“ There’s something wrong with your character if opportunity controls your loyalty.”
No-one can say that Brendan Rodgers didn’t have personal ambition. His arrival at Celtic on 20th May 2016 signalled the beginning of, what we can now look back on, a hugely successful journey for all associated with the club. He was still shrewd enough and sufficiently driven to walk when the opportunity arose even though he claimed to be a Celtic fan with a family background that was steeped in Paradise. Ultimately he demonstrated that his loyalty to Celtic was always going to be dictated by managerial vacancies elsewhere.
His unceremonious departure on 25th February 2019 was delivered as poorly as his tenure as manager was brilliant and it is a measure of the fickleness of football fans the world over that the latter event is the one he will be mostly remembered for among the diehard fanatics who follow Scotland’s biggest club. The achievement of the Treble Treble was in itself quite remarkable and there is no doubt about the leading role Rodgers played in it. He maintained dominance in the league that was already in full flow before he arrived but he also added a steeliness to the squad that allowed them to transfer league success into sustained perfection in domestic cup competitions. Those cup games delivered interesting statistics: 24 games, 24 victories, 8 trophies lifted out of a possible 8, 100% success. What Rodgers ultimately delivered with his achievements was a happy squad of players, happy shareholders and ecstatic fans. The European front was a different challenge and one that Rodgers didn’t appear to get his head around and not for the first time in his generally successful managerial career. When he was holding the managerial reins at Liverpool he didn’t cut the mustard when he came up against the elite of European football and he unfortunately carried on this run at Celtic. Getting the team to the last 32 of the Europa League was his most notable achievement and it was the part of his CV, perhaps the only part, that raised a question over his ability to lead a team. All of this begs the question, ‘Did Rodgers make the right move even if his timing was poor?’ It would seem that the answer is ‘yes’ because the club clearly didn’t share his ambition and he clearly felt that his personal needs were greater than the club.
Step up Neil Lennon. For the second time. He too had league dominance when he first rocked up as Celtic manager with the exception of the 2010/11 season. He eventually left in 2014 to join Bolton Wanderers and eventually returned in somewhat peculiar circumstance towards the end of the 2018/19 season. He had left the managerial role at Hibs under something of a cloud and got the call when Rodgers defected to Leicester. Apparently the job brief was to ‘get the title over the line’ and have ‘a good go’ at the Scottish Cup since the League Cup had already been secured. League and Cup success confirmed, Lennon gets the permanent job offer in the shower room at Hampden with Peter Lawwell admitting that he hadn’t even considered anyone else for the job.
Many Celtic fans were scratching their heads at the club’s decision to make the appointment and still there is a deep division among them regarding Lennon’s suitability to the top job, something that hasn’t been helped by the recent Champions League exit to Cluj and a less than inspiring performance against Dunfermline. Players not being played, other players being played out of position and little talk of quality signings to replace some of those who have left the club in recent weeks have all added to the frustration among supporters who give their heart and soul to the club and can’t understand why the hierarchy at Celtic Park don’t reciprocate.
Is Lennon responsible for the negativity among fans because of the poor team selection recently? Or is there another reason why the cloud seems to have settled in the stands? Let’s not forget that the first couple of rounds of Champions League qualifiers and the start of the SPL campaign seemed to demonstrate that he had been making good calls. Plenty of goals, a very attacking team mindset and a big morale boost among fans that was quickly erased by two shocking performances, neither of which Lennon was prepared to take personal responsibility for. Is he even responsible for recent signings? He doesn’t seem to know too much about them when asked. Is he Lawwell’s puppet as has been suggested by some? Is he good enough for the job or is it more a case that the fans have unrealistic expectations?
One thing that is for sure is that the new club across the city are much better than they were last season. They’ve added plenty of new blood for not a lot of money and it is clear that they are a very settled team who really fancy themselves this season. Gerrard appears to be getting to grips with his role as manager and whether we like it or not they are playing some very attractive football. Can they maintain their good start? They probably can. Will we stop them from winning the title? Well, that’ll be up to our board to decide. If they want to they can. Hail Hail.