Football: Celtic victory offers hope: James Traynor on a boardroom struggle over funds for new players

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The Independent Online
THE POWERBROKERS can beat their chests all they wish, but Lou Macari's players offered a reminder of the important things in football life. Winning is what this game is all about and after the latest and perhaps final round in the struggle for control of Celtic, a 2-0 victory offered fans hope that a revival might be possible on the playing front.

John Collins, a player whose instinct to push forward and have a go is in the traditional Celtic style, scored both goals, one in each half, against Raith Rovers and pushed his side in among the group on 23 points at the top of the Premier Division where Aberdeen have the edge on goal difference.

However, the elevation of their side to a position of prominence will not spare the directors, a group perceived to be driving the club towards the mediocre. There is widespread anger that they were able to repel a takeover attempt led by the millionaires Fergus McCann and Brian Dempsey at Friday night's extraordinary general meeting.

The McCann-Dempsey faction put together an pounds 18m rescue package for the club, which has an overdraft of more than pounds 5m, but their bid failed to dislodge the directors. 'We must leave them hostages to their own fate,' Dempsey said before yesterday's match. He and McCann have withdrawn their offer, which included an instant fund of pounds 5m for new players. 'Reason and fortitude did not triumph over the fear which exists within Celtic's boardroom,' McCann said. 'I can't deal with these people and if any of them call me I will not answer. However, if their bankers call I may listen to them.'

It distresses McCann and Dempsey that their offer should have been considered and dealt with as a threat rather than an offer of help for the club. Their problem was that they were up against the family dynasties - the Whites and the Kellys - who hold the majority of shares.

'They blame everyone but themselves,' Dempsey said. 'Yet they have presided over this club's decline.' The directors continue to pin their hopes on moving into a new stadium in the Cambuslang area of Glasgow, but they have peddled that dream for three years and there is no sign of the finance required to build a new home. They seem unconcerned that Rangers' net assets are worth 60 times more than those of Celtic, a statistic which alarms everyone else.

Yesterday's triumph was welcomed, but it may only be temporary relief.

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