Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell has rounded on those who claim he wields so much power at the club that he is the de facto director of football.
Lawwell has been accused of being behind certain signings and, as a result, partly responsible for the fact that the club now carries a 30-plus senior squad which outgoing manager Ronny Deila has conceded is unmanageable. In an interview withThe Scotsman, Lawwell baulked at the perception that he foisted players on the manager.
“It is absolute rubbish,” he said. “I have no input into players beyond conducting the financial aspect of transfers. The scouts provide reports and the manager picks the players within that process. It is total nonsense to say it’s any other way here. Simply not true. People present it otherwise because they want to be mischievous. It is funny, when they do they never credit the Celtic CEO with bringing in the likes of [Victor] Wanyama, [Fraser] Forster or [Virgil] Van Dijk, but guys who didn’t work out so well.”
Issues relating to the size of the squad and how players are deployed are, Lawwell says, “questions for the manager”. Deila was a player developer who found himself in an environment wherein that task became increasingly difficult in his second season on the back of the Champions League qualifier exit to Malmo.
“What happened against Malmo changed the scene because, at the end of last season, everything was looking OK,” said Lawwell.
“There is an over-eagerness to blame, though, and it is not black and white when it comes to the judgment the squad is too big. We are a club with Champions League aspirations but we cannot buy Champions League-ready players. We look for potential and, in the case of Ryan Christie, we have future players coming into the squad in the present to take over from players who have still to make the changeover. We called him in from being on-loan at Inverness in January because we want him to be ready to go for the start of next season. Christie and others such as Tom Rogic and Scott Allan come into that bracket. It means transition can occur with players departing and [leaving] gaps to be filled in the squad.”
The process to recruit a successor to Deila has now been stepped up, with Roy Keane currently most talked up in a field that sees backers for Brendan Rodgers, David Moyes, Michael O’Neill, Malky Mackay and Neil Lennon.
“We are now meeting with people after whittling down a list made up of those we’d like to talk to and those who applied and we are looking at a timescale of an appointment before the end of the month,” said Lawwell.