A salute to Neil Lennon

In the early summer of 2010 Eddie Pearson, Harry Brady and I attended a roadshow at Celtic Park where Peter Lawwell and Neil Lennon were the main speakers.

It’s easy to forget just what a terrible state Celtic were in both on and off the park and there was a feeling of despondancy and anger as the fans took out their ire on Lawwell in particular after Tony Mowbray’s ill fated spell as Celtic manager.

Eddie Toner gave a passionate speech in favour of Neil Lennon being made Celtic manager on a permanent basis. I was in total agreement. There was no obvious candidate to replace Mowbray and it was felt that Neil, at the very least, would put a bit of passion back in the team and as a Celtic man through and through he would have the trust and support of the fans.

History tells us that Neil got the job and here we are, three years down the line, about to make our second Champions League apperance under Neil’s tenure as manager. Domestic silver ware has been won which is the bare minmum required but it’s Celtic’s European results that make impressive reading.

You could argue that we should be beating the likes of Helsinki, Helsingborg, Elfsborg and Shakhtar Karagandy but that is to miss the point. These teams are proud champions of their country and they deserve to be respected accordingly. They were all tense games which Neil and his team managed to negotiate. Particularly so this season when Hooper and Wanyama were off loaded with no obvious replacaements purchased. The team was significantly weakened and the Celtic board played a risky strategy. Failure to qualify agaianst Karagandy would have resulted in a storm of criticism from the media and the fans. And every last bit of it would have been deserved.

I’m reluctant to mention them but I will say this. It is particularly fitting that Celtic are now benefitting from playing in the Champions League as every fair minded person will accept that Celtic, and every other SPL side for that matter, where conned by the authorities who alllowed one particular side to ride roughsod over all financial fair play rules through not paying taxes and employing a questionable payment method to their players. It’s only right that they are where they are while we push ahead and make more progress.

The atmosphere last night was sensational. Well done to the club for not overdoing it with the music they play. It was great to play a song to start the crowd singing and then turn it off to allow the fans to finish it. I recently watched a 1968 European cup game on dvd between Celtic and Saint Etienne and the similarities between the atmosphere and the result were remarkable.

Just a word of caution  to Neil. Last night on the radio I heard you give the media both barrels and whilst you were well within your rights you should have rose above it and basked in the result and the joy of the night.

The game against Karagandy was fraught with tension. It’s to Neil’s credit that himself and the players have negotiated Celtic through trouble waters. Cast your mind back three years and compare it with now. Neil Lennon deserves enormous credit for giving us our pride back at home and in Europe.

Bravo Neil. Bravo.

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