sport news STEPHEN MCGOWAN: Celtic had the chance to build a modern empire but are left ...

sport news STEPHEN MCGOWAN: Celtic had the chance to build a modern empire but are left ...
sport news STEPHEN MCGOWAN: Celtic had the chance to build a modern empire but are left ...

On the rare occasions when Celtic chief executive Dom McKay puts his head above the public parapet, he returns to the same word time and again. Modernisation.

It’s not hard to see why. The Parkhead club have become the footballing equivalent of Kodak or Polaroid. An analogue operation sliding backwards, toiling to keep pace in the digital age.

They have failed to qualify for Europe’s premier competition in each of the past four seasons, losing to opponents with smaller wage bills. Handed the job of reversing years of managed decline and complacency, McKay is now playing catch-up on Rangers and the rest of Europe.

Celtic have now failed to qualify for the Champions League in the past four seasons

Celtic have now failed to qualify for the Champions League in the past four seasons

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Celtic have always enjoyed painting themselves as a Champions League club in stature. But that’s a billing they can only really justify when they play there from time to time and, since a 1-0 defeat to Anderlecht in December 2017, they haven’t come close.

After defeats to AEK Athens, FC Cluj and Ferencvaros, Wednesday’s extra-time knock-out punch from FC Midtjylland confirmed their status as Euro also-rans.

Manager Ange Postecoglou, plucked from Yokohama F Marinos at short notice, can’t be held responsible for the latest collapse. The Australian might accept the responsibility for failing to outline the urgency of the situation to directors. Yet he knows, as everyone does, where the real blame for Celtic’s collapse as a competitive force in Europe lies.

For most of the past decade, this was a club with every advantage at their disposal. Lording it over Scottish football, winning one Treble after another, there was an opportunity to build a forward-thinking European powerhouse from a position of strength.

New manager Ange Postecoglou should not be blamed for Celtic's latest failure in Europe

New manager Ange Postecoglou should not be blamed for Celtic's latest failure in Europe

So long as the domestic trophies and the Champions League money kept rolling in and the Invincibles DVDs flew off the shelves, however, Dermot Desmond and Peter Lawwell saw no need to invest in a director of football or the latest data and analytics. They would worry about all that after ‘the ten’.

It was more fun to peer into a set of binoculars and mock the idea of Rangers coming over the hill than it was to raise the goggles a little higher and study the bigger picture.

Clubs like Barnsley, Brentford and Midtjylland have offset their lack of turnover and broadcasting millions by revamping their operations and gaining an extra edge via recruitment, data and analysis. The opportunity was there for Celtic to do the same while Rangers were embarking on their torturous journey through the lower leagues and relying on shareholder loans to keep the lights on.

They had the breathing space and money to focus on becoming a serious player in Europe. They could have gone for a proper, qualified director of football with a contacts book which stretched further than D for Dudu and a vision for how the club should operate.

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They could have instituted a proper, boots on the ground, scouting operation in South America and the Far East and the Americas. They could have spent all that money gathering interest in the bank on the latest scouting techniques, data and analysis. They could have built a club so modern that Dom McKay could have taken over and run the place from his front room.

When Brendan

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