Louis McCaffrey gives his view on a potential candidate for the next Celtic Manager as we continue to assess the alternative options for the role.
Whenever a manager leaves a football club it brings with it a period of uncertainty and wild speculation. Yet this is also a time for reflection, evaluation and most importantly optimism. The news that Neil Lennon has left his post as Celtic manager presents an exciting opportunity for the club to build on recent success, while implementing a fresh approach on and off the pitch.
The idea that any potential managerial candidate is required to be ‘Celtic Minded’ or hold a pre-existing connection to the club is one I find highly contentious. In the case of Neil Lennon’s appointment, I believe a Celtic man who understood the club and the fans expectations was required in the aftermath of the Tony Mowbray Era.
However, this time Celtic are recruiting from a position of relevant strength and I believe this is the ideal time for an outsider to assess the current football structure, redevelop the playing style and progress the club to the next level. Ex Barcelona player and youth coach Oscar Garcia is a hungry, young manager who could be the ideal candidate to revolutionise Celtic.
Garcia stated his youth career as a player within Barcelona’s famous La Masia training facility before becoming part of the Barca first team, where he stayed from 1993 till 1999. Moves to Valenicia and Espanyol followed for Garcia and he was always keen to move into management after his playing career.
Garcia’s first coaching role came as part of Johan Cruyff’s Catalonia national team but it wasn’t until he was appointed as the Barcelona U19’s coach that his stock began to soar. Garcia continued to promote and implement the Barcelona philosophy he had been brought up with at the club as a youth player himself, and was successful in developing the young talent within La Masia; also beating Celtic’s U19’s both home and away as both sides competed in the Next Gen youth tournament.
An appointment as head coach of Israeli side Maccabi Tel Aviv was Oscar Garcia’s first venture into senior management and despite a tight budget in which to work within, he guided Tel Aviv to their first domestic league title in 10 years. Last summer saw Garcia leave Tel Aviv after that successful debut season before arriving in England to take over the reigns at Championship side Brighton.
Due to the protracted departure of Gus Poyet from Brighton in the summer, Garcia was a late arrival at the club and had little time to make his own stamp on the playing squad before the start of the season. Brighton’s squad was plagued by a number of long-term absentees and Garcia’s lack of spoken English resulted in a slow start at the south coast club.
The January transfer window was not kind to the former Barca man either as key players Ashley Barnes and Liam Bridcutt were both sold on. To add insult to injury, Garcia was told he would not be allowed to sign players on a permanent basis due to chairman Tony Bloom’s cautious approach to business during the winter transfer window.
Despite these obstacle, Garcia successfully implemented his own philosophy of possession based attacking football on his Brighton side and guided them to a 6th place finish in the Championship, cementing a place in the Play offs. Despite losing in the playoffs to Derby, progress had been made by both Brighton and Garcia. Brighton’s average number of short passes per game reached a league high of 413, which is clear evidence of the effect he had on the teams playing style.
Due to the spending limitations imposed on him by the club, Oscar again looked to the youth during his spell in England, stating in a recent interview
“For me, it’s amazing to work with young players, to develop them — I’ve done it all my life, not only at La Masia but in Tel Aviv — I played with a lot of young players. And last season in Brighton, four of the young players from the youth department made their debuts for me. One became the Young Player of the Season!”
Oscar Garcia is a young manager who has had the best possible education in football, learning from the likes of Johan Cruyff, Louis Van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and Bobby Robson. He has been brought up with a philosophy of the beautiful game, which centres on producing exciting and attractive attacking football. His implementation of this style of play at both Tel Aviv and Brighton has been well received and brought relative success during his short stay at both clubs.
Development of youth players and the ability to work within a tight spending budget are key criteria for the next Celtic Manager. Experience of winning titles is also an important factor with Oscar Garcia ticking all these boxes. I believe Garcia would be the perfect fit for the position the club currently find themselves in, as they look to dominate domestically, progress in Europe and bring fans back to their parkhead seats.
Celtic need to be freshened up, and Garcia could well be the man to bring a fresh exciting approach to the style of play on the pitch while accelerating the development of young players at Lennoxtown. This move would also suit Garcia who would be practically guaranteed another domestic league title, while also afforded the opportunity to compete with Europe’s elite in the Champions League.
How likely is this appointment to happen? Well that’s difficult to judge. Garcia himself has publically commented on speculation linking him to the job, highlighting his belief in his own ability. However, whether the Celtic board have the vision and ambition to match Garcia’s is yet to be seen.
“They are one of the best and biggest clubs in Europe, so it’s great to have interest. I would be confident of taking them into the Champions League. The big objective of a club like Celtic must be to get into the group stages – and then to find the right way to be better, to improve and to see where Celtic can go.’