I’ll be the first to admit that in order for Celtic to maintain progress, Neil Lennon would not be my primary candidate for the permanent vacancy. However, should our supporters be apportioning blame to the interim manager with the way Celtic are playing right now?
Firstly, unless I’m reading things differently, Lennon has been very open about Celtic’s current style of play. He has continually commented on wanting to change things and more recently said:
“It’s a style of play that they are used to and it’s a different style of play from what I’ve been used to.”
“However, it works and you can’t change it overnight, anyway.”
Those quotes were in the aftermath of the 2-1 win over Rangers at Celtic Park. In his post match comments he also went on to share his thoughts during that game:
“If this ends up 1-1, I am going to be changing a lot of things. Or doing a lot more things my way.”
So if Lennon hasn’t changed anything, is it fair to criticise him for these performances? He’s the manager, no arguments there, but he’s said on several occasions about his desire to change things, not that he has.
We’re all in agreement that watching these dismal second halves are depressing and frustrating. These were also abundant under Brendan Rodgers.
If the matchday plan and training is the same, then I’d argue that this is not a Lennon Celtic team. We haven’t seen that yet.
He’s been tasked with seeing out the season with the team in its current form with the assistance of John Kennedy, who was first team coach under Brendan Rodgers and Damien Duff who has stepped up as well. I don’t believe Neil is meddling too much, merely steering the ship and being a figurehead for the team.
Many interim appointments are brought in to improve struggling teams. This team was not in that position, they just lost their leader of almost three years, so major surgery was not required.
Now they have a temporary leader who does not appear to have authorisation to change things. So all the routines are the same from training to tactics.
I’m not making a case for Neil Lennon, just the situation we are in. Because of that, I think fans need to lay off because he hasn’t altered the script and won’t get that opportunity until the summer, if he does get the full-time position.
John Kennedy has backed Neil’s arrival and his presence. He knows they both need to deliver, but it is equally clear that the game plan will not be changed before the season is out.
Despite our frustration, there is total logic in this approach. If Neil had come in and changed everything it could have had a detrimental effect on the team.
Some may argue that he is having a detrimental effect on things. There is no evidence of that though.
Changing a winning formula would not be wise at a stage in the season when you are on the cusp of another treble. You might even suggest it would be career suicide.
I’ve watched Celtic falter toward the finishing line in many a season. No matter the manager.
If Neil is telling us he intends to change things from how they are now, then that means nothing has changed. It is only the absence of Brendan Rodgers and Chris Davies that has changed.
This is another reason why I think Neil will get the job permanently. He will have outlined his ideas and plans and the board will be considering if that is the best way forward.
Would I like to see someone else get the job? I would certainly like to see someone who can perhaps improve our chances in Europe, yes.
Is Neil Lennon that person? I don’t feel that he is, but perhaps we’ll only find out when and if he gets another crack at it.
Can he deliver 10-in-a-row? Probably, but there’s the bigger picture to consider.
The odds keep shifting on other potential suitors, but Neil remains the bookies favourite. The latest to join the list with Roberto Martinez (still with Belgium), Rafa Benitez (out of contract with Newcastle in the summer) and Marco Rose (tipped to join Borussia Monchengladbach from Salzburg) is former Premier League manager, Andre Villas-Boas.
He is currently out of work having left Shanghai SIPG toward the end of 2017. I don’t think he would be a bad acquisition for Celtic to be honest.
The question for the Celtic board is what are the club’s aspirations? Domestic domination or European income?
You would assume both and they can have both so long as we aren’t just taking the easy route and opting to keep Rangers at arm’s length. That isn’t a challenge, merely an exercise.
Brendan Rodgers didn’t have the impact on Europe that we had hoped. He did boss matters in Scotland though.
I don’t know what the future holds for Celtic in this season or the next. You can probably bet it will involve Neil Lennon and John Kennedy though.