Lennon all along…

For weeks and months I was 100% certain that Neil Lennon would be installed as Celtic’s next permanent manager. I could not see past it.

Then in recent weeks, rumours, stories and the like started to emerge that people on the so-called candidate list were more likely. David Moyes, Andre Villas-Boas, Rafa Benitez, heck even Jose Mourinho were up and down the bookies odds like pole dancer. I never thought for a second Mourinho would come to Celtic and AVB or Benitez were on my wish, but Moyes became the name everyone seemed to believe was getting the gig.

At the very least, this convinced most people that Lennon was not even being entertained for the job. His own personal comments also led us to believe he was being overlooked.

Then during the wave of excitement at Hampden Park yesterday, Peter Lawwell floored us all that Neil Lennon had been offered the job. I actually couldn’t believe it.

Lawwell told the media that “Neil would still have been the manager, no matter what happened today.” Take from that what you want but he’s either just seized the moment or they planned on doing this all along.

Did they even sound out other candidates? Some sources suggest that they did, but I honestly don’t know.

Chris Sutton claimed that they had talked to other candidates. He also believed that the board didn’t trust Lennon with the job otherwise they would have offered him the job before yesterday’s announcement.

And he claimed that Neil was totally in the dark or had a good poker face. Either way, Lennon never stopped talking about the future of Celtic as though he was still going to be there.

Many supporters made it clear they did not want Neil to continue in the role on a permanent basis. I’ve made my own arguments as to why I was of the same opinion.

The club have made a bold decision, fully aware that the fans were not totally on board. Making the announcement during the euphoria of yesterday’s historical treble treble was perhaps to deflect any negative feedback.

Suffice to say, we were all taken aback when the news filtered through. No fan has any ill-feeling towards Neil at all.

He is loved thoroughly by the support. The credentials that Lawwell spoke highly of are the same ones that Celtic fans are questioning though.

There is no doubting that it was Neil who got this party started back in 2012 with a team assembled by himself. There is a concern though that he will take the club backwards.

I’ve prattled on about this plenty of times before, but I’ll say it again. The club has evolved in several areas.

The key areas are those which improved the overall condition of the players. Diet, bodyweight, fitness and general lifestyle.

I’m not saying Neil is about the get the vending machines wheeled back in at Lennoxtown or anything. Will he embrace and continue with the culture that began under Ronny and progressed by Brendan though?

That is what concerns me. Different coaches have different methods and Neil has an old school approach.

In the time he has been away, what has he learned? About himself, about management, about tactics and about personnel.

Our football has turned sour, but it did so before Neil arrived. He maintains he hasn’t changed anything, but we will have to wait and see what kind of football he plans to utilise going forward.

It was only four years ago he chose to leave and explore other challenges. Whatever his reasons for leaving Celtic back then, it would be interesting to know what has changed in that period and what he can offer that he hasn’t done already.

My personal feeling was that one day, Neil would indeed come back. I didn’t know when or under what circumstances.

I enjoyed the football during his time, but it was not without its errors. He drafted in some very good players and also some very poor players.

We were shaky at the back, had player discipline issues and some players who just weren’t up to the job. We can’t go down that road again.

In his final year the well was beginning to dry up and some major transfer flops were propping up the squad. He has the makings of a very good squad just now, but it will need an injection of fresh talent.

I think what most fans will be wondering is, will he get the finance to back it? Neil is considered the cheap option and the board may have chosen him because of that.

A safe pair of hands to do the domestic stuff. What does that say about club’s aspirations though?

We all want progress in Europe and our best hope for that would have come in the shape of a foreign coach. I’m not bashing Neil’s desire or passion to play in Europe.

He delivered one of the best nights in European football that I’ll probably ever experience. Can he take it any further though?

I had hoped that Brendan might make in roads in Europe, but he didn’t. In fact we had some horrendous results under Brendan in Europe.

Neil actually has a better win ratio in Europe than Brendan funnily enough. He fairs better at 50% compared to his fellow Northern Irishman at just over 41%.

All I hope for is that Celtic can maintain some progress. I’m confident that Neil can secure the league again and that is obviously a priority.

We must continue to do that as it is our only ticket into the Champions League. Neil’s been there before and it proved difficult for him, but he knows the expectations of our fans.

In the group phase Neil has only ever won four out of the twelve matches played and drawn one. He lost the other seven, including five matches in his second attempt at the group stage.

He also lost both matches in his one time in the last sixteen of the tournament. Both games totally forgettable as we lost 5-0 on aggregate to Juventus.

Obviously, the gap has widened in Europe for clubs like Celtic since then. We are chasing the impossible dream.

It doesn’t just take money. It takes a very good manager.

I have to expect very little in Europe from Celtic now. I can’t see what Neil can improve upon on that front, but I am prepared to be proved wrong.

Perhaps he would have better fortunes in the Europa League. Even then, there are some formidable teams in that competition.

If we are lucky to even get to the group phase of either of those competitions we will have a long road to get there. Something we have become accustomed to as Celtic supporters.

It’s a gruelling journey and so early in the football calendar especially when you’ve just had energy sapping season. Thankfully, there are no international tournaments like last summer, so Neil will have the majority of his players ready and able.

He will also need to plunge into the transfer market quickly. We have a good squad, but there are several positions which require strengthening.

There are a few players that were signed up in January that have still to be make any impact on the team. And in terms of fringe players, a few might get shipped out altogether as there Celtic careers have never really gotten off the ground.

So there is a lot of work to be done and Neil has said several times in the last few weeks that targets have been identified. Let’s hope they can help him get his second spell as permanent manager off and running.

The Celtic support will be scrutinising every move from this point onwards. You can bet on that.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

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Whatever happens today, we live in treasured times

On this day, ten years ago, Gordon Strachan officially resigned from his post as Celtic manager. The previous day, the final league game of the season, Celtic needed to beat Hearts and for Rangers to lose, in order to win the title.

Celtic drew 0-0 and Rangers won 0-3, securing their first title in four years. Despite all his progress, Gordon had failed to win a fourth consecutive title and left the club under a bit of a cloud.

Even though he had bagged the League Cup earlier in the year, it was a fairly disappointing season. If the support were still split over his initial appointment, then more were clambering for his resignation.

I was a big fan of Gordon. The football wasn’t the best, but he did get results and we did have some pretty amazing games during his time.

Whether it was domestic or European football, I had some great nights watching Naka, JVoH, Maloney, Boruc and co. I would have liked Gordon to have stayed on if I am being honest and he most definitely should have won a treble during his tenure but it was not to be.

His replacement, Tony Mowbray, was announced three weeks after his departure. It divided the support a little, me myself taking the view that he was a mediocre replacement.

That assessment turned out to be spot on. I never gloated about being correct, but I’ve never felt so exonerated about pinning my opinion on something, given the level of arguments I got in.

Following a lacklustre nine months at the helm, Mowbray was fired. He’d failed in pretty much every department since his arrival.

Neil Lennon stepped up from Reserve Team Coach – a position Mowbray had ‘relegated’ him to pretty much upon arrival – to resolve first team matters. Neil won all eight remaining league matches, but it was not enough to rest the title from Rangers.

He also lost a poorly attended Scottish Cup semi final to Ross County 2-0. A match that Neil heavily criticised the players for.

It was Celtic’s first trophy-less season since 2002-2003. The club’s stock was pretty low by this point and a spark was needed to revive matters.

Having enjoyed domestic and European joy through Martin O’Neill and Gordon Strachan, Tony Mowbray brought nothing but disappointment and dullness. The person charged with restoring some belief and excitement was Neil Lennon.

He had no experience as manager, but he was a passionate supporter of the club and a fans favourite. We were not under any illusions though, because appointing Neil was risky and we all had our reservations.

The club had spent money on freeing Mowbray from his West Brom contract and they now had to compensate his exit as wekk. It was an expensive failure and now with a squad needing extensive surgery, they could not afford to reel in a big fish.

Celtic were not an attractive prospect at this point. It became apparent that Neil was the only man for the job.

On his first full season in charge, Neil came within one point of matching Rangers. Had he done so, he would have won his first title as a manager on goal difference.

For his first season in charge it was a great attempt for a rookie manager. He also got Celtic to both domestic cup finals, losing out to Rangers in the League Cup, but beating Motherwell in the Scottish Cup.

On paper, it’s a pretty good effort at club with expectations. He’d drafted in some good players such as Fraser Forster, Joe Ledley, Gary Hooper, Kris Commons, Beram Kayal, Charlie Mulgrew, Emilio Izaguirre, Anthony Stokes and Efrain Juarez.

Things were on the up and Celtic were had rediscovered their mojo. Would the season that followed yield greater success?

It certainly did and Celtic bolstered the squad further with the likes of Adam Matthews, Victor Wanyama, Mikael Lustig and Kelvin Wilson. Celtic would make a better impact in Europe, but this would also be the season Neil would win his first title as a manager.

For Rangers, this might have been the season that spelled the end of their existence. For Neil Lennon, this was just the beginning.

Neil had lost the League Cup Final to Kilmarnock and the Scottish Cup Semi Final to Hearts. However, he had won the biggest domestic prize by some distance and was a ticket to the Champions League.

A staggering margin of 20 points separated Neil Lennon and Ally McCoist. Rangers had been deducted 10 points for falling into administration, but a further ten points separated the two clubs anyway.

The liquidation of their rivals meant that Celtic’s domination would continue. No other Scottish club mounted a serious challenge upon the Champions.

Neil would go on to enjoy more domestic success. He would also claim the biggest scalp of his managerial career by beating Barcelona 2-1 at Celtic Park.

Whilst he would become the only the fourth Celtic manager to win three titles on the bounce, that victory over one of the worlds finest every teams is up there with the club’s finest ever moments in history. The odds were stacked against Celtic that night, but they got a result that will live long in the memory.

There’s no doubt Neil must take credit for assembling a squad of believers. Especially in a time when he was under a torrent of abuse from rival supporters and outside factions regarding his Northern Irish roots and allegiance to Celtic Football Club.

Eventually, Neil would walk away from Celtic to seek new challenges after four seasons in charge. His three titles got the ball rolling for what has been total domination in Scotland for the last eight seasons.

Now in his second spell as caretaker manager he has helped deliver an eighth title and today he will take this Celtic squad to Hampden in a bid to win the Scottish Cup. Victory would mean another treble for Celtic the long discussed, Treble Treble.

What treasured times these are for Celtic. This trophy may have not been on the agenda that was handed to Neil when he came in during February, but Celtic are here now.

The players must go out and give it their all today against a Hearts side that will be desperate to halt Celtic’s drive for another piece of history. I believe I’ve seen enough of Celtic over the last few weeks to know that this final can be won.

There may be fatigue, niggling injuries and an overwhelming sense of pressure to deliver. This squad have been here before though.

After this season I do not expect a repeat of this level of success. Not next season, not in my lifetime.

We will have a managerial appointment in the coming days. It might be not be Neil Lennon as it was nine years ago.

All I know is that whoever takes that job has a lot to live up to including what Neil, Ronny and Brendan have all done. We’ve witnessed greatness and history for almost a decade and today we may see some more.

I thank Neil, his back room staff and the Celtic players for delivering the title and for making this day possible. Whatever happens today, whatever happens tomorrow, I will support this team and this club forever.

Today is also the day, 52 years ago that Celtic lifted the European Cup in Lisbon. We shall mark the passing of two of those Lion’s in recent weeks at today’s final.

Victory would be a special tribute to them, their families and the supporters. We must do our best to ensure of that.

Good luck Bhoys. History awaits you.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Hampden, history and taking a back seat…

On Saturday Celtic will face Hearts in the Scottish Cup Final. The club are on the cusp of historical greatness once again.

For some Celtic players, this could be their last ever outing in the Hoops should they be given a chance to do so. There are also some who have already made their final appearance for the club, but the majority of the team, regardless of their futures, are likely to be at Hampden for what could be a treble treble.

Hearts will of course be out to spoil such an occasion. The Edinburgh side will be competing in their first Scottish Cup Final since 2012.

They won that one in convincing fashion 5-1 against city rivals Hibernian. It was the club’s fourteenth Scottish Cup Final appearance and their eighth win.

Seven years on the task falls to a new team and manager. Craig Levein has never won a trophy as a player or a manager whilst his opposite number, Neil Lennon, has lifted thirteen as a player and seven as a manager.

So Levein is looking to lift his first piece of silverware in management and Lennon is aiming to lift his eighth. And of course, this would also be Celtic’s thirty-nineth Scottish Cup win if the result goes their way.

We’ll see two very different teams to the ones we saw last week at Celtic Park. That game was played out in a very open manner, knowing that nothing was really at stake.

Celtic used a glut of youngsters who by and large put in a good shift. Mikey Johnston was the star of the show with two stunning goals, but came close to being outshone by an even younger Karamoke Dembele who made his first team debut.

You would fancy at least one or at both players to make an appearance on Saturday. However, as I said earlier this will be good bye for some Celtic players.

Cristian Gamboa, Emilio Izaguirre, Dorus de Vries, Scott Allan, Dedryck Boyata, Jeremy Toljan and Oliver Burke will move on or return to their parent clubs. They could be followed by Filip Benkovic unless Celtic seek an extension to what has been a very successful loan spell from Leicester City.

Mikael Lustig has not declared his position as yet and it is 50/50 whether he stays or goes. Celtic may also try to offload a couple more who have failed to make a breakthrough such as Eboue Kouassi, Marvin Compper, Jack Hendry, Kundai Benyu and Youssouf Mulumbu.

And in terms of raking in some cash, there are players that have some value and will be on the radar of other clubs. The latter is of course specualtion though and will undoubtedly come down to the next manager.

Talking of which, we will find out after this cup final who is to take the permanent role. There has been no end to speculation about the next appointment.

In recent days it has gone from one favourite to the next. Many believe it is already going to be Neil Lennon, which for a large amount of the fan base is not the way forward.

Neil has been actively looking at players to bring in for the future fueling the rumour that he will be here next season. What if that wasn’t as the head coach though?

I put it to a few people yesterday about the likelihood of Neil Lennon as a Director of Football. It is clear the club value Neil’s opinion, but they must also know that in order to evolve on the park and in training that we need fresh ideas to continue the change that began under Ronny Deila.

Neil is of course Celtic through and through and has a huge interest in the club. Whether this is a role he feels he could settle in is another question.

Effectively he would be taking a back seat from the guy doing the training, picking the team and arranging the tactics. The tasks involved in a Director of Football role can vary and is much more common overseas than in the UK, but it is possible that Lennon has already been doing part of that role since he came in.

Which is why it is more likely that someone well versed in our club’s affairs, working with a continental manager could be a goer. If that is what Celtic want, to have a go-between like Lennon working with a guy such as, I dunno say Andre Villas-Boas, then I would be happy with that.

Right now though, we don’t know what the board’s thinking is. I’m just throwing it out there.

We won’t know anything until after Saturday. So let’s make some more history first and hopefully continue to make more with a solid plan for the future.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

Change is afoot

For the second time this season Celtic have lost at Ibrox. Brendan Rodgers lost in December and now Neil Lennon has lost in May.

Whilst Celtic are eight-in-a-row Champions, and possible treble treble winners, this team’s performance level has been on the slide for since at least last summer if not before. Neil Lennon has been given an opportunity to manage this squad and complete a treble, but I think the greater task may be out with his own capabilities.

This is not simply about domestic domination. It is about the evolution of the club on and off the parlk.

It’s fair to say Neil hasn’t had the opportunity to recruit and isn’t wholly a team of his making. However, I also have my reservations about Neil’s style of management.

Celtic tried to change the culture of health, fitness and training five years ago. Presumably, that was why Ronny Deila was recruited before Neil had even left.

Ronny ended up becoming manager instead, in the wake of Neil’s departure. We need to maintain that culture change and I’m concerned Neil hasn’t grasped that area of coaching yet.

You can’t just be everyone’s mate, go on the bevy with the players and bleed your heart out to the fans. It’s about development, discipline, fitness, health, recruitment and tactics.

If you truly want to make inroads in Europe you have to be professional in all areas. That was what Ronny started, Brendan continued and the next full time manager must also do.

I just don’t think that should be down to Neil. We need to think bigger and to safeguard our future.

At the beginning of this title run we had Neil who had a rapport with the fans, Ronny was a good coach with a likeable personality, but the Celtic job was evidently too big for him even though he secures two titles.

Celtic need someone who can man manage like Brendan did, but help us progress to the next level as well. Especially in Europe.

I’ve been troubled that the club would take the easy path and opt for Neil. They would be taking a huge risk if they did.

When Ronny Deila lost on penalties to a Championship based Rangers side, the writing was on the wall for him and they board responded with Brendan Rodgers. Celtic have now lost both Ibrox games and I think that should be a wake up call for everyone at Celtic.

We need to up the ante once again. I don’t think that responsibility should go to Neil Lennon.

Whilst he lives and breathes the club his passion may cloud his judgement. I know he wants the job again, but is he really got anything else to offer that we haven’t seen before?

Today’s match at Ibrox was brutal. It was almost a carbon copy of the December game.

We lost a cheap and lucky goal through a self inflicted mistake. Rangers should’ve had a man sent off as well.

You win games, you lose games. I’m concerned though that these two matches have been lost in the same defeatist manner.

Neil discussed the possibility of mental or physical fatigue. I don’t know if that’s fact or fiction, even if it is plausible.

It is disconcerting though. Especially when there is a cup final still to play.

Change is afoot. The board must react.

To fund a new era will take money and to do so, we may need to sell some assets. That’ll be decided between the board and the new manager I expect.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

When Sunday comes…

The final showdown of the season with Rangers takes place tomorrow. In the buildup this week there’s been the usual flurry of irresponsible mainstream and social media bile to fuel the fire as well.

Not that you ever need it. These games come with their own self driven importance.

No trophies are being contested. This one is for personal glory.

With the league all tied up last week, Celtic can go out and enjoy this one. The emphasis on winning should be no less though.

Some have suggested on throwing in some young players. That we should play a weakened team.

In a game like this with Neil Lennon in charge there’s little chance of that ever happening. He’s played in these games, captained them and has managed his fair share also.

Celtic do have a cup final to think about in two weeks, but I think it is more likely he’ll rest players at home to Hearts next week. The final league game is at home and it will be a day of celebration at Celtic Park regardless of that result.

On Sunday, Celtic will aiming to avoid a repeat of their last visit to Ibrox. Brendan Rodgers made a huge mistake in that game.

Some even suggested he deliberately messed up to make a point. Career suicide or not, he is no longer here.

Lennon won the next encounter and it was an explosive affair. This match will be under the microscope even more than usual.

As I said before, the media have been stirring matters up. They always do.

The guard of honour farce is really tiresome. I’m sick of hearing about it.

In truth I actually don’t give a flying fuck about it. Tradition or not it means nothing to me, especially from the walking dead.

The pettiness level at Ibrox has become something of a sideshow. From reducing visitors allocation to binning applauding the Champions is nothing more than I expect from the Dave King circus.

He’s managed to get Steven Gerrard to whistle his tune. That is of course until he threw the club under the bus on honouring Celtic.

We also had the story of Tom Rogic moving south. A story out of nowhere that had no source and was discredited by his agent soon after.

I mean is there a big game this week? We’ve already had the odd poisonous story about Leigh Griffiths to deal with from areas of the SMSM.

Then yesterday we had the Timo Weah story. One which the player himself churned out.

The on loan PSG youngster has now left the club following his rejection of returning to Celtic for the Scottish Cup final. The anti-Lennon brigade within our support immediately jumped on the social media post that didn’t tell the full story.

I think we were all hopeful of Weah making an impact, but he by no means took the team by storm. I’d liked to have seen more of him, but to turn down a deal to play for your country and enjoy making history with Celtic then I have no problems with him leaving now.

Perhaps his words these past few months are not as sincere as we thought. Besides, he’s a loanee and will not be here next season so I won’t lose any sleep.

The focus remains on Ibrox and the players available to us. I’m sure that was on Lennon’s mind when he told Weah to pack up early.

He wants people committed to the cause that he is trying to preserve, for the next few matches anyway. Personally, I’m looking forward to this one.

It’s an opportunity to exorcise the last match at Ibrox. Stay disciplined on their turf unlike they managed on ours and increase our lead as Champions.

Lennon doesn’t have anything to prove at this stage. If he is the next full time manager he’ll need to prove himself then.

This unbeaten run has been about seeing out the season. It’s not an audition for the job in my opinion.

If there are any other candidates then that will be the measure, but the club will be thankful of Neil’s interim appointment. Speaking of which, head of recruitment, Lee Congerton has finally left the club.

It won’t come as any surprise because overall he hasn’t delivered the goods. With the club’s limitations on finances he has failed to unearth any bargains or gems.

For Celtic that is no good. Likewise, we cannot keep trundling along on with loan deals if player resales are a key part of our income.

So the clearout is already underway. Until Sunday then.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

All England finals and something for Scotland to aspire to.

This week has seen two of the best Champions League semi finals ever. With both remaining English clubs facing difficult second legs, they each came up with the goods and in dramatic fashion.

Last night, Arsenal and Chelsea were in a position to replicate the fortunes of Liverpool on Tuesday and Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday. With each having a very good chance of making the Europa League Final they delivered when it mattered.

Now, with all European finalists being from the same country, English teams have made history. It is of course made more possible when teams from that country are rewarded more places than most.

That is the way European football is currently set up and in the future that is only likely to favour the elite further. I may complain, but even with the four places Scotland are currently allocated, there’s generally a fairly poor showing by our clubs year after year.

This season Rangers made the group stage of the Europa League, but no further. Aberdeen exited in the second qualifying round at the hands of Burnley, whilst Hibs lost to Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s Molde in the third qualifying round.

Scottish teams need to do better. Much better.

Celtic are no exception. Whilst we have been flying the flag in the European group stages and occasionally beyond, we haven’t made much progress.

We thought Brendan Rodgers was going to be the answer to that. He wasn’t and the next manager will need to be or we will be back to square one again.

There is plenty of inspiration out there right now. Even though all the English clubs are well endowed with large revenue streams, it is their fighting spirit over the last three nights that I’ve found encouraging.

We know that Europe favours the elite, but what I’ve seen this week has been more about character and belief. Even with injuries and suspensions, these teams have taken it to the wire.

Ajax were the surprise package in the Champions League this season and many would like to have seen them in the final. As one of their players said, it was “like a fairytale” “with an unhappy ending”.

The Eredivisie may not be in the top five elite, but they’ve got more potential than many other leagues. Ajax are also producing talent, profiting greatly from it and reinvesting that money – that’s why they are where they are.

For Celtic, the question has to be what can we do within our means to get closer to that? We can’t do anything for the rest of the country.

It is up to those clubs to make in roads themselves. We’ve called for reform to improve the game, but it falls on deaf ears every time.

We need to improve competitiveness and make our league more attractive to investors. Celtic’s domination may not be viewed as being good for the game, but we’ve got there on our own, whilst the rest of Scottish football accepts what comes their way.

Celtic didn’t cheat there way into this position. We’ve had to cut our cloth accordingly and we remain in good financial shape.

Unfortunately, the business climate is not great in Scottish football. Our governing bodies hold back the game as well.

We have weak TV deals, poor stadiums, a shoddy infrastructure and leadership that lacks integrity and professionalism. This will continue to be the case until someone starts thinking outside the box and about ensuring a better future.

A lot of credit must go to Celtic for doing what they do for us. We are big fish in a very small pond but we remain at the top.

European football will always be a playground where we will need to punch above our weight. From time to time we can do that because like some of those results seen this week, Celtic are a special club.

It would be foolish to dine on that though. The club have to be doing everything in their power to deliver and not just to throw down the gauntlet to the players and hope for the best.

We may not be Ajax, but we could take a leaf out of their book. There is still much to be done at Celtic Football Club.

Last week we secured our 8th title in a row which was also our 50th overall. In two weeks time we have a chance to win an unprecedented treble treble.

Next season we will hopefully be defending that achievement. We must also make progress in Europe.

The summer months should be busy. Business must be done fast and be prepared for the early European qualifiers.

It’s a long and tiring road to the group stages of the Champions or Europa Leagues if we can make either. We are well used to that by now and we must improve upon recent attempts on the European stage whoever takes charge.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

James Forrest crowned

James Forrest is one of Celtic’s best ever home grown players. This century’s talent conveyer belt at Celtic began with the likes of Shaun Maloney, Jamie Smith, Ross Wallace and Aiden McGeady, but Forrest is one of Celtic’s longest serving and most successful products in the history of the club.

Like a few of the current first team, he has been involved in each one of the eight-in-a-row titles. His skill set has developed to the level where he has gone on to be one of the most important players in the team.

To do that he had to do more than just remain at the club. Something which looked to be in jeopardy before Brendan Rodgers arrived nearly three years ago.

The right winger had to overcome injuries, inconsistent form and prove himself to three different managers. All of which he did and now that has been maintained, making him one of the club’s key players.

Last season James was amazing. He probably should have won the award then too, but Scott Brown’s impressive eleventh season edged it.

This season, there was no question, James was the best player. Callum McGregor was on the shortlist along with Rangers’ Ryan Kent and Alfredo Morelos.

There’s no arguing Morelos has been a very important player for the Ibrox club but his discipline has been abysmal. Ryan Kent has also weighed in across the city, but his stats are nowhere as impressive.

James has been a steady performer for the last three seasons. He continues to impress for Celtic and it is his goals, assists and match winning moments made him number one above team mate, Callum McGregor.

Callum was awarded by the fans, but my vote was casted for James. He has been so important and put in the performances to match the stats.

Only Odsonne Edouard has scored more goals this season (21). James is joint second with Scott Sinclair (17), but his on-field displays have been far superior.

Sinclair’s stats dont lie, but he was outshone by Forrest who fully deserves his award. With a whopping 20 assists to add to his name that shows you how important he has been.

There are three more games remaining for Celtic now. You would have to imagine that James will be involved with more goals, assists and match winners as Celtic seek the treble treble.

Whoever takes the reins at Celtic next season, James will be an important player for them and the team. He can put this award next to his PFA Young Player of the Year and SFWA Young Player of the Year accolades from season 2011/2012.

Well done James.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac