Football: Celtic look for a calm future after the Cassidy era: A turbulent 22 months in Parkhead politics ended at the weekend. David McKinney reports

Click to follow
The Independent Online
IT WILL be difficult for Celtic historians, when looking back over the last 22 months, to determine the contribution made by their former chief executive, Terry Cassidy, who was dismissed on Saturday. On the face of it, he achieved few of the goals set out for him on his appointment in January 1990.

He was charged with turning round the financial affairs of the club, with a view towards the provision of an all-seat stadium, and to act as spokesman on the club's behalf. At the end of his well-paid tenure, it is difficult to list his positive achievements and, with his particularly abrasive manner, he made many enemies, who will no doubt be delighted to see his departure.

Two years on, Celtic are arguably in a more precarious position than when Cassidy arrived. There is little sign of movement towards the all-seat stadium demanded by Uefa and urged by the Taylor Report, and, with two years having been lost in the process, the Government's 1994 deadline looms large. Also, the club have debts reported to be in excess of pounds 5m.

Perhaps more importantly, Cassidy has done much to harm the traditional family atmosphere at Celtic Park, where loyalty and an appreciation of the Celtic way of things have always been paramount. He has, in turn, angered executive box-holders, the ordinary supporters, employees of the club, and the Press.

Shortly after his arrival, he upset some of the club's main financial backers, including Brian Dempsey - who was to join the board and then be expelled - and the shirt sponsors, the double glazing company, C R Smith. If his manner represented the new face of Celtic Football Club, people no longer wanted to be associated with them. Today Celtic are the only senior club in Scotland without a shirt sponsor.

The badly handled dismissal of the Celtic great, Billy McNeill, as manager has also been partly pinned on the chief executive's door. He drew up a memo outlining the steps to be taken towards the sacking of a manager shortly before McNeill was dismissed. His replacement, Liam Brady, did not see eye to eye with the man.

As a former newspaperman, he must have known the impact of his assertion that sports writers would have been at the end of the queue when brains were being given out, but nevertheless he kept detailed files on the reporting of Celtic in the papers, and at one point instigated legal proceedings against a senior Scottish sports journalist.

On the plus side, there are those who believe he has done a good job for the club by making the hard decisions necessary to overturn years of weak stewardship, and that his approach was the only one which would get the job done adequately. Certainly, he deflected a lot of flak from the board.

At a time when the club were under pressure from a takeover group, the chief executive, in a radio interview, questioned the credentials of those craving power at Celtic Park. His outspoken manner dissuaded others from questioning his own credentials and achievements. In the end, he made a mistake in angering his own employers with a premature public statement on the club's move to Cambuslang and a new stadium.

Ultimately he was employed to help the club move towards a new stadium, whether at a rebuilt Celtic Park or elsewhere, and perhaps that is the platform on which he should be judged. The evidence of his two years' work would suggest that Celtic's best chance of having an all-seat arena before the 1994 deadline would be to write a letter to Anneka Rice. The experience of the last two years will certainly make the club wary about appointing a successor.