Neil Lennon has had a lot to endure in his short time as Celtic manager. Lennon’s opportunity to take over at Celtic first came as a result of the spectacularly failed Mowbray experiment. Since taking over Lennon has seen everything from the Champions League to the death threats, nail bombs, assaults and safe houses which scarred his first full year as Celtic manager.
It is safe to say that other football managers may have had a mess to deal with on the pitch and some managers have had trouble to contend with off the pitch, no manager in club football history has had the perfect fusion of both. Analysing what makes Lennon the manager must start with analysis of what has shaped Neil Lennon the man.
Neil Lennon took over from the unfortunate Tony Mowbray and inherited a frankenstein’s monster of a footballing squad. The majority of Mowbray’s signings were of a poor quality both in footballing terms and in attitude terms. When Lennon took over, the league was all but over and Celtic remained in only one cup competition. Lennon’s first objective was to prevent further drifting and humiliation in the SPL and secondly to attempt to win the Scottish Cup.
He achieved his first objective by managing a remarkable turnaround in Celtic’s league performances leading the poor squad he inherited to eight straight league wins including the first of many Old Firm wins against Walter Smith’s Scottish champions. But the damage had been done and it was too late to salvage the domestic league campaign. Attention then fell to the Scottish Cup semi-final against Ross County. Celtic were expected to see off Derek Adams’ improving Ross County side with ease. The media were reporting it as an easy tie for Lennon. Winning silverwear with this Mowbray assembled gaggle of misfits could be seen as a genuine achievement and nobody could see Celtic slipping up. The game underway, there was to be one last major calamity from this squad and Lennon’s inexperience in how to deal with the collapse that was unfolding before him was there for all to see. Celtic sank 2-0 to the SFL side and the media – along with a sizable portion of the Celtic fans – rounded on Neil Lennon. This result may be looked at the final, horrific, exorcism of the abomination that Mowbray had created.
The season ended with a level of respectability restored to the league challenge and Lennon having his nose bloodied for the first -but what would not be the last – time. The Celtic board announced that Lennon would take over the role as permanent manager and funds would be released to finance a rebuilding job. The departures of Aiden McGeady and Artur Boruc freed up the funds which allowed squad reconstruction to take place. Lennon set about building his squad.
Read the rest of Neil Lennon: The saga continues by downloading Issue Two of FITBA – the Scottish Football magazine – for just £1.00![paiddownloads id=”15″]