I have just returned from a weeks holiday and I have to admit to being absolutely flabbergasted at hearing the news that Neil Lennon had left Celtic by that old maxim of ‘mutual consent.
When I heard the news my mind cast back to a public meeting at Celtic Park in May 2010 with the large audience almost unanimously backed Neil’s appointment from interim manager to permanency and a good few of the attendees let Peter Lawwell know in no uncertain terms that he was the best candidate for the role, if not the only one at that time.
It’s easy to forget how bad Celtic were back then and how much dead wood was lying around the club on the playing side after Tony Mowbray’s tenure. Looking back now it’s incredible to think that Neil won three leagues, two Scottish cups and, even more impressively, took Celtic to two Champions League group stages and a last sixteen on top. Never underestimate how difficult it is for us to get into the top table of European football. Those qualifiers come at the worst time of the season for us and the quality of opposition far exceeds anything we play in Scotland. Look at Scots’ clubs performances in Europe these past few seasons to put it in context.
Neil’s transfers where, on the whole, terrific. Forster, Matthews, Lustig, Van Dijk, Ambrose, Biton, Wanyama, Johansen, Commons, Ledley, Mulgrew, Stokes, Hooper and Griffiths were all tremendous assets to Celtic. Sure there were a few flies in the ointment but in the main his transfer record was hugely impressive.
It strikes me from looking at sites and forums that Celtic fans have taken Neil’s success for granted especially with them out of the equation and a bit of gratitude wouldn’t go amiss. On a personal level I’d like to thank Neil for the great times we have enjoyed these past few years. My main highlight of watching Celtic was the 4-2 title win against Rangers with 10 men in 1979 and I will never forget that night. When we beat Barca it struck me that that was the game my son will recall for the rest of his life, a childhood memory to fondly recall for the rest of his days.
So it’s a big thanks from me Neil and I wish you well wherever you go in future.
Now to move the line of fire towards the board…
It’s clear that Neil found the conditions imposed upon him unbearable. He was entitled to a bit more backing financially and when it wasn’t forthcoming he had no option but to bail out. Some of us are fed up with the board behaving like the coalition government that we currently endure by continuing to cut, cut, cut. They are quick to boast of the big profits at the yearly AGM but it is not being invested in the playing side. It was clear that Neil would no longer be a yes man for the board and the worry is we will get someone who toes the line regardless.
I have no axe to grind with Peter Lawwell and I admire the way he guides the good ship Celtic. But the appointment of a new manager now puts the pressure directly on him. A bad appointment and no CL football next season and the Celtic wolves will be howling at his door and I have to say that some of the contenders for the post don’t exactly fill me with glee.
Be careful what you wish for. Sometimes you don’t miss something until its gone and if you actually lose it carelessly then you have only yourself to blame.