Tonight as a group, or indeed as a family, we, the Celtic support, are all coming to terms with the news that our manager and indeed icon of the last 4 years has gone. Without doubt the size of this cannot be understated. The club is now at a crossroads. But is it really the “Armageddon” some of us feel? The manager was exactly that, a manager. Did we become too caught up in the emotion of who he was rather than what he delivered? Or was he really a manager deserving of being on a par with Stein and O’Neill?
Under Lennon, we grew as a club and as a support. After Mowbray the club needed to stabilise. The way in which the club tumbled to such an extent that players like Paul McGowan and Marc-Antoine Fortune were first team players, left fans disinterested. As Lennon himself said, the “thunder” was no longer there. We needed someone to come in who could unite the support, make Celtic Park a place where you wanted to be on match days and deliver players that you were afraid of clubs coming after. Lennon brought that. He was the obvious choice to take over. I remembered thinking on the night of the St Mirren defeat that Mowbray should go and Lennon given the last 2 months.
In his first summer he brought in a list of players that were to go on to be successful, Emilio, Mulgrew and Hooper to name a few. He plucked Forster and in time turned him into an England international. He ran Ra**ers close in the league with only a defeat in Inverness ultimately costing us.
This was the basis that the rest of the success was built on. There is no point going through everything that happened under Lennon. We all know the history, including Barcelona!
Everything that he went through off the park was an autobiography on its own. In a funny way it helped draw us together as a support. We all rallied around him. He was one of us. A Celtic fan lucky enough to play for the club, to go to Ibrox and leave as a winner, to captain and ultimately to lead the club as a manager. He was being threatened simply for the above. We all stood by his side in unity, and using the day in Kilmarnock as a turning point; we won that title as a club.
If you have read any of my blogs before you will know that I don’t simply report facts. I don’t always go along with the party line nor do I simply follow public opinion. My opinion today……everything is as it should be!!
Neil Lennon has won 3 out of 4 league titles. He won 2 Scottish Cups and made the last 16 of the Champions’ League. All in all, a good haul. But let’s look at the facts. 2 of those 3 titles weren’t challenging. Now I’m not saying that’s his fault, nor am I suggesting that we wouldn’t have won them all the same, but it is worth noting the facts.
The Champions League campaign gave me one of THE greatest nights I’ve ever known as a Celtic fan. We showed that we can compete at that level and we could be proud again. Something we couldn’t experience under Mowbray.
However this season we were awful in Europe. The group stages were a non-event. The qualifiers, in hindsight, were tougher than we should have been. Now as it was said to me today correctly, we have no God-given right to win these matches, however when you beat yourself with poor tactics and selections, then you have to question it. And away to Shaktar as well as at home to Elfsborg, we beat ourselves. We had 1 good season out of 4 in Europe.
Our cup record is shocking. 2 cups out of 8! Losing at Hampden to St Mirren, Hearts and Kilmarnock! This season we had 2 finals at Celtic Park and yet did not appear at either final. Again a treble is not easy, but he probably had the easiest 2 chances that any Celtic manager will have and failed. That will always pee me off.
His signings were very much hit and miss. Everyone will point to Wanyama, Hooper and Forster. And rightly so. All were fantastic. However you also need to look at Juarez, Brozek, Murphy, Miku and Bangoura. A lot of money has been wasted of poor signings. There is perhaps a political argument over how much say he had in these transfers, but until someone can prove otherwise I will assume that normal service for a manger was in place.
So as we stand today, I want to say, thank you to Neil Lennon. He brought back a pride and passion in being a Celtic fan. I will always thank him for regaining the league from across the road and for Barcelona. But just as when Martin O’Neill left, the time is right. We need freshening up. Someone and something new to take us into next season! So Who will be that man?
Henrik Larsson – The King of Kings will always be the hero of every supporter, but does he have the experience? Some point to Lennon’s lack of it when he came in, however he picked up the job when the club was on the bones of its ass. It’s easier to make an improvement than to come in and maintain a standard. I’m not convinced.
Owen Coyle – Definitely not for me! Now let me say it has literally NOTHING to do with home turning it down in the past. We are not THAT special that we can hold that against anyone. Put it this way, had he been a success in England and we were about to pull him away from a top 10 Premier League side, would we still feel the same?? My view is that he plays a defensive style and hasn’t shown enough successful skill in recent years. I appreciate that Celtic are in his heart but that is and cannot be enough.
Davie Moyes – As much as he failed at Man Utd, he still has a good standing in the game. However, much like Coyle, his style is not what I want to see at Celtic.
There are others out there, Steve Clarke, Paul Lambert or Jackie McNamara, and I do believe that one of these will eventually be Celtic’s next manager. If these were the options, I would prefer Clarke or McNamara, however knowing the board I reckon Larsson with a Sutton & Hartson backing team will be selected, knowing the box office effect it will have.
I don’t want this piece to end with anyone thinking I am slating Neil Lennon. That is not the case, however I also don’t subscribe to the thought that simply because he IS Neil Lennon then he was above criticism. I wish him every success in life and thank him for everything. But just like after Stein, O’Neill and every other manager, we Celtic move on and we look to the future.
God Bless Neil Lennon
(But more importantly, let’s get our new manager in and move on towards these qualifiers)