Teams can only improve if they have continuity and if the players are secure in a system they understand.
Another factor in Celtic’s improvement has been their participation in the Europa League. Many argued that Celtic’s participation would have a detrimental effect on their domestic form. In fact initially that seemed to be the case, but as Celtic progressed their way through the games, they seemed to get stronger and were unlucky in the event not to qualify for the later stages. Celtic’s pool was made up of good teams from Europe’s strongest leagues which gave Lennon the opportunity to pit his wits against top class continental coaches.
When one looks at the remarkable turnaround in Celtic’s recent fortunes, we have to consider the role of NeilLennon. If he can be blamed for things when they go wrong, then it is only right that he be given praise when he gets things right.
His decision to stick with Samaras seems to be totally justified as he has begun to show what he can do when he is so inclined. Playing him wide left has been an inspired move and he, along with young James Forrest have been the main inspiration in the current Celtic revival. Many Celtic supporters wanted Samaras out in the last transfer window and were dumbfounded by Lennon’s insistence on standing by the big Greek. It may prove to be a masterstroke by Lennon as Samaras is currently paying back his manager’s trust with interest.
Then there is Forrest himself. Under Lennon’s tutelage this young man has developed at an impressive rate. I went along to watch Scotland under 21’s here in Holland and could not believe how mature, strong and talented he has become. The Dutch commentators were in raptures about Forrest. We then turn our attention to one Victor Wanyama.
I had seen Wanyama a few times down in Belgium, but had doubts whether or not he could adapt to the whirly burly of Scottish football. My doubts were soon put to rest as we have seen the big man clearly demonstrate that he could go on and become a big star at Celtic Park.
There are several other youngish players on the fringes and the mood at Celtic Park is upbeat. In general, we have a relatively young squad which is developing at a pleasing rate. I will make no rash predictions about next Wednesday’s game, but suffice to say if we get a fair crack of the whip from the referee then I would be very confident about the rest of the season.
Were Neil Lennon to wrest the SPL championship from Rangers, it would be a magnificent achievement given what this man had to endure last year. Lennon as a manager seems different this year, a bit more distant and analytical. The Scottish press would no doubt ascribe this change of behavior to their role in making Neil Lennon ‘behave’ in a dignified way. Neil Lennon has certainly learned, but not in the way they mean.
First of all, he is much smarter than they give him credit. He knows how things work in Scottish football from his past experiences, the first thing to do is get even, don’t get angry.
Secondly, Neil Lennon knows that if he can win the SPL title his long- term future at Celtic Park is secure and he and his team, will have the opportunity to build a team that will do the club proud for many years.
Finally there is the personal aspect between Neil Lennon and Ally McCoist. I am not so sure that McCoist is quite the affable, cheeky chappie that he likes to present and which is cultivated by the Scottish media. We will probably never know what McCoist said to Neil Lennon at the infamous game at Celtic Park, but whatever it was enragedLennon. As we see McCoist’s limitations being exposed with every passing week, next Wednesday will be a great opportunity for Neil to shake his hand at the end of the game as Celtic run out winners.
Smile, retain a dignified silence and watch Rangers implode. The future belongs to Neil Lennon’s Celtic.