The Case for Neil Lennon

Does anyone get a reaction from the Celtic fans quite like Neil Lennon?

Respected as a player, heralded as a manager and above all else representing the support on the pitch and in the dugout. He’s had to deal with vile abuse his entire career, included being subjected to sectarian attacks, on and off the pitch.

I’ve always respected Neil Lennon’s smash mouth style when responding to the media, highlighting hypocrisy and whatabouterry whenever his on field conduct is questioned. The Scottish media has often treated Celtic and the support with utter contempt and Neil Lennon, by simply being who he is, represents something more than just a football manager.

Most Celtic supporters wants someone in the dugout that cares as much about the club as they do – that’s exactly what you get with Neil Lennon.

One of his biggest strengths is taking over a club in turmoil (Celtic post Mowbray or Hibs languishing in the Championship), galvanising the players and fans and powering forward. This is great for short term projects.

That’s why, after a lot of thought and consideration, I fully understand not only the boards appointment of Lennon but the fans reaction. We felt betrayed by a ‘self-proclaimed Celtic man’ in Rodgers and the fact that a genuine Celtic man has replaced him gives solace to a lot of the support. 

Neil Lennon is passionate, aggressive and to an extent from a bygone era of football management but maybe that’s what Celtic need to fill the void that ratboy left behind?

Lennon needs to get Celtic over the Championship line as quickly as possible and I for one believe he will. Will he become the Celtic manager permanently? 

His management style might struggle to produce long-term results: he burns hot almost all the time and that style can cause fatigue both for himself and his teams.

He wouldn’t be my first choice to take over permanently but I can also understand the clamour by sections of the Celtic support to appoint someone who would be fully committed to the 10 in a row project at hand. 

After all, we had fully invested in the previous manager, his philosophy and how he ‘wurks’ to then have him drop us like a hot potato at the first sign of EPL riches.

Lennon will be considered for the permanent position. The board know him. The support know and love him.

Lennon, like every manager, has flaws BUT if he was appointed he would bring certain qualities that would be appealing, whether you’re a ‘football hipster’ or a ‘Celtic Da’ ( I think I register somewhere in between).

He won’t win the treble every season but frankly he doesn’t need to. If he gets the job on a full time basis his mission will be a simple: GET 10 IN A ROW. This would satisfy the majority of the Support and if he falls short of that I think he would leave of his own accord.

Is he the best candidate for the job on a permanent basis? In my opinion, no, 

but it’s clear that he will be in the running and there’s nothing I love more than looking at the positives in every situation.

If Neil Lennon is appointed as the permanent replacement to Brendan Rodgers he does brings with him certain qualities that will benefit the club:

 He Understands the Job

No one knows more about what it takes to be the Celtic manager than Neil Lennon. From pure adulation and joy (beating Barcelona) to utter disbelief and devastation (Kilmarnock Cup final defeat), he’s walked the long road. 

The pressure that comes from managing Celtic is unparalleled in British football. The absolute necessity to win every game as well as make an impression in Europe is at times unworkable. To go from St Mirren away to Barcelona away is something that every Celtic manager has struggled with.

Lennon knows that. 

He understands the fine margins between success and failure at Celtic, having experienced both. The Celtic manager must entertain the fans, bring continued success and see off an intense – often unfair – media pressure.

Neil Lennon won’t need time to bed in or to figure out what sort of strategy to use, he already knows that. Lennon wants 10 in a row as much as any of us and that can only work in his favour.

Long term stability

This is it. This is where Neil Lennon wants to be. If Celtic give him the manager’s job on a permanent basis we won’t have to worry about the Leicesters or Fulhams of this world tempting him away. 

The benefit of giving Lennon the job is you can plan for the short term as well as long term future, depending on his success. Could Lennon ease John Kennedy into the hot seat 3 years down the line? Potentially.

If Lennon and Kennedy are appointed as a management ‘Team’ with JK gaining experience in a more hands on roll, then I could see the long term benefit of appointing Lennon. A smooth handover that would allow a continued understanding of how the club can progress.

Celtic appear to rate Kennedy and he has already been part of 3 managers’ backroom staff (Including the current one) so he could well be the long term successor.

Qualifying for the Champions League

As much as the fans are focused on 10 in a row, European Football is still our grand aspiration. Changes in co-efficient rules mean that individual club performance is important in regards to qualification, so group stage football at Champions League or Europa League level is an absolute must.

Lennon understands the struggle and issues with early round Champions League qualification both as a player and manager. He understands the trials and pit falls which await any team going into the first round.  He’s 2 for 3 in Champions League qualification (his only failure being against a tough opponent in Braga) and knows that it doesn’t matter how you get there…..just get there.

These early rounds are not necessarily all about astute tactical awareness and structure. Part of it is getting players motivated and focused, something Lennon has a talent for.

 Fire in the Derby Belly

One of the biggest issues I had with Rodgers is how he talked about performance, and latterly defeat, in matches against Rangers. The soundbites of him in the post-match defeat in December were flippant and almost detached from what the reality of the situation was.

How often did we start matches against Rangers in a slow, almost sluggish manner? You can break games of football down and prepare to ‘wurk’ but you need an extra bit going into a derby. Don’t get me wrong, Rodgers record against Rangers speaks for itself but the overall performance in too many games against them was lacking.

Lennon gets his players to rise to the occasion, he’s a great motivator and there’s one thing for sure, a game against Rangers under Lennon would be like going into a battle. Football purists may say we should be smarter than that or we should be above that…I disagree. 

For all the silky football we’ve played in these games, the moments I remember most are KT’s tackle on Candeias or Brown’s tackle at Ibrox or when Jozo destroyed Miller. Sure, we can’t just rely on that but it should be the absolute bare minimum for our players going into a game against Rangers.

While we are at it, Lennon would treat places like Tynecastle and Easter Road with the respect they deserve. Rodgers far too often played jarring formations and line-ups that was more experimental then necessary.

Conclusion 

Have the 90MC been too hard, too critical  on Lennon since he came in? Maybe. We’re not one voice or one opinion, but I think overall we might have failed to highlight the positives of a Lennon appointment. 

A lot of that will come out of frustration that Celtic haven’t, and don’t appear to be, moving towards a more structured, modern setup. 

I’m never happy when a player or manager returns to a club and although there are a few exceptions, it rarely turns out to be successful.

However, Lennon has stepped into the breach when we needed him most and for that I will be thankful.  No matter who gets the Celtic job on a permanent basis I’ll always do my very best to support them 100%.


Chris is an avid Celtic supporter with leanings towards Juventus and Boca Juniors. A student of film and popular culture, he has an interest in politics and music. Inspired by leaders, his favourite players include Paul Lambert, Juan Román Riquelme and Alessandro Del Piero. Chris is the producer and host of the 90 Minute Cynic football podcast. You can find him on twitter @TheGallatron.


'The Case for Neil Lennon' have 3 comments

  1. March 12, 2019 @ 7:35 pm @Dannybhoy62

    I agree that Neil Lennon is the best man we could have hoped for, in the circumstances. I could have thought of no one better to see us through to the end of the season.
    As for getting the job full time however,Ihave my reservations. He will never have the power that the previous manager had,his best players will be sold ,and history will repeat itself.
    When we employed the rat,it showed that the board had ambition and got the very best manager available,I would hope they would do the same going into next season,Neil Lennon may well be in the frame,but I very much doubt he is the best available candidate.
    It is pretty common knowledge that the rat would not be here next season,the board has had the best part of a year to source the best manager,if this turns out to be Lennon,then its a deriliction of duty.

    Reply

  2. March 19, 2019 @ 3:26 pm Duncan

    I think you have been fair in your view about Neil both as a Manager and as a true Celt.
    He has his flaws as all Football Managers do but for the most part he plays and attacking brand of Football against sides we can beat and has a good record of a more pragmatic approach against sides who are expected to floor with us.
    The same could not be said of Rodgers who in Europe has never been passed the last 32 of the Europa even with a rich Club Pu ping just short of £300m into it.
    Neil Lennons Won Ratio at Celtic is actually better than Rodgers even though he hasn’t had the clean sweep of the prizes on offer.
    I would contest there were several factors he had to overcome that Rodgers didn’t as Celtic Manager on top.
    Like the fact his sides were routinely stripped of he best players as Celtic embarked on a belt tightening exercise and changed to a selling Club approach to Finances.
    He also had a Budget 40% less than Rodgers whilst trying to (and successfully) negotiating a tough Champions League Group to make it to the last 16 of that Elite Competition.
    Those expecting to replace Rodgers with “better” are not taking into account several factors in my opinion.
    1 Scottish Football is a European backwater to most top Managers
    2 The expectation of Supporters is immense even in Europe where we are small fry Financially by comparison to the sides we generally draw or meet
    3 Our Budget for playing squad although large in Scotland is peanuts by comparison to what these Managers are generally used to.
    4 The type of Manager some want is not coming to Celtic for the long term like Brendan they are most likely coming to repair a tarnished CV or using us a stepping stone
    Neil Lennon had Rodgers number tactically at Hibs even though he had a side that would be lucky to make our bench and more likely our reserves.
    On top of all this Rodgers has left us with major surgery needed in the Summer and as we already know Lenny has already proven he can build a squad not only Gordon enough to win 3 in a row but also go toe to toe in Europe with the very ,very best of them.
    I believe with the right backing he can do so again.
    Is he the right man for the job?
    I can’t think of anyone more suited or more focused on Celtic myself.

    Reply

    • March 20, 2019 @ 1:59 am Tommy Guilfoyle

      My thoughts exactly. Im fed up of saying that if the Board back Lennon half as much as they did Rogers then we can win Nine in a Row and then why not 10. Personally i dont care about Tribles after this one as long as we get 10 in a Row. H H H

      Reply


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