The decision to sign David Goodwillie has cast a pall over the Kirkcaldy side from which it is struggling to escape. It doesn’t matter that they have subsequently apologised and sought to cancel the contract of the 32-year-old they recruited from Clyde on transfer deadline day. They were forced into this rethink by the outcry – global in reach – over employing a man a judge in a 2016 civil case decreed was a rapist.
Many issues have been raised over football’s attitude to the personal conduct of players in Goodwillie being able to pursue a career for many years before the Rovers move. Some of those issues have found echoes in West Ham continuing to play Kurt Zouma this week after footage emerged of him violently assaulting his cat. In the Scottish parliament there have been discussions over the establishment of a fit and proper person test for footballers. Fairly or otherwise, there appears a desire to hold the game to a higher standard than other industries. Ange Postecoglou has no enthusiasm for being prescriptive on such matters. The Celtic manager does, though, have a personal standpoint that would seem to align with football clubs requiring to be aware of wide-reaching responsibilities.
"It’s impossible for me to comment on it [the Goodwillie situation] because I know if that was a club I was involved with and it was going through a situation like that, I wouldn’t like other clubs or managers commenting on it,” he said. “Not because of any reason other than you’d never have the full information. Each issue has to be dealt with by the people who have all the information. We’re preparing for Raith Rovers in a football sense. That’s where our focus lies and where my focus lies. You always feel that if you start thinking about things outside the football club, that’s going to distract my players as well.”
The Australian considers it a given that, in a general sense, football clubs should “hold values dear”, as it was put to him. “I think we are all aware of that responsibility,” Postecoglou said. “I’ve spoken about it a lot of times that every time I speak and every decision I make … it’s not mine … it’s representative of this football club. So what I say and do is obviously going to be reflective, in respect to the values of the club and its supporters. I think we all understand that and we all carry that. I certainly do tackle that responsibility seriously. All football clubs, and all people involved in football clubs, these days know that you’ve always got to be very measured and understanding of everything you do.”
The Celtic manager picks his words carefully over the belief in some quarters that football clubs effectively must be some sort of moral guardians. “I wouldn’t want to generalise it like that,” Postecoglou said. “I’ve always sort-of felt that way about the role that I have. I’ve never felt that when I speak that I speak on my behalf. Not that I don’t have my own thoughts and values, but I always know that when I’m in a role, particularly as the manager of a football club, even if I meet someone in the street, what I say and the way I behave is going to reflect on the club I represent. I’ve always carried that as a responsibility. That’s never been any different for me. It’s not necessarily guided by the repercussions if you get something wrong. It’s just stuff that I live by. I need to understand the club’s values because I’m representative of it.”