Neil Lennon continues to find himself on the roller-coaster ride that is the Manager of Celtic FC…………but for how long? In this blog I want to put forward an argument that our club needs stability and nowhere more so than within the post of Manager…..
Firstly here are the figures to give some much needed context – Over the course of Celtic’s first 103 years the club had employed just 6 Managers, 2 of whom had occupied the ‘Managers Office’ for a total of 63 years, namely Willie Maley (43yrs) and Jimmy McGrory (20yrs), whilst Billy McNeill had enjoyed 2 spells in charge. Following McNeill leaving the club in 1991, however, there has been 10 full-time occupants of this post, including Lennon, and 4 temporary occupants (Connor, Stark, Dalglish & Lennon). Over the course of these 20 years around 170 players have signed on the dotted line, an average of around 8 players per season. Lennon himself has seen 13 players off the premises (including Braafheid) whilst welcoming 15 (including Kelvin Wilson) since his appointment was made official in June 2010. In stark contrast, Rangers have, since 1991, had 4 managers with Smith in his second spell in charge.
The figures above it should be said are not unique within the world of modern day football but it cannot, in my opinion, provide a club with any degree of stability. Neil Lennon was appointed after Celtic had experimented with Tony Mowbray who in his 45 games in charge won only 23, an achievement reached via an unattractive style of football developed within Mowbray’s relegation battles with West Brom. Celtic fans were desperate for someone to be appointed who had the club at their heart and who would bring back a style of football known affectionately as ‘The Glasgow Celtic Way’. Lennon ticked the first box, however, defeat to Ross County led to many questioning whether a “rookie” should take charge. June 2010 saw the board announce Lennon as Celtic’s 16th manager, an appointment which was met with mixed feelings depending on which fans forum you read! These feelings of unease were not helped by the board’s apparent mistrust of handing the reins over completely to Lennon with their much publicised botched pursuit of a Director of Football and our early exits from both European Competitions.
Lennon, however, has stood firm and focused on the task at hand with a manner which belies his inexperience. He has been given the freedom by the board to build his team, something which was desperately required in both senses of the word. In doing so Lennon has brought us the raw talents of Izaguirre, Ledley, Kayal, Commons, Stokes and Hooper whilst also resurrecting the careers of Wilson, Mulgrew, Brown and Samaras. Tactically he appears to have learnt from our early formations of a rigid 4-2-4 which failed us in Europe to a more fluid 4-4-1-1 which is sculpted around a mix of style and aggression. At the time of writing Celtic remain unbeaten in 17 matches and are 8 points clear at the top of the league. Lennon has gone to Ibrox in a “must win” league match and shown he has the courage to tweak with his team and emerge victorious. He has instilled in the team a mental strength which has seen them play Rangers off the park with 10 men against 11 and he has most definitely brought the thunder back. As a Celtic fan I now feel a connection with the manager and the team which has not been felt since Martin O’Neill.
I agree with Celtic’s policy regarding Lennon’s 12 month contract if reports that this is rolling are true ala Martin O’Neill’s. Such short-term contracts are best for all involved and if they are good enough for Pep Guardiola then they are good enough for Neil Lennon. What Celtic must do, however, is continue to roll this contract along and, as I said in my last blog, allow the team to grow old together under the watchful eye of Neil Lennon. The big challenge for Lennon, however, will come next year in Europe when he will be challenged at a level higher than that of the SPL but I am convinced that he is the man to lead us in to this adventure and beyond – In Lennon We Trust!