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Jock is the best signing I've ever made for Celtic; EXCLUSIVE: CELTIC SUPREMO FERGUS MCCANN STAYING UNREPENTANT AFTER HIS MOST TRAUMATIC WEEK SO FAR.

Outside Celtic Park the motley collection of fans with the Jock and Fergus Must Go banner are still there, jostling with the TV crews preparing for the next day's Scottish Cup final.

Fewer of them now than before but if a photographer asks them nicely they'll still peel off their jackets and pose for yet another picture in their Celtic strips.

They might as well go home now.

For inside the magnificent stadium that even his detractors admit will be his greatest monument, Fergus McCann is going nowhere. And neither is your man Jock Brown. Everybody may hate them but they don't care.

A week of frenzied headlines, vitriol and insult have left the wee man battered but unbowed and utterly unrepentant.

Even Wim Jansen's Friday lunchtime rerun of J'accuse has failed to dent McCann's unshakeable belief that whatever he does he does in the best interests of the club.

McCann, he would have us believe, has a vision for his club that easy come, easy go coaches like Jansen simply cannot comprehend.

The pity is that, too often, neither can the fans.

So, at the end of seven of the most traumatic days in Celtic's history, it is from his modest, not to say tiny office that McCann finally chooses to fight back. And wherever Wim was his ears must have been burning.

He says: "It's not about me and it's not about Wim Jansen. Nobody's indispensable."

Privately the hierarchy at Celtic Park do not share the fans' enthusiasm for Jansen's talents. Quietly, it is even being asked whether the team would still have won whoever was in charge.

While the fans are writing Wim the legend, McCann's people are asking Wim who?

"I know the fans are disappointed but it all resulted from the breach of contract of Wim Jansen that started in March," he says. It is a matter of history now that Jansen refused to sign a three- year contract without a get-out clause after one year.

McCann agreed on the condition that if he chose to exercise it the decision would remain confidential to avoid the inevitable circus of speculation.

The "breach of contract" Fergus refers to was Jansen's decision to confirm the existence of the clause after it appeared in the Record's sister paper the Sunday Mail.

McCann said: "That started a soap opera which had to be dealt with. That's the biggest disappointment for me. When he finally decided to go we didn't take issue with him."

However, even McCann doesn't pretend his problems with the coach stemmed from his decision to change his spots and talk to the press.

He admits that the antipathy between Jansen and general manager Jock Brown went back much further. But as far as Fergus is concerned the blame lies solely with Jansen. It may take two to tango but apparently Jansen had no partner.

He says: "Jock Brown was an ideal appointment for us and we hope he will stay here for a long time. He has had a lot of lobbying against him but he's handled it extremely well. He's a great asset to us.

"He knows a lot about football but he doesn't try to be a coach and he doesn't intervene in any of the coaching issues, he's simply there to take the pressure off the coach.

"I've dealt with Wim Jansen myself and know Jock Brown has done extremely well under the circumstances.

"Jock certainly has no problem communicating with the players and our relationships with them are better than they were a year ago."

Which wouldn't be difficult of course with Cadete, di Canio and van Hooijdonk out the door.

Not that these days they'd ever get in the door in the first place since players are apparently now vetted by personality to weed out disruptive elements.

"We check very carefully the background of players for temperament, behaviour, background problems, baggage issues, habits; no headcases is the plan."

No place then for the temperamental genius in Celtic Park under the stolid Mr Brown.

Yet the general manager is the appointment Fergus doesn't regret and you get the impression that, whatever the fans think, he wouldn't swap Brown for a dozen Jansens.

McCann firmly believes that in the modern game financial decisions cannot be left to the coach.

The problem is that no one has yet worked out where, in this multi-million pound business, the money ends and the football begins. Certainly Brown and Jansen didn't and by March there were few within Celtic Park who thought Jansen would be staying.

McCann admits the search for a new manager started then with a look back through the dossier they'd prepared during the trawl a year ago which ended in the capture of Jansen.

McCann is adamant in his belief that Jansen seemed unwilling to work with the club.

We're back to the infamous memos that Jansen was so unwilling to write. But to McCann they were much more.

He says: "It wasn't rocket science he was being asked here. Just to sit down and give us a long- term plan. He refused period.

"Now by that time I think he had already decided to go which was why he didn't do it. But that is simply not acceptable. We never told him how much he had to spend on next season's squad because we didn't know what he wanted to spend it on."

Not that you suspect McCann would have handed Jansen a bag of money in any case.

Ever the shrewd operator he can't see the point in telling every cash- hungry agent how much the club has to spend before they sit down to negotiate.

As he says: "Telling people that is the stupidest thing you can do."

McCann is equally exasperated by Jansen's claim that by March his squad was becoming dangerously weak and points to a press conference he gave in which he said he was happy with the squad.

"If the supporters step back from the howling headlines about Wim must stay or Wim should never have been allowed to go they will see that there's been progress."

That's one thing few Hoops fans would deny. The club McCann inherited had pounds 9m debt.

It's as near to passion as he gets when he points to the pounds 30m spent on the stadium, the 50,000 season tickets, the nine players going to World Cup and the trophies.

He says: "Players come and coaches go and if, as in this case, they turn out to be the wrong person, then so be it. Our objective now is to get a coach who will think long term."

He is adamant that the club will invest in players over the summer but he'd as soon reveal the combination on his safe than the figure.

One thing he resents is the idea that he'll sit on his hands to keep the share price high.

He says: "The share price is dictated by where people think the club is going. Success is what drives the share price up."

For the some supporters Jansen's departure while the hangovers from winning the league were still clearing was received as an unmitigated disaster.

McCann prefers to present the week as a "qualified success" the `qualified' part being the loss of the title- winning coach.

"But is that the end of the world?" he asks. "I know the fans are upset but I feel exactly the same, that we've been let down.

"All this week it's been Jansen the hero and McCann the SOB but that's the world we live in."

It's an indifference to image and personal reputation among the fans that is hard to imagine other more flamboyant chairmen tolerating but it's impossible to disbelieve McCann's integrity when he says that he takes his business responsibility seriously.

"It's not just the fans' feelings we're talking about, it's their money too. A lot of them are investors, too."

Jansen has made it clear that he thinks Celtic lack the ambition of Rangers, but the one thing that seems to terrify McCann is reckless ambition, taking the club back to where it was when he started.

In some ways he is like the poor boy who claws his way to millionaire status but won't spend a penny more than necessary in case he ends up in poverty again.

"I'd like to think that we're agressive but realistic in our approach. We have a different style here perhaps, I make no apologies for it."

One thing that hurts the famously inscrutable McCann is the belief among some fans that he doesn't care the way they do about winning and losing, a theory fostered by his coolness in the sanctuary of the director's box. That last frantic Saturday, for instance, the only physical sign he gave of tension was a slight twitching of the foot.

"Don't you think I go through it too? How much do you think I enjoy a football game? I don't get to enjoy it because it's too important.

"But if, when I'm gone, the fans remember me I'd like to think that I was able to give them back their pride in their club."
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:Clarke, Martin
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:May 16, 1998
Words:1532
Previous Article:I WANTED TO BUY COLLINS AND RIEDLE.
Next Article:CRAIG RULED OUT BY CELTS.


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