Celtic need a Steven Gerrard type as new manager - Shaun Maloney and Damien Duff fit that bill

There is no hard and fast job spec for being a football manager, and certainly not a Celtic manager.

Shaun Maloney knows Celtic inside out and has attracted only respect for his coaching attributes in his early steps in this domain. (Photo by Ross Parker/SNS Group).

Beyond one requirement, that is. They have to win titles. Consistently. Nah, scrub that. In the current climate, they require to win every title contested. Already, we are being treated to suggestions the interim role given to John Kennedy in the wake of Neil Lennon leaving the club will provide him with eight league games to earn the position. These suggestions are bogus.

Kennedy, as Lennon’s assistant, must shoulder a certain degree of blame for the horrors across a campaign from hell for the club, however unfair in some sense that might be. The 37-year-old may not have had the final authority. He has, though, been a central component of a coaching structure unable to provide the answers to the issues that have humbled a previously mighty footballing force. Issues that, for all the vilification of Lennon by a section of the support, did not begin and end with the Irishman’s actions, or perceived inadequacies.

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Celtic require a refresh and a reset. The next man handed the reins permanently is certain to be operating with a director of football. A role sure to be introduced during the summer in a football management tree redrawn under incoming chief executive Dominic McKay.

Celtic enjoyed a hugely successful year with Damien Duff as first-team coach. (Photo by Ross MacDonald/SNS Group).

The more rabid among the Celtic support will abhor the thought, but their club must take a leaf out of Rangers’ book. Forget pursuing an established manager, a heavyweight name in terms of coaching pedigree. This profile of person would see Celtic as an 18-to-24-month stop-off. For all the glittering success Brendan Rodgers presided over with seven straight honours, there was a destabilising element for the club in the fact that he was inevitably, and understandably, enticed back to the upper echelons of English football.

Celtic should target a Rodgers’ type, then, but a figure in the primacy of their trackside career. An urbane coachaholic, with an understanding of the need for full immersion in tactics, sports psychology, sports science and analytics. A Steven Gerrard sort, if you will, though without any requirement for the package to include his global playing ‘brand’ - precious few having the former Liverpool and England captain’s cachet on that front.

Of course, Celtic’s next manager would not be allowed seven straight trophy failures before hitting paydirt in spectacular fashion...as befell Gerrard ahead of the Ibrox men running away with a title supposed to be a shoe-in record straight 10th for their rivals across the city.

However, even after the dramatic on-field power shift this season, the Parkhead club retain underlying financial and personnel advantages of the sort denied Gerrard in his first management post. Those could give Celtic latitude in their pursuit of a Lennon successor; in as much as allow them to be bold, even audacious in their recruitment.

To an extent, they may feel they had their fingers singed, if not burnt, in the left-field appointment of Ronny Deila the last time they parted ways wih Lennon seven years ago. Yet, because Deila didn’t deliver as was the imperative, it doesn’t mean such thought-processes are irrevocably flawed.

There are two men in the early stages of their coaching careers to which Celtic should give serious consideration for their next manager. Perhaps even permed as a duo, indeed. Principally on the basis that, for drive, dedication and professionalism in how they inculcate the mindset demanded by progressive, successful coaches, Shaun Maloney and Damien Duff tick no end of boxes.

Both know the Celtic set-up inside out. In Maloney’s case, first as a home-grown product that enjoyed two successful playing stints, before a year working with the club’s development squad gave way to joining Roberto Martinez’s backroom team in the Belgium set-up two-and-a-half years ago. Duff, meanwhile, scaled the heights with Chelsea and the Republic of Ireland in his playing career. Crucially, he then had an immensely successful year as first-team coach under Lennon at Celtic, having originally been recruited by Rodgers weeks before his departure for Leicester City in February 2019.

The two men are upwardly mobile coaches, genuine students of the game, who have earned only respect and regard for the attributes that they have taken in to the coaching domain. Of course, they lack frontline management experience. However, both possess a far more extensive first-hand grounding in this world than was true of Gerrard when he was appointed Rangers manager in May 2018. Or, indeed, Lennon, when he was made permanent manager of Celtic in June 2010, following three months as interim.

No managerial appointment comes without risks. Celtic, though, have always prospered from giving the reins to persons with a genuine affinity for the club - which, whatever might be erroneously claimed, Rodgers possessed, and Lennon obviously had in spades. No-one should be in doubt that Maloney and Duff get Celtic, and get what would be necessary to put the team back on the right track. Duff departed with a heavy heart because of his need to be close to family, but being the no.1 at the club would be a draw to encourage him to find an accommodation with his personal life. Likewise, though Maloney is only months away from going to the Euros with tournament favourites Belgium, the offer to be Celtic manager would surely be one he could not refuse.

Celtic have been boxed in by recent events. Now, to put the 10 traumas behind them, they must think outside it.

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