Too little too late, but Celtic fans will feel like a weight has been lifted

At the time of writing, word was getting around of Neil Lennon’s departure. It is also the best club news I’ve heard in long time.

We’ve heard jibes about Celtic fans’ so-called sense of entitlement from a variety of sources this season. If there is any truth in that then Neil Lennon’s sense of entitlement to the Celtic job has been far greater.

There was a time when Lennon was under pressure to win his first title, to catch our city rivals and to make progress in Europe. He was constantly under fire from the media, opposition fans and even a torrent of sectarian abuse and threats to kill which was widely tolerated in Scotland.

As a rookie manager, he stood up to all of it. He even open about mental health issues he’d endured over the years.

We were all Neil Lennon. When he left in 2014 I was genuinely surprised and a little disappointed, but we moved on.

When he returned four-and-a-half years later, it was a quick fix to see 8IAR and a treble treble over the line. By seasons end it was it caught everyone by surprise when he was offered the job permanently.

As a club Celtic had evolved under his successor and predecessor. Fans were not convinced of Lennon returning in a permanent capacity citing the club’s lack of vision.

This was largely due to a rather unremarkable caretaker spell and the fact that the club had moved on since his first years as manager. To say that Dermot Desmond and Peter Lawwell seized the moment and jumped on the Hampden bandwagon is an understatement.

They took the cheap option during an era that would go down in history as one of our most successful but were now putting in jeopardy. And in time it would as this season has unfortunately demonstrated to Celtic fans.

All good things must come to an end, but Celtic well and truly threw it away this season. The warning signs were there from the previous season too when we were being run close around Christmas and New Year.

We came out of the blocks after a fantastic Europa League group phase and charged into 2020 as whilst our rivals collapsed. Covid-19 saved them further humiliation, but Celtic were quite rightly awarded that 9IAR title.

This season has been a total failure from the get go, yet nobody has been able to pinpoint why. I believe some players have stayed on longer than they should have perhaps because the club convinced them to stay or pointed at the date their contract ended.

I also think that some of the success carved out by this squad under previous management has carried them and fizzled out too. It’s a culmination of factors and we’ve rode our luck.

It isn’t all on Lennon though. The board backed him all the way but last summers signings haven’t exactly worked out either.

Even after falling fowl to a team we should’ve beaten, another season without Champions League football occurred. Worst still, a diabolical Europa League campaign replaced it.

I’d much rather have been out of Europe altogether. There’s no guarantee it would have aided our domestic campaign because Celtic’s season collapsed before the clocks had even changed.

Back when some fans were saying Lennon should have gone after the Champions League exit, I disagreed. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but they were right.

I don’t do knee-jerk reactions, but when Lennon threw unnamed players under the bus, that was the end of it. I don’t know if there was a dressing room split, but Lennon himself alluded to other issues behind the scenes in recent interviews which he said would remain club matters.

It may all come out in the wash eventually. I don’t think he’d lost the dressing room, but I do think he lost the fight.

Perhaps during the culture change under Deila and Rodgers, the club had evolved to a point where Lennon himself couldn’t adapt. He mentioned in some interviews that he had to approach this squad in a way different to his previous spell at the club.

Training routines were pretty much as they were when he arrived. I often wonder if that coupled with a back room staff that didn’t include his mates was an issue in his head?

Damien Duff’s departure last summer certainly didn’t appear to benefit us. Nor did the arrival of Gavin Strachan and his laptop.

There’s no doubt Lennon got some of his players working for him. I think there’s many that have let him down too.

The over all picture of this season has been one of the worst I can since those of Barnes and Mowbray. Nobody saw our rivals having a run like they have had – domestic or European.

Even with that, Celtic failed under Neil Lennon to match it or disrupt it. As I said earlier, our Europa League campaign was abysmal.

However, the only thing Celtic fans were thinking of this season was 10IAR and we shot ourselves in the foot too many times. An early season draw at Kilmarnock was dismissive, but the home defeats by Ferencvaros and our city rivals were not.

Having lost the Glasgow derby in deplorable style, we hit the skids winning only two of our next eleven matches. After that it looked like we may have been getting our mojo back just in time for the Scottish Cup Final and the build up to the next Glasgow derby at Ibrox.

We won six games in a row and there was a degree of confidence going to Ibrox and getting a result. This would turn our season around and finally we could get behind the team again.

What happened was completely the opposite. Dominating the game yielded nothing more than conceding an own goal and 10IAR was dead.

After that day, thing descended into madness as the Celtic squad headed to Dubai during a global pandemic. However you interpret the pictures that made social media and the news, it didn’t look good at all.

The debate between the club and the government was one issue. In the eyes of many, myself included, they should never have gone.

The madness continued with players and coaches having to self isolate after one player ended up with Coronavirus. With Lennon and assistant John Kennedy unable to be in the dug out, Gavin Strachan and back room staff from other roles within the club stepped up to manage the upcoming games minus several first team players too.

Celtic had well and truly become a laughing stock as they haemorrhaged more points. The club’s capitulation was finally complete.

I could no longer get upset at results any more. I had gone past the stage of caring even Ross County beat us on Sunday night.

Today’s confirmation of Lennon’s resignation is one of relief. We can still finish second in the league and indeed we must, but more importantly, we have confirmation of a few things.

Lennon will not be in the dug out for the remainder of the season or against our city rivals for those last two meetings. More importantly, Celtic are looking for a new manager for next season.

We thank you for your service, Neil, but you outstayed your welcome. Time for a fresh look.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac