierney in his squad following a two month injury lay-off but not new £2.8million signing Kouassi Eboue, embraces the club’s storied past, and its most important manager and team. The Irishman asserts that he will follow the Stein mantra of focusing on just the game ahead, and having a “non-negotiable” attacking philosophy as he attempts to break records the Celtic way.
“I went to a commemorative night [for the Lisbon Lions] just before Christmas and it was a great occasion in the Kerrydale Suite at Celtic Park.
“When you think about what that team achieved… I saw some stuff I’d never seen before. It was an incredible feat from a Scottish team full of players from in and around Glasgow. They won five trophies that season, playing 60-odd games, a fabulous achievement and I took that back and shared it with our players.
“They are the reason I’m here – guys who created this great history. The star at the top of the stadium is down to what they did. Of course, those fellows never had the financial rewards modern footballers get but they’re so rich in everything they’ve done for the club. They were always at the forefront of everything.
“It was incredible what Jock did, when you see the story of where they were beforehand. He was way ahead of his time, along with the Shanklys. I was fortunate to have grown up with Celtic and I was aware of what he did and the background to it. But to come in to the club and see it all first-hand, it’s great. He inspired those players over 15 years. To strive and have the energy to do that... he was some manager.”