Celtic to appoint Neil Lennon as manager on permanent basis
Much of the talk in the lead up to the Scottish Cup Final was about who would become the new Celtic manager come the summer, but after Celtic clinched an historic treble treble with a 2-1 win over Hearts at Hampden Park on Saturday, the Celtic board announced that Neil Lennon was their man.
Just an hour after Celtic secured their ninth trophy in a row, Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell announced to the assembled media that Lennon - who was appointed interim manager in February after Brendan Rodgers quit for Leicester City - had been offered the manager’s job on a permanent basis.
Lennon is made for Celtic
Lawwell, said: “This is a fantastic day, a fantastic achievement, and it will probably never to be repeated. Neil, in our moment of need, stood up to the plate. He’s done a fantastic job in difficult circumstances, and when you look at his credentials – he’s a Celtic man, he’s made for Celtic, he knows what’s required and he’s a winner.
“At this point, in terms of looking at the squad, there’s nobody better that I’ve worked with who has an eye for a player, so we’re delighted to announce that he’s been offered the job, and over the next few days, we will work out the details.
“There’s no better candidate, and Neil has earned the right to be the permanent manager of Celtic, based on our recent performances and also who he is as a manager.
“Winning the Treble Treble is historic and Brendan clearly takes a lot of credit for it. We probably wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for him, in terms of the magnificent period as manager, and we will be forever grateful to him.
“But, as I said, Neil stepped up to the plate, he’s done a fantastic job and we’re delighted to have him here. It was really tough. He came it at a difficult time – it wasn’t his squad and he had big shoes to fill, and a Treble to win – and he came in and did fantastically well.
“We need to pay tribute to John Kennedy, too, who has brought that continuity in terms of the discipline and structure, and Damien Duff has come in and done exceptionally well.”
It’s a privilege
After the announcement that he had been offered the job on a permanent basis, Lennon couldn’t hide his delight.
The Northern Irishman said: “It’s a privilege. It’s been my privilege to manage the club once but to do it a second time I feel sort of full circle again. It was always my objective. I left the club on good terms last time and nothing’s changed.
“It’s been a rollercoaster couple of months. It’s been difficult but I hope I bring a lot more success to the club login forward.”
Lennon was tasked with winning the league and cup double after Rodgers’ shock departure in February and he delivered just that. Winning 10 out of 14 games in charge - with just one defeat, that being a 2-0 defeat to Rangers at Ibrox.
Now with the season officially over, Lennon will now turn his attentions to next season and strengthening his side as they look to continue their domestic dominance and qualify for the Champions League group stages for the third time in four years.
Lennon added: “It’s [the hard work] already begun really. There’s going to be changes in personnel obviously. But I don’t want to change too much because it’s been a really good transition between myself and Brendan.
“I’ve got to pay tribute to him and Ronny [Deila] who have done fantastic things for the club as well."
Whether you were against Lennon remaining as Celtic manager or fully supported the appointment, Lennon is now tasked with taking Celtic forward. There has been much criticism of Celtic since Lennon came in, but the writing was on the wall all season long - even under Brendan Rodgers. The players looked fatigued, the injury list was ridiculous and there was clear discontent in the dressing room between several players and the manager.
But when called upon the replace Rodgers temporarily, Lennon came in to steady the ship and to lead Celtic to the promised land of history makers.
Was it the right time to appoint Lennon? Probably not as it overshadowed the celebrations somewhat - with some Celtic fans hitting out at the board for appointing a man they see as a backwards step, after names like Rafa Benitez, Jose Mourinho and David Moyes were linked with the vacant job.
But with Celtic looking to win their ninth title in a row next season and potentially an historic tenth title - the club needed someone with knowledge of Celtic, of the Scottish game, of the players and above all the culture in and around Celtic. And when it came down to it Neil Lennon fits the bill perfectly.
You can’t say that Lennon was the best candidate for the job, but he has to be the right candidate for the position given how important the next two years are for Celtic Football Club. The likes of Benitez or Moyes would have needed time to settle into the role, to find what players were surplus to requirements and what were Celtic’s strengths and weaknesses - Lennon has already done all this and already had one eye on strengthening the side in the summer if he was handed the position. So it was the smart play from the Celtic board - whether it was a popular choice or not is beyond the point. Lennon is now in the job and the Celtic support should and hopefully will continue to show their support and above all their appreciation for everything that Lennon has done for this club.
From death threats to assaults on the streets to being attacked on the sidelines and bombs and bullets in the post to suffering depression, Lennon has faced a lot in his time at Celtic and yet he comes back for more. Not because he is a glutton for punishment, but because of the love he has for the club that some can only talk about with forked tongues.
There will almost certainly be games where Lennon will face the wrath of the Celtic support, but in the meantime, he deserves our full backing and utmost trust.
Hail Hail Neil!