Neil Lennon – New contract but same old story?
Neil Lennon has signed a new one year rolling contract with Celtic however the success of this season, in many fans eyes, rests on Wednesdays Champions League Play off 2nd leg. Does Lennon have what it takes as a manager? Barry Ward takes a look at the man at the helm of The Bhoys
Neil Lennon is at a massive crossroads right now. Personally he must know that failing to get Celtic into the group stages of the Champions League this season is going to have a huge knock on effect for his own managerial career. He will be labelled as a one season wonder/flash in the pan. Make no mistake if he got us into the group stages and the last 16 again then an EPL club would be along at the end of this season and he would be gone faster than snow off a dyke. While Celtic fans as a collective right now would bite your hand off for a group stage appearance at footballs top table once again regardless of what the future brings, Lennon himself is all to aware of the catastrophe it would be if Champions League football was not coming back to Celtic Park this season.
Lennon the manager is like Lennon the player, a stubborn wee so ‘n so who does it his way. Regardless of his sound bites he has not learned from his mistakes, he can’t set out a team to demolish a poorer opposition and against a lesser opposition he can be caught out tactically and never has a plan B. Countless times over the past few seasons this has been evident, yet he is still no further in making amends at this. His constant playing of certain players who are seemingly “undroppable” or worse shoe horned into the starting 11 as they are his favourites is starting to get tiresome but, this is his squad, he assembled it and only he is to blame for its shortcomings.
We can only assume that, as Shaktar Karagandy were an unknown prospect that he didn’t know how to set his stall out and after the first 5 minutes he must have thought we were going to get an easy 2 or 3 nil victory. During the game he didn’t grasp that one of our centre half’s should be marking the solitary centre forward and the other one drops off. He couldn’t grasp that to beat a long throw you put a man in front of the throw in taker thus stopping his momentum, come on people this is stuff you get taught when playing football yet Lennon and his array of assistants and coaches couldn’t see this? It wasn’t until the 80+ minute mark that Samaras eventually ran over to stop the long throw. Don’t get me started on the full backs and the lack of movement in the midfield or even what happened with his upfront selection and the timing of his substitutions. He couldn’t even get a message to the players mid match to stop conceding daft throw ins again why??
Regardless of Peter Lawell or John Park he should have been brave enough to demand more. I said it when Wilson was sold that he should have never been sold until after the CL qualifiers. With Wilson beside Virgil I don’t think we would have got beaten away in Kazakhstan. Nottingham Forest should have been told he is yours but not until 29th August and Wilson should have accepted that. In doing so it was giving him time to find the player who was going to play along side Virgil as it surely can’t be Ambrose or the very shaky looking Steven Mouyokolo. We have lost Wilson, Rogne & to a lesser extent Gershon and we brought in two players in Mouyokolo and Virgil yet we are still short of a quality experienced centre half.
In an earlier article I was lambasted for daring to suggest that we sign Roger Johnson from Wolves on a free transfer yet this is a player with bags of experience and who could be the educated head to play along side Virgil; I still stand by that. We need experience at the back and Johnson has that in spades. Don’t let it fool you that as a relegated team he must be terrible. Wolves along with a lot of teams in the championship become rudderless ships and once in that spiral relegation is inevitable. On a free transfer and the offer of Champions League football Johnson would have drriven up here himself and signed on the dotted line for less than you think! Johnson could have been for Celtic what the great Dave Mackay was for Nottingham Forest all those years ago.
Further up the park we still don’t have a replacement for Wanyama and heaven forbid if he thinks the headless chicken that is Beram Kayal is the answer, if we brought in a decent centre half he could possibly push Ambrose into a defensive midfield berth. He should also have been brave/bold enough to pinpoint a striker and get him in fact, demand him! A first team striker. No more projects we have enough of them. Pay the money, yes teams know we have it but sometimes you speculate to accumulate.
Lennon has known since the closing of the January transfer window in 2013 that Hooper was off, again he trotted repeatedly that he wanted Gary to stay but everyone knew he was leaving. We let Miku go and Lassad, sent Bangura out on loan and we were left with Samaras, Stokes & Watt for these vital games as Amido Balde is clearly not in his first team plans. One is better out wide on the left, one is a player he clearly doesn’t trust for the big games and the other is a player who he talked about sending out on loan to get experience yet he scored one of our biggest goals last season. Give him experience at Celtic! Watt has it in him to be scoring against SPFL cannon fodder every other week. So who exactly is the main striker I ask Neil? Who???
We have a lot of talent in this team but CL failure will diminish any potential transfer fee and a £5million player is now a £2million player. Players like Ledley & Samaras who are in the last year of their contracts may decide to up sticks and leave. Prize assets such as Forster & Matthews could hand in transfer requests and from having a great squad we are left with not very much and just when we were all thinking we would be taking a giant leap forward yet again we are taking 2 steps back.
It’s time for Neil Lennon to earn his new improved contract by winning this tie on Wednesday and getting us into the Champions League, failure to do so will not only put a dent in Celtic for seasons to come but also his own aspirations…
Do you think Neil Lennon has what it takes to take Celtic to the group stages of the Champions League again? Comment below or tweet us @90minutecynic
Follow Barry on Twitter @TheGolfBadger