Two-and-a-half years after his full-time appointment at the Celtic, the going is good for Neil Lennon. Match day six of the Champions League Group Stage turned out to be a special occasion for the Celtic Manager and his players and the fans a grateful.
In the days of Martin O’Neill the last sixteen was just-out-of-touch for the man the supporters idolised. And that was despite making the dreams of many a Celtic supporter come true.
Gordon Strachan carried on that dream by taking the club to two last sixteen places. Sadly, it was there that the dream ended but like his predecessor, Strachan kept up the pursuit of European progression.
The fly in the ointment was Tony Mowbray. A foolhardy appointment if ever there was one.
Every cloud has a silver lining though. Enter Neil Lennon.
Troubled times require fast action. This was witnessed in the dying days of Lennon’s predecessor with the Robbie Keane coup.
No matter, what followed was a slow and steady learning curve. The board had made an error in judgement back in 2009 and now their choice to remedy their mistake was an inexperienced coach.
Was this risky? Fast forward to 2012 and you have your answer.
This season Neil Lennon and his crop of foot soldiers have taken Celtic on a journey. A voyage to foreign shores.
The bright lights of the Champions League have shone on Celtic Park once more and they have not disappointed. The outlook may have promised nothing more another step forward for this team and their coaching staff but they have surpassed that expectation.
Once more Celtic have found themselves in the last sixteen of the Champions Cup and on merit. Against all odds this team of hopefuls have made their own luck.
Away wins both in qualifying and in the group stage put the team on a solid footing. There was a minor stumble at home to Benfica, but the beating of Spartak Moscow in Russia and Barcelona at Paradise has been the crowning glory for this unit of fighters.
The players have grown in stature since Lennon assembled them. He has found balance and creativity as well as a sense of discipline both in his players and within himself.
It has been an engaging and encouraging development down Parkhead way. This metamorphosis has been fascinating.
Wednesday night at Celtic Park was a demonstration of just how far things can go. Neil Lennon knows that and the fans are bursting with pride.
As Neil said in his press conference “no one gave us a prayer”. Well, he has given them something else to chew on now.
What comes next is a mouth-watering tie with a group stage winner. At this point Neil Lennon will take anyone that comes his way.
Win or lose it is a dream come true just to be there. For the fans…for the players…for Neil.
He’s come a long way.