9 IS THE PERFECT NUMBER
-Text/ Anthony Joseph-
There is no doubt the appointment of Neil Lennon was underwhelming, but is it really that bad? I don’t think so.
Like many others, while revelling in the euphoria and joy of clinching a Treble Treble on May 25 there was something that sucked that enthusiasm out of me an hour later when Celtic announced they had offered Lenny the job.
We’d had two-and-a-half years with a top class manager in Brendan Rodgers and the month before the final we’d been linked with names including Jose Mourinho, Andre Villas-Boas and Rafa Benitez.
Don’t get me wrong; I never actually thought any of them would be coming to Celtic. But when the reality kicked in that we were going back to Lennon it was just… underwhelming. He is the cheap option and will probably be a ‘yes man’ to the board. He is incredibly lucky to have landed back in the Parkhead hot seat after the way he left Hibs a few months ago. Rangers’ fans see it as a leveller.
But what are Celtic fans actually worried about? When you crunch it down, the only answer I can think that has real substance is the brand of football. But getting 10 in a row is the Holy Grail right now – and I’ve not met or spoken to anyone yet who thinks otherwise.
And there is no historical evidence to suggest that Lennon can’t deliver that. You can’t really argue with his record for Celtic as manager, both in his previous spell and as interim boss last season.
I said earlier that he was incredibly lucky to be Celtic manager again, but we were also incredibly lucky to have had him free and available in February. Without him, the Treble Treble could have gone to pot. Celtic could have imploded with the shock of Rodgers leaving and the way he left.
Lennon came in and won everything he needed to, only losing to Rangers at Ibrox in what meant nothing in terms of the league table. He negotiated tricky ties away to Hibs and Aberdeen in the cup semi-final. He also beat Rangers at home in the only proper meaningful derby he had to deal with. He delivered the league and the cup – which were his only two targets. Job done, how could they not give it him?
The only complaint is that the quality of football wasn’t as good and there were a number of nervy last minute winners. But I also think people are quite quick to forget that Celtic weren’t really firing on all cylinders for most of the season – bar a spell after the winter break. At the start of last season under Rodgers, the Bhoys were drawing a few games here and there including a couple of 0-0 the football was passive and the team looked lethargic. Nothing changed that much under Lennon.
That’s just been Celtic’s season and we also have to remember we are comparing it to two of the best seasons in recent history, which preceded it – the standards were so high before and you can’t expect that to continue. This success will eventually end somewhere – you can’t keep winning every domestic trophy and try to do something in Europe each season.
With Lennon, I think we may lose out on a cup or two this year. But in terms of going for that Holy Grail, I feel we are in safe hands. He has won four league titles as manager, he knows the club inside out, he understands the pressure and that yearning for 10 in a row that the supporters have. He started the run; it would be fitting for him to finish it. Nothing else matters just now.
I have very little expectations for Europe this season, but Lennon was the last manager to give us those great European nights at Celtic Park, which we’re renowned for, worldwide and had us competing in the last 16 of the Champions League. So maybe there could be a surprise or two there.
Let’s rally round Lenny; it may not be as bad an appointment as we think!