Neil Lennon doomed to fail if you believe the media & masochistic Celtic supporters
Newly appointed manager Neil Lennon is doomed to fail if you are to believe the headlines emanating from the Scottish mainstream media and masochists among the Celtic support.
We haven’t seen this level of negativity towards a Celtic appointment, since Ronny Deila was the shock successor to Neil Lennon when the Northern Irishman left Celtic Park in 2014 - and we all saw how that ended.
This same level of negativity was predictably missing when Rangers appointed rookie manager Steven Gerrard last season, with the mainstream media blowing hot air up the arses of the Rangers hierarchy for appointing the former Liverpool captain as Pedro Caixinha’s permanent successor.
But now it is Neil Lennon’s turn to face the barrage of negativity from the mainstream media and Celtic fans who demanded a big name - rather than the smart choice - as the club looks to equal Jock Stein’s nine-in-a-row record.
I said it in a previous article, that Lennon was not my first choice as Celtic manager but I understand what the club are trying to achieve. They want consistency, they want a smooth transition and they want a manager who already knows the players and the club so that come the start of the season, they hit the ground running.
Celtic fans against Neil Lennon’s appointment label it is a cheap option, a major risk by the Celtic board to win nine-in-a-row on the cheap. But do the numbers really stack up? Is Lennon really the cheap appointment? Maybe in his own wages compared to Brendan Rodgers, but not when it comes to transfer budgets.
In the four years that Lennon was Celtic manager [2010-14] first time round, he spent nearly £33.5 million on players, with £10.2 million spent in his first season alone. His second season saw him spent just over £5 million - in part due to much of the work being done the previous season. His third season saw just under £10 million spent on transfers and his final season was met with an £8 million spend on players.
Those numbers show that under Lennon, Celtic spent more during his tenure than three out of the four seasons that Gordon Strachan was in charge.
But when you factor in the transfer fees received through player sales, I can understand why some believe that Lennon is the cheap option.
Despite qualifying for the Champions League group stages twice under Lennon, his tenure brought in just over £39 million in transfer fees, giving Lennon a net spend of minus £5.61 million in his four years. But this doesn’t prove what the media and the fans against Lennon’s appointment right.
What it does prove is that Lennon’s tenure saw significant spending overall - in Scottish football terms - which resulted in a recruitment policy that was successful in securing significantly higher transfer fees for performing stars brought in for small fees.
Lennon brought in the likes of Leigh Griffiths, Joe Ledley, Emilio Izaguirre, Fraser Forster, Anthony Stokes, Gary Hooper, Charlie Mulgrew, Kris Commons, Beram Kayal, Victor Wanyama, and Virgil van Dijk - a defender who was dubbed overrated by sections of the Scottish mainstream media and who has just won the Champions League with Liverpool this weekend - his second appearance in Europe’s premier club cup competition in two seasons.
He also promoted James Forrest to the first team. A player who last season was crown Player of the Year in Scotland.
Compare that to Brendan Rodgers’ transfer dealings. There is no getting away from the fact that Rodgers spent more than Lennon did during his tenure - in his three years at Celtic, Rodgers spent around £43 million on players, but just like under Lennon - the club received a sizeable return on their investment by bringing in around £46.7 million in transfers. Giving Rodgers net spend of minus £3.483 million.
Rodgers’ transfer dealings last season were abysmal. Whether that was the board penny pinching - which saw them lose out on John McGinn or whether it was down to Lee Congerton’s woeful recruitment work - Celtic saw Scott Bain, Emilio Izaguirre and Youssouff Mulumbu come in during the summer. While he also brought in Jeremy Toljan, Filip Benkovic, Daniel Arzani, Oliver Burke and Timothy Weah in on loan.
You could argue that only Bain and Benkovic produced the goods for Celtic to help make an impact on winning the treble treble.
Season 2017-18 saw Rodgers bring in Ntcham, Morgan, Hendry, Edouard, Benyu and Compper. Again only Ntcham and Edouard has made any lasting impact on the Celtic squad to date. While Compper, Benyu and Hendry’s transfers have been abject failures.
2016-17 saw Kolo Toure, Scott Sinclair, Dorus de Vries, Cristian Gamboa, Jouassi Eboue and Jonny Hayes come in under Rodgers’ watch. I don’t list Moussa Dembele in the bracket of Rodgers’ signings as he was already being lined up for a move to Celtic Park before Rodgers was handed the job. Again only Sinclair has had a lasting impact on the squad - while Hayes has been a valuable back up player this season for Celtic due to the injuries picked up by Kieran Tierney.
So if you compare the two managers and their transfer dealings - Neil Lennon’s recruitment has been proven to be more successful both in the quality of players that he brought in, the impact they made on the Celtic squad, the silverware they helped to win and the money they eventually brought in through transfer fees.
Other than Ntcham and Edouard - I cannot see a single Rodgers signing securing a sizeable transfer fee for Celtic in the long run.
The winning of the treble treble has certainly whitewashed over Rodgers managerial tenure - which should be remembered for his successes and in the manner of his departure, but also his failures in the transfer market. Now you can understand why Liverpool fans had celebrated his departure from the club and something that Leicester fans will have to look forward to.
Rodgers has also left his successor an ageing squad that needs rebuilt, and while some believe that Celtic will not splash the cash - because they appointed Neil Lennon - I still stand by my opinion that Peter Lawwell and the Celtic board will invest funds in the team, as they don’t want to make the same mistakes of last season and want to secure nine-in-a-row. But the rebuilding job isn’t as big as some claim.
Since the abysmal Mowbray tenure, Celtic managers have been working with a transfer policy of breaking even - with money spent and money brought in through transfers - this will continue and would have continued even if they had brought in a big name signing.
Bad news bears
So based solely on Lennon’s transfer dealings, forgive me if I laugh at the predictable negative reporting from the mainstream media and the jibes coming from the zombie hordes down Govania way.
Despite Rangers closing the gap somewhat - mostly down to Celtic’s poor performances throughout the season - Celtic still finished the season nine points ahead of their nearest challengers. The same total of points that divided first from second the season before. And that was after Rangers bringing in 21 players and spending well over £10 million - not including loan fees.
Their best player - in the guise of Ryan Kent - has returned to Liverpool and while there is still a slim chance of him returning north of the border this season - I can’t see it as a permanent signing merely as another loan deal. Gerrard has reportedly told Kyle Lafferty, Graham Dorrans and several other players to find new clubs as he looks to free up some cash for new signings. But with no potential suitors coming in for them - he could be stuck with players that he doesn’t want unless the club pays them out of their contracts further diluting the amount that Gerrard has to spend this summer.
And then there is the continued pimping out of Alfredo Morelos, to date they’ve only received one bid for the player which amounted to £2.5 million - despite claims from the club’s PR puppets in the SMSM which peddled fees of over £10 million. With the latest being Newcastle United in for him with a fee of £20 million on offer - a fee that was mentioned in the Colombian press, but with no clubs mentioned, while one article in the Newcastle Chronicle mentioning Morelos to Newcastle but for £5 million.
So how did the Scottish mainstream media get the £20 million valuation from a Colombian sports journalist to £20 million being offered by Newcastle United at a time when Mike Ashley is trying to flog the club, a club that has only spent around £20 million for one player twice in four seasons.
And that is before you consider the on-going battle between Ashley and Dave King through the courts.
Whoever helped the SMSM to their valuation and transfer link, it has already been rubbished by those sports journalists that closely report on Newcastle United.
Rangers’ transfer dealings so far have been in the guise of Jordan Jones, Jake Hastie and Greg Stewart - three signings that will struggle to help Rangers secure second place let alone a league title.
Even if you ignore all of the above, consider the current structure of Celtic and Rangers’ wages to turnover ratio. Celtic are within optimum levels - despite their wage bill being the highest in the league. Far too high in some respects - and this is another legacy left behind by Rodgers. Celtic’s wage bill is a healthy 58.4 per cent of their £101.6million revenue in 2018 on salaries - for a £59.3m wage bill.
A clear sign that, despite what the fans think of Peter Lawwell and the Celtic board, the club is being managed perfectly from a business/financial sense. Unlike their counterparts across the city, who are spending beyond their means to stop Celtic at all costs - with Rangers over the recommended limit of wage to turnover ratio - sitting at 73.8 percent of their £32.6m revenue - with a wage bill of £24.1m.
Further spending by Rangers this summer, and the failure to sell their only prized asset for a sizeable fee - will only see that wage to turnover ratio increase - while Celtic continue to keep their eyes firmly on the prize of nine-in-a-row while carefully managing their finances at the same time. Even when you consider they could effectively give manager Neil Lennon £10 million without breaking into a sweat.
So why are Celtic fans worried about what Rangers do? When it is what Celtic do that is more important.
Mainstream media fuelling the masochism towards Lennon
Even the whinging spit the dummy column from Gordon Waddell in today’s Sunday Mail focused more on Celtic’s timing of Lennon’s permanent appointment on Friday early evening - claiming it was a good day to bury bad news.
There was no analysis from Waddell as to why Lennon’s appointment was bad news, it was merely him crying over the mainstream media having to turn up to Celtic Park at 5pm on a Friday night - probably curtailing their weekend bevvy sessions for a few hours.
Lennon to continue Celtic’s dominance
In a previous article, I looked at the stats during Lennon’s first stint at Celtic and that of Rodgers’, with Lennon coming out on top in Europe. Which is funny, given that Rodgers was brought in to take Celtic onto another level in European competition - but all he could do was match Ronny Deila’s European statistics, while coming up short against Lennon’s record.
And I still stand by my comment that in Europe, Celtic regressed under Rodgers.
Even in domestic competitions, Lennon’s win ratio was better than Rodgers’ sitting at 70.12% compared to 69.82%.
Celtic may have been utterly dominant under Brendan Rodgers domestically, but the club’s stats under Lennon were just as healthy as Rodgers’ - albeit Lennon still had to deal with the old Rangers side being bankrolled by David Murray before it was liquidated.
There is nothing in the statistics, nothing in the transfer dealings, nothing in what Rangers do that can persuade me to curl up into a ball in the corner of the room to rock back and forward fearing the Rangers were coming.
They’ve been coming for seven years, making Mao Zedong's Long March look like a wee stroll in the park.
As with every transfer window, all eyes will be on what business Celtic do with an occasional glance towards the other clubs in the Scottish Premiership.