Maley, a gruff, unapproachable disciplinarian, took control of the dressing room in1897 aged just 29 and there he stayed for another four decades, winning thirty major trophies. Stein, a former reserve team coach, was brought back to the club after stellar work with Dunfermline and Hibernian. Though dubbed ‘The Miracle Man’ by the press it was by no means certain that he had the talents to transform things at Parkhead, where standards had slipped appallingly.
From the off Stein showed the backbone which had served him well underground in the Lanarkshire coal pits and throughout a career as a journeyman defender. The chairman, Bob Kelly, and the rest of the board were told, in effect, to leave well alone when it came to football matters. It was a stance which paid off with near instant success in the Scottish Cup of 1965.
There was a similar messianic and driven quality about Martin O’Neill when he arrived from Leicester in the late spring of 2000. Guus Hiddink had been a serious contender for the job but O’Neill was the overwhelmingly popular candidate on the streets. Seen as something of a maverick who was yet to win a league title of any description he immediately wooed the fans by telling them that he’d been told to “walk to Glasgow” by his father if the job of managing Celtic ever came his way.
Lennon, who would play a pivotal role in the garlanded O’Neill era, is a bright and articulate individual like his former gaffer. Not only that the Northern Irishman is utterly unafraid of confrontation in the mould of Stein and Maley, talking openly about wanting his players “to go to war” in order to “bring the thunder” back to Parkhead.
The fact that he will have to learn on the job doesn’t seem to faze him, though sadly he lacks a group of players at the peak of their powers; something O’Neill was able to call upon in Larsson, Sutton, Hartson, Petrov and Lennon himself.
He will though, be able to utilise the leadership qualities he displayed so regularly on the pitch and, above all else, the strength of character which helped him overcome those dark and troubling episodes before, during and after his days in the Hoops. All in all there are many reasons to suspect the new boss has the qualities to rise to the greatest challenge so far of his colourful time in the game.