And so another season comes to a close with another league Championship in the bag. Had it not been for Celtic’s unfortunate Scottish Cup exit all eyes could have been fixed on this Saturday’s final, but what’s done is done.
I do enjoy a day in May and Hampden in the sun, even if it’s not that good an atmosphere or venue for football any more. And there’s that feeling once more that our season dried up after European exit and the realisation thay nobody can possibly win the league other than Celtic.
That is the reality of Scottish football right now. And in many ways its good that Celtic don’t have a double or treble.
Good in that other Scottish clubs experience glory as they should. That they can claim the scalp that prevents them from winning the league.
An yet its a bad thing because it can devalue the trophy. Not me of course, I’ve always been a huge fan of the Scottish Cup and I miss being involved.
Of course this year the final is at Celtic Park and not Hampden so I’m pleased with that for starters. The atmosphere generated is superior, the camera positioning for TV gives the viewer a better perspective of the matchplay and well… its Paradise.
That’s by the by though. The fact is Celtic won’t be there to compete.
Its fair to say that Neil Lennon has missed out on another treble opportunity but the heads are not down. Having said that, the finalists deserve to be there and Celtic don’t.
So what next for Celtic then? Well there will be exits this summer.
Sammy is the first confirmed departure, whether he wanted to go or not. If players are to be brought in then its likely more room will have to be made.
Other than the ongoing rumoured interest in Fraser Forster and Virgil van Dijk nobody else on the playing staff is a cert to leave. However, Celtic may decide to cut their losses with some under performers.
Amido Baldé, Teemu Pukki, Derk Boerrigter and Beram Kayal are all names on the lips of frustrated fans. Some have suggested all of these guys could go on the summer though I’m more realistic that it will amount to no more than two.
Pukki started off with a couple of goals this season and then faded faster than London Road School did. Typically, when the expectation and spotlight came off him, his performances eventually improved and unless he’s not enjoying life at Celtic, I think he’s got another chance at the club.
Still, he must improve further if he is to win over the fans or indeed the manager. If doesn’t, he’ll join the club of recently failed strikers that already include Morten Rasmussen, Mo Bangura and Daryl Murphy – not where you want to be.
Also in that category is Amido Baldé, who on arrival was pretty raw. The few opportunities he has had to prove himself have been inconclusive in my opinion, but Lennon sees him on the training ground so it’ll be interesting to find out if as he’s seen enough.
On the flank (or should that be the treatment table?) is Derk Boerrigter. He has had his injuries throughout the season, but lets be honest, when you come with the player nickname ‘sick note’, you’re a gamble.
Allegedly he didn’t cost the club as much as was first mentioned. Though that doesn’t excuse just how unimpressed we’ve all been.
When I saw him in the opening game of the season at Celtic Park I thought he looked well up for it. That was of course until he went off injured in the same match.
I reserved judgement until I’d seen more evidence but this had been a write off début season. Will he get another chance though?
Last on my list is Beram Kayal. In contrast to ‘sick note’ the, Israeli international had a fantastic start to his Celtic career.
Despite suffering injury in that first season, he had successfully established himself in the Celtic midfield and caused the media to report of imminent moves to Man U (we know how well that went for Liam Miller). Sadly, since then he has picked up further injuries and lacked the composure witnessed in his début season.
I’m sure many thought, as I did, he would stake his claim once more in the wake of Victor Wanyama’s departure last summer. To a certain extent he did only to endure further injury and poor form.
So a huge question mark hangs over Kayal’s future at Celtic. He is claimed to have bad mouthed Celtic and Scotland but the accuracy of those comments have never been verified.
Whatever the future of these guys, changes in the squad will be made. Some player’s might move up the ladder such as Friðjónsson and some may need a new challenge like Zaluska.
Whatever the comings and goings take place, one man who will not oversee it is Johan Mjallby. His imminent departure sparked not just rumours about the vacancy he would create but the future of Neil Lennon himself.
In Johan you have a man who served Celtic as a player and in a god-like manor. He played through the pain barrier for Martin O’Neill and was rightly credited by the Irishman as the type of player he could have done with having a whole team of.
As an assistant manager I don’t see that quality. That’s why I think he has to be his own man and I wish him all the best with that – a rare idol of mine, I must say.
So what about Lennon? Is this a prelude to his departure?
For me, not a chance. I know a few folk in the Celtic community might think so but I’m not convinced.
I’m fairly certain there’s a number of Scottish and Northern Irish folk who would like him to leave as well. But can I just remind all of you that this guy has stuck with this club through thick and thin please?
He’s battled the kind elements the majority of us have only dealt with, one at a time at the most and some not at all. Lennon has taken on physical violence, death threats, parcel bombs and depression.
Aside from family life itself, that’s just the personal check list. He still has to manage the media, the board, the owner, the players, the expectations of the fans, a tight budget and of course every team that wants to beat Glasgow Celtic at home and abroad.
Do you think he’s doing a good job? I do and I think it’s absurd to suggest that a man with such will and determination should or could you go.
For starters, he is still a young manager and probably not equipped for Premier League jobs. He has done well with what he has, but surviving the English Premier League is different territory altogether.
Also, it should not be forgotten that Scottish football is so transparent these days, Celtic would struggle to capture someone of sufficient quality to improve things with the same constraints a Celtic managerial role has. Celtic is a self sufficient club but Scottish football is as unstable as the Ibrox bank balance.
Lennon can and will achieve more at Celtic and is far from the finished article in coaching. A time will come when it is time for him to move on but that time is not now.