For Love nor money: Grant can’t see Celtic go on like this

Sell­ing best play­ers and miss­ing chance for tre­bles has Park­head side in peril for for­mer coach and 1986 league win­ner

The Herald - Herald Sport - - INTERVIEW - HUGH MacDON­ALD MEETS PETER GRANT

IT IS 30 years since the mir­a­cle of Love Street. Just days from the demise of Deila. Yet Peter Grant is per­fectly po­si­tioned to give his in­formed anal­y­sis of both. Briefly, in the mantra of the Viet­nam vet, he was there. Twice.

It all be­gan and ended in Pais­ley for the Celtic fan, mid­fielder and coach. He played in the team that won the league on that dra­matic day of May 3, 1986, win­ning his first hon­our for the club. He sat in the dugout at St Mir­ren Park on March 24, 2010, as Celtic lost heav­ily, pre­cip­i­tat­ing his dis­missal the next day. He is typ­i­cally forth­right about both the play­ing days and those spent coach­ing an un­der-per­form­ing Celtic team un­der the lead­er­ship of Tony Mow­bray.

“Lis­ten, if you are part of a coach­ing squad at Celtic that loses 4-0 to St Mir­ren, you de­serve to be sacked. I have no qualms about that. My big­gest dis­ap­point­ment is tak­ing the job in the first place,” he says.

His con­cerns over player in­vest­ment, his wage struc­ture, and the cul­ture at Celtic can be sum­marised in his state­ment: “If you buy cheap, you buy of­ten.”

He is sim­i­larly blunt about the fate of Ronny Deila, who will leave the club af­ter win­ning con­sec­u­tive league ti­tles but with a se­ries of semi-fi­nal de­feats in do­mes­tic cup com­pe­ti­tions and, frankly, fail­ure in Euro­pean tour­na­ments.

“There is no se­cond place at Celtic. There is only first loser. You are num­ber one or noth­ing. When I was a player, I be­lieved if you lost a semi-fi­nal, you were as well fling­ing your boots away. It was a dif­fi­cult time for Celtic when I was a player and it still breaks my heart,” he says. He won only one ti­tle (1988) af­ter that spec­tac­u­lar day when Hearts were pipped, the Tynecas­tle side los­ing 2-0 in Dundee while Celtic won 5-0 at St Mir­ren.

He ac­cepts as player and as a coach he was con­fronting Rangers sides un­recog­nis­able in strength and depth to the chal­lenge fac­ing Celtic now. “With Rangers out of the league, they should be win­ning it by 25 to 30 points. No dis­re­spect, but there is a dis­par­ity in the wages paid and the qual­ity of play­ers with the other teams,” he says. “My big­gest dis­ap­point­ment is I do not think Celtic have be­come stronger in the pe­riod Rangers have been out of the di­vi­sion. There should have been a lot more sil­ver­ware.”

He is in­trigued by what will hap­pen at the club over the sum­mer. “Now is an in­ter­est­ing time be­cause Celtic have to raise the bar. It is all right say­ing there is money in the bank and what­ever. But this is Celtic Foot­ball Club and the am­bi­tion must be to win dou­bles and tre­bles. And to com­pete in Europe,” he says.

Grant – who man­aged at Nor­wich City and as care­taker at Ful­ham as well as as­sis­tant roles at Bournemouth, West Ham United, West Bromwich Al­bion, and Birm­ing­ham City – is well aware of the re­al­i­ties of mod­ern foot­ball and the dif­fi­culty Celtic have in meet­ing them. “I know of a player in Eng­land who is be­ing of­fered £14.5m over a four-year deal and he has yet to play a full 90 min­utes in the first team,” says Grant, who leads de­vel­op­ment coach­ing at Ful­ham.

“Celtic have sold tens of mil­lions of tal­ent to Southamp­ton, that says it all. In my day, the dif­fer­ence was maybe a grand a week or what­ever but now it is 10 times the salary. They could not buy the jersey off us. In­ci­den­tally, I never swapped my jersey af­ter a game. I fig­ured they were hard enough to earn with­out giv­ing them away,” he says.

He has lessons from that day in 1986 and that sack­ing in 2010. “I should not have taken the job,” he says. “When I went up to Scot­land to sign the con­tract, I thought: ‘Some things never change.’ I was dis­ap­pointed. I felt there was a feel­ing that ‘it is Peter Grant and he will come back for noth­ing’. That sticks in my throat be­cause I thought I had earned value in Eng­land. There was a dis­re­spect and I should prob­a­bly have turned my back on it there and then. When I got sacked, it was the quick­est ever I got back to Nor­folk. That tells a story.”

But he prefers to dwell on the hap­pi­ness of Love Street 1986 and what can teach the club to­day.

“We were pro­duc­ing play­ers,” he says. The team was: Paddy Bon­ner, Danny McGrain [Grant], Derek Whyte, Roy Aitken, Paul McGu­gan, Murdo MacLeod, Brian McClair, Paul McS­tay, Mo John­ston, Tommy Burns, Owen Archdea­con. Sub: Mark McGhee. Nine of them had been nur­tured and pro­duced by Celtic with only MacLeod, John­ston, McClair and McGhee be­ing bought.

“All those play­ers also un­der­stood what it meant to be a Celtic player. The be all and end all for me and many others was sim­ply to play for Celtic. That is all I dreamed about as a kid. Now you hear play­ers say­ing ‘I want to play in the [English] Pre­mier League’. To me, that is dis­re­spect­ful. I did not want to play any­where else.”

He be­lieves if Celtic were to go to

Eng­land, they would be se­cond only to Manch­ester United. “Hand on my heart, Celtic would win the league down here within five years of join­ing it. They are a huge club, a global brand,” he says. The im­me­di­ate way for­ward, though, must be to bring through young play­ers. “I come up a lot to watch my son,” he says of Peter, the Falkirk cen­tre-back. “The tal­ent is there in Scot­land and the only up­side of the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion is that clubs are giv­ing them a chance.”

He was de­lighted when he had his op­por­tu­nity. He won the ti­tle in his first full sea­son as a first-team player. “It was sur­real the way it hap­pened. I came on for Danny and, of course, heard the roar when the news from Dens Park fil­tered through. It was a strange cel­e­bra­tion for me, though. I had my car at Love Street be­cause I was go­ing to the player of the year func­tion at the Celtic sup­port­ers’ club in Fort Wil­liam with Paul [McGu­gan] im­me­di­ately af­ter the game.

“We drove first to Celtic Park where sup­port­ers had gath­ered. Cham­pagne? I never touched a drop. We drove up to Fort Wil­liam and I had my first drink there. It was quite a night.” He adds: “Lis­ten, I played in Celtic teams some may say were or­di­nary. Hey, some would say that was at least par­tially down to me.” He says the last with a laugh. But his next sen­tence car­ries the im­pact of a Grant tackle: “I won’t ar­gue with any of that. There is no point. But I will say one thing: we never lost the fans.”

That was loudly ap­par­ent at Love Street in 1986. It was franked by the re­al­i­sa­tion that the play­ers would go that ex­tra mile. All the way to Fort Wil­liam.

Celtic have sold tens of mil­lions of tal­ent to Southamp­ton, that says it all. In my day the dif­fer­ence was maybe a grand a week or what­ever but now it’s 10 times the salary. They could not buy the jersey off us. In­ci­den­tally, I never swapped my jersey af­ter a game. I fig­ured they were hard enough to earn with­out giv­ing them away . . .

Pic­tures: SNS

BACK AND FORTH: Peter Grant has ex­pe­ri­enced both sides of Celtic, with the 1986 ti­tle glory and his doomed coach­ing spell in 2010.

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