Taking stock at the international break

The weekend marked the current season as ten matches played in the Scottish Premiership. It’s also the beginning of a second international break.

For Celtic, this comes after a spell of played 7, won 3, drawn 3, lost 1 in all competitions. Before the previous international break it was played 12, won 9, drawn 2, lost 1.

So far this season it has been pretty challenging on all fronts. Europe has put Celtic under the microscope and in the league it has been a battle.

Ronny Deila has been under fire once more from fans and scrutinised by the media. The Champions League exit is in the past so it was the league position he was getting lynched for.

Now the wheels are beginning to come off Derek McInnes ‘title challengers’ and Celtic are closing a gap. Whilst the gap now stands at 1 point, I doubt there will be any praise for that because it is far too positive for the Scottish media.

The last three matches have been tough. At Celtic Park a 0-0 with Hearts (all credit to them) and a 2-2 draw with Fenerbahçe (all credit to Efe) was followed by a narrow 2-1 victory away to Hamilton yesterday. It wasn’t pretty but it was an important result none the less.

Two draws at Celtic Park are far from perfect though. Heart frustrated Celtic after they themselves had lost three games on the bounce – they needed to shore up.

Fenerbahçe came to Celtic Park in their own poor form and managed a draw. In truth, that was a game Celtic should have won.

We all know about Efe’s errors in that one. For close to 70 minutes though, Celtic were in control.

Sunday through up a stiff challenge from Hamilton and they even took the lead. Celtic fought back though and held off for the much needed win.

This has been a period of tough challenges on and off the park whilst Deila is under pressure to make his defence solid and provide a potent strike force. Neither of these have been achieved yet.

Injuries to Mulgrew and Šimunović have not helped him settle the central defence, nor has the departure of van Dijk. However, we knew Virgil was going if the Champions League was over.

Mulgrew would not be my long-term choice for centre half though he has done well in the past. Šimunović I have not seen enough of or even know much about but at the price paid for him, he will need to be the real deal.

With Efe probably close to suicide right now, the international break is has come at a good time. I don’t like to see players singled out for blame but his tendencies for costly errors are well known.

He was selected for defensive duties against Fenerbahçe because he was the most senior player available for that role. And as someone said to me after the match, you cannot account for individual errors.

Yes, Efe does make them and even Ronny said he has improved. Unfortunately just not enough.

Fenerbahçe made a tactical switch in that game last Thursday and it had the desired effect. The same error could have been made by Tyler Blackett had he been given the nod but we’ll never know.

I don’t have any issue with Ambrose being picked when we have little to choose from. You cannot consider him as a regular though because he doesn’t provide the decision making, focus and capability that is required despite being an international for Nigeria.

The other area struggling is attack. With only two strikers in the squad, one of which has still to settle in, Celtic are lightweight.

You can’t ask for much more than Leigh Griffiths is doing right now and he is on course to be even better than last season. Nadir Çiftçi on the other hand will need to start pushing himself because there is nobody else to step in when called upon and the Turk hasn’t exactly made an impact when used.

Ronny has had Carlton Cole training with the team and having a look at the former West Ham striker but any potential move is on hold for the free agent due to injury. Whether Cole is the answer I don’t know but the fact is even with a lack of form last season at Celtic Stefan Šćepović should not have been loaned out without securing a replacement.

Sure, Celtic may have been trying but we should not be embarking on European competition without sufficient players. It is short-sighted and unacceptable and that goes for the defence as much as the attack.

Any procurements made now are ineligible for Europe until the next phase. Even then, we would need to make that stage in the Europa League first.

Last season we obtained the services of John Guidetti who, before turning out to be a total knob, was on fire. He was signed too late for European deadline and so Celtic struggled up front in the Europa League.

This season we’ve got a similar issue. We’ve immediately put ourselves under pressure.

I don’t know if you blame the scouts, the board or the coaching staff. It appears nothing has been learned though.

That said, I am as ever 100% behind Ronny Deila. Yes, we can list selection or tactical errors but it is time to focus on the positives.

Celtic have played 19 competitive matches in 15 week spell. It’s more compact than that when you consider the international break in early September.

Starting in mid-July is gruelling but something are beginning to prepare for better. It is still a long road though when you consider players are still being recruited during this period.

They then have to be integrated and you might even lose some players during this spell. Then you have to face the reality of which European competition you actually made, if at all.

So when the domestic season starts, everyone else comes out of the blocks like greyhounds after the hare. Whilst Celtic are treading carefully with injuries and trying to survive in four competitions.

Consider ourselves lucky that we aren’t an English club with a multi-million pound budget and under-performing. Celtic may be more financially wealthy than all Scottish clubs but they are a lone force in Europe and against stronger teams at the best of times.

Managerial casualties south of the border are racking up. Brendan Rogers’s was long coming whilst Dick Advocaat’s was a case of jumping before pushed and Steve McLaren could be next but I don’t think Ronny is anywhere near those scenarios.

This international break, let’s take stock of the tough schedule we’ve had, the movement of players, the disappointments we’ve had and the ongoing negative press we’ve received. Then look at what is ahead and see that we’re in all three domestic competitions and still competing in Europe.

The season is only really just started. Keep the green flag flying high this international break.

As a foot note, I’d like to wish Gordon Strachan and the Scotland squad all the best this Thursday. I’ll be watching the game in an English pub which 24 hours later will be hoaching with England fans.

Once more Scotland find themselves in a difficult situation when trying to qualify for a major tournament. In all honesty Strachan should have been in a slightly better position but there is still a chance of making a play-off spot.

Part lies in Scotland’s hands, whilst other results play also play a factor. The bottom line for Scotland is to be aiming for maximum points and hoping that Martin O’Neill’s Republic of Ireland falter.

We’ve been here before. I think we deserve a bit of luck.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

 

Advertisements

Forster among equals

Fraser Forster came to Celtic in August 2010. Although a Newcastle United player, he had been plying his trade on the road.

Two loan spells at Stockport County and Bristol Rovers got his career under way. A third loan deal took him to Norwich where his performances drew praise after a fine season under Paul Lambert.

It was there that he caught Celtic’s eye. He also came highly recommended by Lambert and so Celtic took him on loan for a season.

Although still a young keeper, he maintained his position in goal throughout that first season with Celtic. He was growing in stature, as was Neil Lennon’s team but he would return to Newcastle United at the end of that season.

A further year long loan spell was negotiated and he was back in the Celtic goal once more. After another steady season under Neil Lennon, Celtic were ready to do business.

Sadly, Newcastle United wanted to play hardball. Despite being a third choice keeper Alan Pardew insisted that Forster was still a key player.

At the time I wasn’t totally convinced that Celtic should be pursuing Forster with such determination. Newcastle weren’t easy to deal with and although Forster had had two decent season’s under his belt, my feeling was that Celtic shouldn’t be held to ransom for someone Newcastle had never played in a competitive match.

Both clubs eventually agreed fee of £2M and he was a finally a Celtic player. Any doubts I may have had over the protracted negotiation were laid to rest in his third season for Celtic.

Despite showing good shot stopping ability in the past, he saved his best for Europe that season. Saving penalties, pulling off wonder saves from world class opponents and being a stand out performer drew praise across Europe.

In Barcelona, the media named him “La Gran Muralla” – The Great Wall. This was a testimony to his size and ability in defying the Catalan side.

There is no doubt he was at his best in Europe. When you consider he was rarely called into action during domestic matches, this was some feat.

His fourth season was equally as good as his third even if Celtic’s luck wasn’t as fortuitous in Europe. Forster continued to earn praise from the media and fellow professionals and rumours of his departure were almost daily.

England eventually took notice and the mild mannered giant was named in several squads. To date he has earned two England caps and was included in 2014 World Cup squad, though never featured in what was a disappointing tournament for the England team.

So it was only a matter time before the big man would leave. The rumours that have surrounded his Celtic career have now been laid to rest following his move to Southampton.

I will miss Forster for several reasons. His application, dedication and professionalism as a player are as great as his presence in goal.

He broke and set records whilst a Celtic player as well as winning trophies and plaudits. Most of all, he had his finest hours in goal for Celtic and provided fans with some breathtaking and chest beating moments.

Leaving Celtic for the fee agreed is a testimony to his growth, stature and achievements as a Celtic player. Hopefully playing in the Premier League in England will further his international ambitions.

He has earned it and he will be missed. Good luck and all the best to the future, Fraser.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

The end of the World (Cup) is nigh

On Thursday night I listened in to Radio 5 Live Sport after the England match had finished. To be honest, it wasn’t to gloat, but I was prompted to listen after reading some online content.

As one would expect, there was the usual toxic mix of substandard performances, lack of passion and poor squad selection. All of these issues come to a head when you’re team suffers a defeat.

Had England, no Roy Hodgson, picked guys like John Terry or Ashley Cole as suggested by many callers, would it really have made a difference? Maybe, maybe not, the thing to remember is that England would still have had the same manager deploying the same tactics.

So instead of complaining about lesser experienced international players, England fans would be calling for guys like Terry and Cole to retire. You’re damned if you do, your damned if you don’t.

For once in my lifetime, England went into a tournament without the hype which we’ve become accustomed to, which in return sees many Scot’s supporting every team England encounter. Because things were played down this time around, I actually found watching England that little bit more palatable and was less concerned (if at all) about the result.

Some might say, “Stevie, you’ve become an English sympathiser in your years down south” but there’s no chance you’ll never find me chanting for England. I’m just less bothered because they haven’t been bigging themselves up as is usually the case.

As one caller mentioned on the radio, Gianluca Vialli was spot on in his assessment of England. What Vialli mentioned in a BBC interview, shown last week, is something all of us know, but most England fans have yet to realise.

“As an outsider, I look and I read and I know English fans and the media, for about four years, have been a bit depressed about the national team and have very little expectations.

“But then the World Cup arrives and all of a sudden you start talking about semi-finals, the final and how this is the strongest team you’ve had in the World Cup for years. It’s quite funny.”

He may only be referring to this World Cup, but this happens at every tournament. I’ve seen better England squads than this one but even then, I’m never wholly convinced that they are potential winners but they’ll tell you otherwise.

As a Scotsman and as one of those Celtic fans who support Scotland but not Ireland, I get international disappointment on a regular basis. When Scotland play I want the best but unfortunately the national side has been on the slide for as long as I can remember.

There have been brief moments of joy but even that was quite a while ago. There is some rejuvenation going on currently but we’ll have to wait until the next Euro campaign to see how that’s going.

England should count themselves lucky that they even make tournaments. Scotland haven’t made a major tournament since France 1998 and even when we have made one, we never qualify from the group phase.

The difference is we know our limitations. What we’ve never been able to put our finger on is what the problem is and how we can resolve it.

One of Scotland’s greatest failings is the domestic game. Sure we’ve still got players dotted around the UK but the standard is pretty low.

England are blessed with better fortune in that there are better facilities and a larger population. In general though, there is more money ploughed in.

Scottish clubs are devoid of serious investors. With the exception of Celtic, nobody is willing to put money to Scottish clubs most likely because its a poor product.

Dermot Desmond is Celtic’s majority shareholder, a very wealthy one, but throwing money at Celtic can only go so far. He is a businessman and despite any genuine interest he has in Celtic as a fan, he must still balance the books and turn a profit.

In England, there is more money than sense. You have all these money men chucking money at overpriced players from other countries, paying English players the same and expecting the same output.

The truth is some of these guys look better because they have the benefit of playing with European and World class players from other countries week in, week out in the Premier League. They play in a league inflated by huge amounts of cash, globalised by a television network who virtually own it and yet supporters lack the perspective to see beyond their “best league in the world”.

England have some talented individuals but I have seen better England teams. If they want to see an improvement, they will need to take a reality check first.

It should be noted that when their World Cup group was drawn, it was widely acknowledged that England would struggle to qualify from it. Tell me something, what has changed since then?

And let’s be honest, is it really that bad? The current World and European Champions are already out so they’re in good company.

Lick your wounds England and come watch the rest of the World Cup from the sofa. Scotland, Northern Ireland, The Republic of Ireland and Wales are waiting.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

Celtic’s first Bosman comes home.

Earlier this week, Celtic appointed former midfielder John Collins as assistant to new manager, Ronny Delia. Collins returns to Celtic Park 18 years after he left the club for AS Monaco.

He was the first Celtic player to leave under the Bosman ruling. During his time at the club, he was a key part of a Celtic midfield which included club legend, Paul McStay.

Collins’s had an influential role for Celtic and was a key ingredient to the attack. In addition to his good all round game, he had a tremendous ability to strike free kicks with his left foot.

In his six years at the club he was a stand out performer despite not being the best years for Celtic it has to be said. Yet he stayed and he performed so it was no surprise that when he left in 1996 with only one trophy to his name that Celtic fans accepted he wanted to move on, despite feeling the loss of a quality player.

There was no doubting the calibre of Collins and he could have played in most teams in Europe. That (and possibly the fact he was free) was enough to attract the attention of Monaco in the first place.

His playing career would eventually go from the shores of southern France to the banks of the Mersey with Everton and then alongside the Thames with Fulham. Beyond the domestic scene, Collins was an important player for the Scotland international team as well.

Although an ageing international squad, it was players like Collins who could breathe life into a starting eleven. Scoring in the opening game of the World Cup at France 1998 against Brazil from the penalty spot was one of his most significant goals in his international career.

That was is 11th goal for Scotland and in total he scored 12 goals in 58 appearances. He would eventually retire from international football after being pipped to a place at Euro 2000, losing out on aggregate to England in a two match play off.

However, it was those six years of dedication to Celtic that stand out for me. Like Paul McStay, Collins was an important part of Celtic during an unbearable trophy-less period.

It was players like Collins who kept the hearts and minds of the Celtic fans going at a time when all was not well at the club. Winning the Scottish Cup in 1995 would be the only honour he would pick up at Celtic having made 223 competitive appearances and scoring scoring 48 goals.

After departing in the summer of 1996, he would go on to win the league with Monaco in his first season in France. Ten years later, having moved into coaching, he picked up his third honour winning the League Cup as manager of former club, Hibernian.

It was a short spell there with the relationship lasting only fourteen months. He endured a player dispute, received an apology from the players in return and delivered Hibs first top flight trophy since 1991.

A year after resigning from Hibs over separate dispute with the board, he spent less than a season with Belgian club Charleroi. He also had s short spell as Director of football at Livingston.

For some, these brief interactions with clubs might ring alarm bells but many like myself have only never heard positive things about Collins’s knowledge of football. Like the appointment of Ronny Deila, the vibe regarding Collins’s return to Celtic is generally positive with the fans.

When working with the media, he has always expressed himself well as a football pundit. Alongside Gordon Strachan, he is one of the few Scot’s who actually comes across well and demonstrates a deeper understanding of the the game.

Of course, its making sure things happen on the field of play that counts when you are on the management team. In John Collins, I feel Ronny Delia has a good sidekick to enter the Scottish football arena with.

As we all know, the Celtic job comes with a certain degree of baggage. Collins know the club, the league, country and of course, the media (Gerry McNee take note).

Many fans are intrigued and indeed excited to see how this all plays out. Despite the World Cup keeping most of us preoccupied, its hard to ignore what’s going on at Celtic right now.

With just under four weeks until Celtic’s initial Second qualifying round of the Champions League, Deila and Collins have their work cut out for them already. Its a gruelling task they have ahead of them but one which this group of players have already been through together and a challenge that the management team are certain to embrace.

What remains to be seen is how Delia and Collins approach it. And will there be any moves and changes in the playing staff before then?

Well, one thing at a time I suppose. Until Monday’s draw then…

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

Left field is the way forward

After identifying a list of candidate’s Celtic have finally appointed their new manager. The choice came from left field and is a reminder to everyone out there that the media (and the bookies for that matter) know nothing.

Some sports journalists will tell you that Ronny Deila has left Celtic fans underwhelmed. This phrase has been populating virtually every column I’ve read in the mainstream media these past 24hrs.

There had also been the ‘breaking news’ that Celtic can no longer attract top of the line managers. That they must sell their best players to the highest bidder.

Well Scottish football’s decline is not news I’m afraid. Nor are the confines in which Celtic must operate.

Ronny Deila may not have come from the English Premier League or even the Championship. He has earned this job though by demonstrating his attributes and delivering success for Strømsgodset.

I would argue with the opinions of the bitterest of media clowns like Roddy Forsyth and Andy Walker. They simply cannot help themselves by belittling the appointment of someone their vast sporting knowledge failed to identify.

The fact that the new manager has proven himself as a coach and manager for six years appears to be lost on them. Deila’s philosophy on the game of football also being irrelevant in their writings.

Scotland should be rolling out the red carpet for international workers. Especially in an country that wants to be independent.

I’m embarassed that the Scottish media cannot at the very least, hide their bitterness for a wee while. The guy has just arrived and already he’s a poor choice.

Show me a better manager in Scotland right now – no? Then I’ll continue.

It seems more important to the media who Celtic didn’t install as manager than who they did. When they do provide some ‘insight’ on Deila, its to run down his chances.

And lets not leave out the fact that there is no Rangers to play against eh lad’s? Play another record FFS.

The fact that Ronny Deila has a good track record in Norway doesn’t seem to stand for anything. Not being ‘known’ is the only item on the media’s agenda and are willing to include in their articles.

The list of candidates mooted I would argue were not confirmed by Celtic. The only one Peter Lawwell confirmed was in fact Roy Keane.

He may have pulled of the running but he was not offered the job as some like to think. It should also be noted that the grand majority of Celtic fans were not in favour of him as Neil Lennon’s successor, myself included.

From the list of other possible candidates I would say that none have shown themselves to be more successful than Deila even if I would have approved. In fact I would say that other than being ex-Celtic players or having managed in England they are at the on a par with the Norwegian.

To tell you the truth I was pleasantly surprised that the Celtic board were so bold. As I mentioned in my last blog, I wondered if Celtic would go left field and they did.

This guy may be unknown to Scottish media but not to Celtic. The only underwhelming feature of Celtic appointing Ronny Deila is the mainstream media who write about it.

If I were disappointed with this guy, I’d be talking about it right now but I’m not. Cast your mind back five years on MonTheHoops and you’ll read me write about a poor appointment.

I didnt hide my distaste at Tony Mowbray’s appointment. Celtic thought they’d done the right thing, but I didn’t and guess what it turned out to be a catastrophe.

By the time it was too late to recover, Celtic sacked Mowbray and installed Lennon. A rookie, but certainly the only man for the job at that time.

It turned out well and the club are in a position of strength even if Scottish football is not. Now, it is up to Ronny Deila to take the team forward and utilise his managerial skills that got him noticed by the cub in the first place.

I’m genuinely excited about his outlook for the team, particularly the youths who need to know there is a chance for them. In football nothing is certain but this is a story I look forward to seeing unfold.

Welcome Ronny.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

Headhunting

Where do you begin when searching for a new manager? Well avoiding past mistakes would be beneficial to begin with.

Appointments aren’t always about replacing like for like. You have to look ahead and where you are as a business or in Celtic’s case, a club and a business.

The question the board must ask themselves is “what direction is the club going in?” The football climate in which Celtic exist is one with restrictions, that we are all well aware of.

There isn’t the kind of money flowing through Scottish football like there is in other leagues in Europe. I’m not just talking about the flagship leagues mind you, they are an inner circle that requires more money than sense.

I’m referring to countries elsewhere in Europe where there are league’s that fair better with TV revenue. Some of these countries appear to have better deals with similar or smaller audiences than Scotland and yet I’m not entirely convinced that the quality is substantially better.

Despite this, Celtic Football Club is set up well to survive the financial shortfall, even if the rest of the Scottish clubs are not. The financial backbone that is in place ensures stability which in this day and age is a saving grace.

On the playing field, the league is of course bread and butter for a club like Celtic. Currently, there is no opposition to threaten Celtic’s claim season after season.

Not even the emergence of Second Rangers can be considered a threat. They don’t play in the SPFL, are not guaranteed promotion after next season or to even exist long enough to get there.

So what is the attraction for a potential suitor to the Celtic throne? Well, should an appointment come from within the Scottish game, it will be a big step up by taking the reigns of a club like Celtic.

Winning the league would be a huge challenge for guys like Jackie McNamara or Paul Hartley whose names have been mentioned in the past few days. Europe would be considered an even greater task but Lennon was in that boat as well and proved the doubters wrong.

It took him a couple of years to get to grips with competing in Europe but he learned. The question is will Celtic go down the same route as they did with Lennon or pick someone with more experience?

Henrik Larsson has been talked about heavily, even before the departure of Lennon. As a club legend it is not surprising to hear his name every now and again.

Many fans would love be to see the return of the king and Larsson himself has hinted at a return some day. He has been busy coaching in his home country of Sweden for five years now and looks set to continue that unless matters change.

For some, it isn’t Henrik’s time and feel if he had to come now it might tarnish his legendary status. For me though it would be the board’s desire to capitalise on Larsson’s marketing value that is of concern.

PR stunts are not beyond Celtic and if Larsson’s attraction was purely a financial one I disapprove. Robbie Keane was drafted in at a time when Mowbray’s efforts to make Celtic success flopped.

Keane’s appearance in a Celtic shirt must have sold dozens of jerseys and put bums back on seats. In reality, getting rid of Mowbray was the best thing the club did that season, the worst being his appointment.

If the club are looking at managers from outside of Scotland then you are looking at someone who may have handled a larger spending budget or worked in a tougher league but probably not managed a big club. There are a number of candidates out of work right now and when a club with the stature of Celtic are headhunting, interest is most definitely going to be high.

For example, David Moyes, ex-Celt and long-term guardian of Everton, recently sacked by Manchester United. He might be out of Celtic’s league financially and not everyone’s cup of tea, but on the other hand Celtic could a be the perfect opportunity for him to rebuild his reputation.

After just ten months at Manchester United he could be considered tainted goods, but he didn’t get that job by chance. He earned the opportunity through hard work obtaining his coaching badges whilst still a young player and earning plaudits from his fellow professionals as he climbed the managerial ladder.

Promotion to the second tier of English football with Preston (and very nearly the Premier League) brought him to the attention of Everton. He maintained Everton’s status in the top half of the Premier League in all but two of his eleven years at the helm.

He brought some brilliant talent to Everton, though the money was there to do so. What goes against him is that he never won a trophy or made an impact in Europe despite getting some very respectable league positions and making a domestic final.

Also in the managerial wilderness right now is another former Celtic centre half, Malky Mackay. Disposed of by Cardiff in December, he is certain to be looking to get back into the game as soon as possible.

He first stepped into the management hot seat as caretaker at Watford. That role would become his own but only after Brendan Rodgers had failed to deliver first.

Cardiff then came calling for Malky and it was there that he made a name for himself. He made the play-off’s and the League Cup Final but would eventually see defeat in both challenges.

The following season he won the Championship title and earned automatic promotion to the Premier League but soon after a rift would materialise between the himself and the owner. There is no doubt that the souring of that relationship diluted Cardiff’s chances of staying up and that was ultimately the end of the road for Malky and Cardiff.

Would he be a good choice for Celtic? I think so, but the main question is, is he the kind of coach the club are interested in or could even persuade to come north of the border?

Paul Lambert, another former Celt, currently plying his trade in management at Aston Villa could be looking for a move. New ownership is on the cards at Villa and when that happens you tend to find that your face no longer fits.

At this stage new owner’s have not been acquired but Lambert may take this opportunity to move if he feels his role is under threat. He stepped away from relative safety with Norwich to take the job at Villa but it is a big ask to get success at that club these days.

Staying up isn’t generally a concern for Villa, its progressing that is the challenge. Lambert may well continue his career at there, but if Celtic do come calling and money was not a huge concern for either party, I think Lambert would find it hard to refuse.

Also on that list of rumoured candidates is Steve Clarke. He has carved out a very respectable career as an assistant manager for a Newcastle United, Chelsea, West Ham United and Liverpool.

Clarke has also worked under some big names in management. Ruud Guillit, José Mourinho, Avram Grant, Gianfranco Zola and Kenny Dalglish have all utilised his services over the years but he would eventually venture out on his own.

That came in the form of Head Coach at West Bromwich Albion. His first season there was a huge success finishing eighth in the league.

Sadly for Clarke, that success would not be mirrored the following season and he was axed before Christmas. Whether he returns to management or not only time will tell but the one fact that is unquestionable is his ability as a firsf teamm coach.

Then there is Owen Coyle, a man formerly linked with the job at Celtic. On that occasion he was said to have been offered the role before Tony Mowbray but turned it down.

His managerial career was on the up with Burnley and he chose to stay in England. It could have been a good appointment for Celtic at the time but my feelings on that have changed.

As much as I understood his decision to make a name for himself in England, his career is in a different place altogether now. After gaining promotion to the Premier League with Burnley he jumped ship mid season to former employers Bolton who he had once played for.

Burnley were relegated that season and many felt Coyle had turned his back on them and I am inclined to agree. Although he had managed to keep Bolton in the Premier League for two seasons, he would eventually find himself back in the Championship.

Results didn’t go well down there and he was out of work only a few months into the new season. The following year he took the reigns at Wigan but once again he found himself out of work just six months into the job.

Celtic may have decided that with a poor run in the game in the last couple of years he is not the man for the job anymore. He was once, but for many Celtic fans he missed his chance and his value has plummeted.

A left field entry on the list is Oscar Garcia. He took Brighton and Hove Albion to the play-off’s this year but was unsuccessful in the end.

The Championship is a competitive league and he did well to get Brighton into the play-off position. The fact that he chose to resign after such a short spell is surprising given that he did well with relatively limited experience.

He may be looking for a bigger club and Celtic are certainly that. Whether he could cut the mustard in Scotland I do not know but I do question his staying power given that he has left his two most recent jobs after only one season in charge.

Also in that play-off battle is Steve McLaren. Having made the final and losing to a late goal might he be looking to move on?

Love him or hate him he has bags of experience. He hasn’t made any signs of leaving Derby but he remains a possibility and given his coaching credentials oversess and at international level he is not to be sniffed at.

Lastly, there is Roy Keane, another ex-Celt whose name has been mentioned. His recruitment as a player, whilst totally unnecessary, was amother PR stunt that Celtic just couldn’t refuse.

Sunderland was his first venture into management where he won promotion to the Premier League in his first season. He kept Sunderland up during his second season but the season that followed saw a poor start and Keane eventually resigned.

With a character like Keane’s there was the usual controversy. Never afraid to speak his mind, his management style didn’t go down well with players and officials during his time there but that’s Roy Keane I guess.

Ipswich Town would be Roy’s second crack at management. It failed to develop into anything successful for him or the club during an eighteen month period and having falling down the league he was sacked.

He returned to coaching last year taking up the assistant managers role under Martin O’Neill for the Republic of Ireland’s national team. Although still a relationship in its infancy, it hasn’t prevented Keane’s name being mentioned with the Celtic job.

His opinions and temperament don’t always win him votes with people. Roy is never afraid to speak his mind though but whether Dermot Desmond sees Keane as the kind of character he wants to coach the team, the Kaiser will have the final say.

What Celtic require is someone who will stick around for a few years and make some progress. The league is almost certainly assured given the gap between Celtic and the rest of the SPFL clubs.

Whoever takes over will have to emulate that domination in the league. A more successful run in the cups would also be desirable.

Then there is Europe and with it the income that Celtic require. European nights at Celtic are what we as fans all crave and without those evenings the domestic season would be very dull.

Being involved in the Champions League group phase is essential. Qualifying from that stage and reaching the last sixteen is a target that can only be surpassed by repeating the journey year after year.

Only two Celtic managers have ever made the knockout phase in the current format of the tournament. The board may not expect that next season given the change in personnel, but surely progression in Europe is the objective that makes this all worth while?

On the other hand, Celtic may be looking overseas for someone who can tweak those European fortunes. Though it’s unlikely that the club will be able to obtain the services of a coach with an admirable CV without breaking the bank.

Celtic may play in Europe but as I have said before, there are limitations to what you can and can’t do and that includes attracting the right people and being able to pay the right money. Whoever the club appoint, it will clarify their ambitions and intentions.

They must move swiftly though. The World Cup begins soon and with it an opportunity to scout talent.

Ideally it would be best to appoint someone before then and get them preparing for the Champions League qualifier’s in July. In the past the club have been slow to elect a manager so I hope that they are actively seeking one now.

Peter Lawwell stated that the club haven’t begun their search. Personally, I find that hard to believe, this isn’t the public sector after all.

Lennon said leaving wasn’t a knee-jerk decision. I’m sure the board may have either been expecting it, or helping him wind things down.

The new manager will need the backing of the support and not just the board. It would be advisable to give him every chance to succeed by getting him on board now.

So let’s hope the club don’t waste too much time and make an announcement soon.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

The Legacy of Lennon

First and foremost I must say I am disappointed and it’s not a day I expected this soon. I know there are some Celtic fans that will be more accepting of Neil Lennon’s resignation than I, but Gordon Strachan experienced a worse case so he can be thankful for that I suppose.

I was fairly adamant (as others were) that Lennon would not follow Johan Mjallby out the door this summer. The rumours were plentiful as they always are regarding Celtic, but I feel his departure is somewhat premature.

As my English friends and colleagues often like to tell me, “there just isn’t the competition up there is there?” Well thanks for your insightful analysis, but your opinion doesn’t count when we are discussing a league you know nothing about let alone watch.

We who do follow the Scottish game do know the state it is in and don’t need reminding by those who don’t. Every week we subject ourselves to it and we know it is below par.

The point I am making is that nobody in Scotland is blind to the reality that Scottish football has a glass ceiling for your career. There is an acceptance that at some stage or another, anyone whose profile becomes of significant interest is likely to move on, be it player or coach.

Neil was sure to move on at some point that much we knew. I just didn’t expect it to be now.

I don’t think the club will suffer through his departure though. I think they will progress, but they have Neil Lennon to thank for that because he brought Celtic back into the game after his predecessors abysmal failure.

However, I feel Neil still had some progress of his own to make as Celtic Head Coach before moving on. There is a desire by most players and managers to move south because potentially it’s the furthest you can go in the game without actually leaving the shores of the UK right now.

Players and managers before Lennon have made this move, successfully or unsuccessfully. That rich vein that flows south will continue unless there is a set up that can retain its best right there in Scotland.

On the positive side I can say this; Neil Lennon did bring back some thunder to Celtic Park. As a rookie, he made his own team and with little money.

There were good buys and there were bad buys. Trophies and titles have been claimed and European nights have been lived once more.

It’s the end of a four year journey for Neil which began just as his Mowbray’s ended. It was a difficult transition but Lennon rose to the challenge.

He beat off the opposition, the budget restrictions, inexperience in management, the death threats, violence and the parcel bombs. Having beaten all of that, he has emerged an outright winner.

In his personal life he battled depression and that alone is a complex task which very few can even begin to comprehend. Now he moves on and to a new phase of his life and career.

Whether he takes a break from football or goes straight back into the game we will have to wait and see. There are many jobs out there right now but it remains to be seen whether any of them are for him.

What he can do is walk away from Scotland knowing full well that he is a winner. To endure what he has had to endure in his time as a player and coach at Celtic cannot be applauded enough.

For those of you who were consumed with a hatred for Neil Lennon, you have been defeated. He has shown you for what you are, seen all of you off and then some.

In a year that could see Scotland voted as an independent country, I hope that its inhabitants can learn from the ill-treatment Neil Lennon has received. That they can show greater respect to those people, who come to Scotland and make it a better place by not being beaten by the bigotry and hatred they receive.

There’s only one Neil Lennon. Legend.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie