The most strenuous of efforts were made by Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers and his chief executive Peter Lawwell to present a united front at the club’s agm yesterday.
Divisions between the pair entered the public domain during a summer of discontent when Rodgers made his feelings plain, and often, that the transfer activity conducted then had left his squad weakened as targets – notably John McGinn – were missed.
Yesterday, under questioning from the floor that alighted on all the usual touchstones, Rodgers didn’t deny that he was disgruntled by the club’s moves in the market. That was then, though, he stressed.
“The success we’ve had in the last two and a half years has been about this collective,” he said. “A collective performance on the pitch because that, for me, is where it all starts. And very importantly off the pitch.
“I can’t pretend that I wasn’t disappointed in the summer. I think we all see that I’m not very good at hiding it. But what I’ve always had here since I’ve been at Celtic is a great support from the board. Listen, we’re all human. When you work closely with people, like you’ll do at work or in your relationships, it’s not always singing and dancing every single day.
“What I can always say about the board here is their job is always to future proof the club. This club has been run immaculately .
“The guys who are here do an incredible job collectively. My ambition is exactly the same as the board’s [we all] want it to be the very best. What we’ll do in January is look to improve the team again.”
Lawwell conceded the summer window had been “frustrating” and “complicated”. He pointed out the “fact” a record fee of €10 million had been paid to sign Odsonne Edouard on a permanent basis. While defending the protracted, failed pursuit of McGinn – the midfielder simply “made a career choice” in signing for Aston Villa – he maintained that just because the club has £27m in the bank, it doesn’t mean “the chequebook is closed; it is always open”.
Issues concerning Rangers always receive an airing. The decision of the Ibrox club to cut Celtic’s allocation for visits by around 7,000 to leave them with just 800 tickets had one supporter fearful this small grouping would not be “safe” travelling to Ibrox on 29 December. He said Celtic should not take any tickets for the fixture. In response, Lawwell said that the club have “looked at the possibility of declining our allocation and that’s still a possibility.”
“It’s something we’ll decide in conjunction with our supporters,” he said. “It’s possible that we would recommend to the fans that we don’t take any tickets; I wouldn’t discount that. Indeed, should we feel that it isn’t a safe environment for our supporters we will definitely recommend that.”
Allowing for the fact Celtic were reflecting on a double-treble winning season that brought record turnover of £101m and profits of more than £17m it might be considered that their shareholder/supporters have little to grumble about.
This is not how agms work, however. Playful points were made – one contributor said no Celtic player had been able to “shy a ba’” since Roy Aitken, while another treated the assembly to a piece of self-composed doggerel celebrating the club’s history – but so too featured the usual interjections about the “corrupt” SFA, the Resolution 12 issue that relates to the Scottish governing body’s part in Rangers being awarded a Uefa licence the year prior to their 2012 liquidation and perceived unfairnesses in the system.
The last point involved the Ibrox club receiving “preferential treatment” in having their Betfred Cup semi-final against Aberdeen staged at Hampden while Celtic travelled through to Murrayfield to face Hearts. It was the set-up for a spot of Rangers-baiting that Lawwell proved unable to resist.
“And it worked out for them, didn’t it?” he said of their defeat by the Dons.