Neil Lennon announced yesterday that Damien Duff would be leaving Celtic next month. The former Republic of Ireland and Premier League winger will join the international set up back in his homeland.
Lennon stated that Duff would leave a void that would be hard to fill after a short stay in Glasgow. Based upon the level of praise by the Celtic head coach he may struggle to find a similar replacement anytime soon.
Duff will be probably be around until the end of June to assist with first team matters in the mean time. However, that may not be long enough to procure someone from out with the current set up.
Promoting from within was mentioned by Lennon as an option. That may be the most likely course of action though I’d like to see someone with Duff’s top level playing experience in the fold.
Although it has just been announced, Celtic are likely to have known for longer. Speculation on his replacement will no doubt increase now that people are aware.
With John Kennedy already the assistant manager, I wouldn’t imagine Johan Mjallby to be interested in a lesser role despite stating in the recent past that he would welcome a return to the club. He worked successfully with old teammate Lennon in a his previous tenure as his assistant at Celtic and later at Bolton Wanderers.
Similarly, Garry Parker was Lennon’s assistant at Hibs as well as a coach at Celtic and Bolton. He is currently a performance analyst at Oxford United.
Alan Thompson was one of Lennon’s first team coaches in his first two years as Celtic head coach. Thompson, also a former Celtic player, was dismissed by Lennon after his off the pitch lifestyle began to become problematic and would not be in contention.
So whoever fills Duff’s shoes, it is unlikely to be any of Lennon’s past coaching team. If he was to promote from within there are a few options, but whether they are able to provide the same level of experience and influence as Duff we will have to wait and see.
Stephen McManus and Darren O’Dea are both coaching in the reserves and under-18’s respectively. They also came through the academy themselves and played a part in first team matters having played alongside and coached by Neil Lennon.
McManus began his first team career under Martin O’Neill and went on the captain the club under Gordon Strachan after Neil Lennon departed for Nottingham Forest. He remained captain under Tony Mowbray before being moved on to Middlesbrough.
Funnily enough O’Dea became stand-in captain in the absence of McManus and Caldwell after Mowbray shipped both defenders out in Janaury 2010. O’Dea played under Strachan, Mowbray and was ever present under Neil Lennon in the remaining games of the campaign that saw Monday sacked and Lennon as caretaker.
Beyond that summer, O’Dea’s career would lie elswhere as Lennon’s permanent appointment began with a clear out. Now, both O’Dea and McManus find themselves back where it all started, nurturing the next generation of Celtic hopefuls.
There’s no doubt that both players have demonstrated contrasting career paths starting at Celtic and then moving on to newer pastures. Whilst their experience will be great for Celtic’s youth players, first team coaching may require something more.
However, it may also come down to who is available and what time scale the club have to recruit a new coach. With 10IAR on the minds of everyone they’ll want the right person for the job.