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Lennon’s departure was long overdue

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Neil Lennon’s departure from Celtic Football Club this morning was long overdue for many Celtic fans.

In what was meant to be a historic season for the Glasgow club, Lennon’s side find themselves 18 points behind leaders Rangers, out of Europe and out of the League Cup.

In a statement released by Celtic, exiting Chief Executive Peter Lawwell said:

“I would like to pay tribute to Neil for all he has done for the Club in his second spell, delivering our eighth and ninth successive league titles, the Quadruple Treble and winning the last five available domestic trophies.”

Lawwell, who has also received heavy criticism from Celtic fans, is leaving the club in the summer after 17 years in the role. Current Chief Operating Officer of Scottish Rugby, Dominic McKay set to take his place. A major overhaul is required.

Speaking on Twitter, former teammate and BT Sport pundit Chris Sutton said:

“Neil Lennon had to go. I know this season has been a disaster, but I hope after the anger settles down about this season that people respect that Neil has been a great servant to Celtic both as a player and manager.”

Sutton has been vocal all season about poor performances and issues within the club. His opinion reflects that of many Celtic fans who believe than Lennon had overstayed his welcome at Parkhead.

Lawwell and Sutton are not alone in trying to remind fans of the success Lennon has brought to the club, but many of his previous titles have been unchallenged and expected.  

Other teammates have taken Lennon’s side with former Celtic defender Alan Stubbs saying: “dressing room issues took their toll on Neil Lennon’s position as manager and says he has been let down on so many fronts.”

The players have not hit the heights of previous seasons, but you wonder how much of that is down to Lennon. Outing ‘want-away players following failure to reach the Champions League Group Stage surely did not go down very well in the changing room. Management has come a long way since Lennon’s first appointment in 2010 and as Frank Lampard found out at Chelsea, persistently blaming players for poor performances is the sign of managers perhaps living in the past.

Another issue this season that ultimately falls at Lennon’s feet is the team selection. Highlighted best by David Turnbull, who has been outstanding when picked. No player under 23 has completed more key passes in Europe this season.    

However, it took Lennon till December before he started playing the young star and continued to bring him off right up until his resignation.  The players may have failed Lennon in the words of Stubbs, but Lennon has also failed the players.

Personally, this news was a long time coming. However, issues remain. Perhaps Neil Lennon was asked to resign to save some credibility, but I think it shows indecisiveness which has been displayed by the board all season. Neil Lennon made the decision for the good of the club, not the board and that is worrying.

The timing seems strange, with Celtic only fighting for this season’s Scottish Cup, which is yet to be played. It makes you wonder if this decision should have been made months ago.

Lennon’s initial appointment was a clear step in the wrong direction following Brendan Rodgers sudden departure to Leicester City. Lennon seemed like an old school motivator with very little tactical knowhow – quite the contrast from Rodgers who continues to impress in the Premier League.

I suppose the issue lies with Brendan Rodgers, – not in how he left, but because Celtic will struggle to get a modern manager of his calibre for years to come. Fans perhaps did not realise it at the time, but they were spoilt.

Celtic were extremely lucky to land the ex-Liverpool manager when they did who had steadily been progressing in England before a title collapse left his stock relatively low. Rodgers transformed Celtic, used his connections in England and took the league by storm.  

Eddie Howe had been touted for the job many times, and while an improvement on Lennon in terms of his ability, the issue remains is that he is no Rodgers. Celtic fans are still mourning the loss of a genuinely world-class manager and need to move on.

Last season Rangers progress under Gerrard was evident, they were fitter and stronger than Celtic while just lacking the star power that the Celtic squad had – the 2019 League Cup final being a prime example. While Rangers collapse last season led many Rangers fans to ask for change, anyone outside of the dangerous sphere which is Old Firm Twitter; could see the fine job Gerrard was executing. 

Speaking ahead of his side’s Europa League clash with Royal Antwerp, Gerrard said:

“I can’t say I’m surprised because of obviously what’s been going on over there. But I take no personal satisfaction from seeing that news (happen) to Neil or any other fellow manager that happens to. So I wish him well for the future.”

This season will ultimately belong to Rangers and Steven Gerrard. While Rangers have taken strides forward Celtic seem to have been tripping over their selves. Gerard has brought change and stability to Rangers, Celtic now need to find someone to do the same.

Feature Image Credit: The Totally Football Show

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