Football: O'Callaghan to lead Celtic into new era

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The Independent Online
CELTIC YESTERDAY unveiled the Glasgow businessman Frank O'Callaghan as the man they hope will lead the club away from its current problems and into a new era of success. O'Callaghan has been earmarked by the Glasgow club as the successor to the present club chief executive and majority shareholder, Fergus McCann, who will sever his connections with Celtic in the next few months.

O'Callaghan was due to become a director of the club last night, and will assume the position of non-executive chairman-elect of the Celtic plc board when McCann departs. McCann has said he will sell his shares at the end of the season, when he wants a broad fan base to take up the holdings.

The installation of O'Callaghan on the board shows that McCann is on course to fulfil his vision of how the club will run once he is gone, which is bad news for the consortium headed by Kenny Dalglish and the Simple Minds singer, Jim Kerr. The consortium's initial proposals have already been rejected and with no formal meeting having taken place between the parties, McCann seems intent on bowing out in the manner of his choice.

McCann has effectively given O'Callaghan a fraction of the role he currently holds himself, with a new chief executive, likely to have a more direct footballing remit, still to be chosen.

According to McCann, O'Callaghan, who is 59, was headhunted by Celtic's selection committee and once proposed as the main candidate, the board unanimously agreed his appointment.

O'Callaghan was educated at St Aloysius College, where he is vice-chairman of the board of governors, and built a successful business career after graduating from Glasgow University. He was the financial controller of Stakis plc and then the company's financial director for 16 years until 1989, while in the last decade he has been guiding a number of companies. Needless to say, he is also a lifelong Celtic supporter.

McCann enthused: "I have no doubt Frank's abilities and experience in heading public companies and management within the leisure industry will be of great value in leading the board to continued growth and success."

The Celtic managing director pointed to the prioritising of the playing side at Parkhead as the reason for profits being down despite increased turnover. The Glasgow club yesterday announced its interim results revealing that turnover was up 24.5 per cent over the same period a year earlier to a figure of pounds 19.3m thanks to 53,000 season ticket sales. The rise was facilitated by the completion of Celtic Park to a 60,400 capacity, making it the largest club ground in Britain, with an average attendance of 59,024.

Despite that profits fell by pounds 5.5m from last year due to the signings of of Vidar Riseth, Johan Mjallby, Lubomir Moravcik and Mark Viduka, with only Malky Mackay, who went to Norwich for a nominal sum, bringing in a fee. McCann admitted the failure to reach the European Champions' League followed by an early Uefa Cup exit was "disappointing", but stressed there were now signs of "a stronger first-team squad".

Celtic will welcome back Jackie McNamara to the fold after a recent knee problem for the Premier League trip to Hearts today, but Craig Burley (groin) and Marc Rieper (toe) remain among the long-term injured.

Hearts should welcome back the injured trio of Stefano Salvatori, French goalkeeper Gilles Rousset and Steve Fulton for the trip to Celtic, though defender Gary Locke remains a major doubt.

Meanwhile, Rangers will be hoping to extend their lead at the top when they travel to Dunfermline tomorrow. The leaders have received a boost with the news that Colin Hendry will return to action by the end of the month . The centre-back has responded well to treatment on a groin problem and manager Dick Advocaat estimates the player will return within weeks.