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One Season at Paradise – RIP Jo Venglos 1936 – 2021

27 January 2021


Jo Venglos was another of the many people on whom it could be said that he just came at the wrong time in his association with Celtic. He never played for Celtic, of course, and was only manager for one disastrous season.

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Being born in 1936 in Czechoslovakia meant that he was condemned to spend his childhood under the powers of evil. Clearly this affected him all his life and he was simply not cut out for the awesome task of being manager of Celtic. He was in any case 62 when he arrived in 1998 with no clear understanding of that this mighty job entailed.

He arrived in summer 1998, rather too late in the summer in fact for him to have a chance of doing anything substantial in the transfer market or indeed to do much serious work with the existing squad. He lasted only one season, won nothing and will really only be remembered for two things. One was the purchase of Lubo Moravcik and Johan Mjallby, genuinely talented players and the other was a first class 5-1 defeat of Rangers in November. Apart from that, nothing really went right for the likeable Czechoslovakian who had been a tolerable success at International level for his country but really gave the impression of not understanding what Scotland was all about.

Several things were not his fault. Celtic Park in summer 1998 ought to have been a happy, cheerful place as the team had just won the League. But the previous Manager Wim Jansen had departed in the very flush of victory, and everyone knew that it was because he did not hit it off with General Manager Jock Brown with neither of them making any very great attempt to make things work. And there were quite a few of the players who were making trouble as well.

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Venglos managed the team for one game in the Scottish League Cup as they went out to Airdrie. At that time the players had chosen to pick a fight with the management about bonuses, and although we received all sorts of assurances that there was no problem about team spirit, it was obvious to anyone at that game that night, that there were several players whose hearts were not in it. The defeat was deserved, and although Venglos cannot be criticised for the dispute in the first place, we can certainly ask questions about why the ringleaders were not subsequently persecuted and expelled. They had after all disgraced that green and white jersey,

And then there was Mark Viduka. He was a player of undeniable talent but could not seem able to focus his mind on whether he wanted to play for Celtic or not. All sorts of stories were heard about injuries and stress before he even arrived, and by the time that he did appear the damage was done for the season. He was another character whose heart was not in it.  A stronger Manager than Venglos – O’Neill, perhaps, or Stein – would have taken a far stronger line at a far earlier stage, but the likeable Dr Jo failed to grasp the situation.

And then there was the awful month of May 1999 – in early May a defeat to Rangers to lose the League in circumstances which no sensible supporter could condone, and then in late May another defeat in the Scottish Cup final which was only 0-1 and one could argue that Celtic deserved better, but it was nevertheless one of those games against Rangers where the players took the field, more or less expecting to be defeated. The Manager, frankly, was not strong enough to shake them out of their defeatism.

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There was something likeable about old Jo, though. But he was and looked old, and clearly, although he spoke English well, he understood little about Glasgow and Scotland. We were almost sorry for him, and it would have been lovely to see him win the Scottish Cup. But when you are down, you tend to remain down and he was indeed a one-season wonder.  In fact, very sadly, he was not even that.

RIP Jo Venglos

Born in 1948, David Potter first saw Celtic at Dens Park, Dundee in March 29. It was a 3-5 defeat, which equipped him admirably for the horrors of the early 1960’s. He had “followed” Celtic for a few years before that and recalls having been called upon to impersonate Jock Stein and receive the family silver teapot which had to do for the Scottish Cup as it was presented on April 24 1954, after he and his father had spent a nerve wracking afternoon listening to the radio!  Since then, he has “followed” every Celtic game with bated breath, and has written extensively about the club in magazines and books. His favorite team was that of 1969 (which he rates marginally better than 1967) and his favorite player was Henrik Larsson.

His ambition for Celtic is for them to keep on winning silver in Scotland and to be something in Europe once again. His other interests are cricket and drama. He is a retired teacher of Classical Languages, married with three children and five grandchildren. He now travels on the Joseph Rafferty bus from Kirkcaldy. He also loves Forfar Athletic.

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