HAVING previously worked for one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies, Peter Lawwell will hope he can be the cure to what has been a persistent headache for Celtic.
The 44-year-old Glasgow businessman was yesterday announced as the replacement for Ian McLeod, who vacated the position of chief executive at the Parkhead club in April this year.
Significantly, however, Lawwell will not inherit the title of chief executive which has appeared akin to a curse at times to predecessors such as McLeod, Allan MacDonald and Terry Cassidy.
Lawwell, in fact, was employed by Celtic as financial controller from 1990 to 1991 during the tenure of the colourful and controversial Cassidy. A lifelong supporter of the club, he returns to a very different set-up in the role of Executive Director, Head of Operations.
It is an unwieldy title but his job description remains the same as that applied to a chief executive. Celtic, however, are keen to let it be seen that no-one at the club holds a more prominent or significant role than manager Martin O’Neill.
"Basically, this is recognition that football comes first and that everything else is there to support the football side of the business," said a club spokesman.
Lawwell, who has been commercial director of the Clydeport property company for the past three years, was previously chief executive of Scottish Coal and has also held senior management positions with ICI and Hoffman-La-Roche, the US pharmaceutical giant.
Married with three children, Lawwell is regarded as a pragmatic, driven and successful businessman. Those who know him well describe an engaging, charismatic figure who is expected to come across well as a public face of Celtic.
Those Celtic supporters who believe their passion for the club should be shared by those in such positions will be gratified to learn that Lawwell can rhyme off the names of the Lisbon Lions from one to 11, in alphabetical order or by dates of birth.
"This is a job I have coveted for many years and I can’t wait to get started," said Lawwell. "Celtic is a unique organisation, from its unrivalled fan base and its sporting traditions, to its footballing and commercial potential.
"From my previous time at Celtic, I have a true appreciation of the demands which will be placed upon me in my new role and I’m relishing the opportunity.
"The success of Celtic plc depends, to an enormous degree, upon the team’s success on the pitch, and one of my key roles will be to work closely with Martin O’Neill and ensure that he has every possible support to help deliver the winning performances that everyone wants to see, from the fans and the players to the staff and the investors."
Brian Quinn, the Celtic chairman who has in effect been carrying out the chief executive duties since McLeod’s departure, is naturally convinced his board have landed the right man for the job.
"We made it clear when we started this process that we would take our time to ensure we got the right person," said Quinn. "As you would expect, the standard of applicant for this crucial position was excellent and those we interviewed were of the highest calibre, therefore we are delighted to have secured someone of Peter’s proven ability.
"His business pedigree, coupled with his vision for the club and obvious passion for Celtic made him the outstanding candidate.
"His role reflects the fact that football companies are different from most in that almost everything depends upon footballing success.
"Therefore, Peter will be responsible for overseeing all operations of a non-footballing nature to ensure that the highest levels of infrastructure and support are available to the manager."
O’Neill, with whom it is vital Lawwell develops a fruitful working relationship, also issued a welcome to the new man.
"The success of Celtic is very much a team effort on the part of everyone associated with the club," said O’Neill. "Peter’s commitment to Celtic is clear and I am sure that he will make an extremely valuable contribution to helping the club achieve its goals."
Lawwell will take up his new post once he has agreed a notice period with his current employers, probably at the end of October or start of November.
Meanwhile, on the pitch, Alan Thompson has attempted to dampen down the growing clamour for his promotion to the England squad by insisting his only concern is Celtic.
Thompson has been in outstanding form this season, causing O’Neill to speculation that he may be the answer to England’s ‘problem’ position on the left side of midfield. The player insists, however, that a call-up from Sven Goran Eriksson is not something he will lose sleep over.
"It’s not something that I think about," Thompson said yesterday. "I think that he [Eriksson] has been up to see Celtic play, so it’s just one of those things.
"The England team is full of good players and good players can play anywhere. They have people who can perform on that side so all I am concerned about is getting on with what I am doing at Celtic. That’s what is important."