DIDIER AGATHE admits he was gutted when he heard the news his former team-mate Neil Lennon had departed Celtic.
The end came for the Irishman two days after the dismal 1-0 flop against lowly Ross County in Dingwall last month.
Lennon, 49, just short of his two-year anniversary after returning to the club to take over from Leicester City-bound Brendan Rodgers, made his exit before the completion of a catastrophic campaign where the quest for a historic tenth successive championship nosedived in the midst of inexplicable performances.
Agathe, who played alongside the midfielder during the Martin O’Neill reign and was a key man in the march towards the UEFA Cup Final against Porto in Seville in 2003, said he felt for his old pal, but insisted he would bounce back into management.
The Parkhead board are, of course, currently on the hunt for a successor, with Roy Keane the latest to show an interest.
Agathe said: “It’s a very difficult situation for the club just now because nobody thought this would happen.
“The team won nine in a row, they were looking good to make it 10 and it hasn’t happened.
IT TAKES TWO…John Kennedy and Didier Agathe prepare to face Barcelona in 2004.
“Now Celtic will look at a different approach. It feels like a fresh start.
“But that is not easy and there are many changes coming, so I do think it’s better to appoint someone who knows Celtic.
“I would like to see someone who is passionate about the club, who knows what it means to win for the fans and the team.
“I also believe the board must give the manager time to get things right, because they will almost be starting from scratch.
“It will be a new manager, new players and a new system. That can take some time, so there will have to be patience.
“This summer Celtic need to get the right structure in place, they need top scouting and they need investment.
“The board will be looking at all of this right now, but it’s difficult to know what kind of manager they will appoint.
“I felt sad for Neil when he left because it has been a strange season for Celtic.
JUST IN TIME…Didier Agathe slides in to nick the ball away from Barcelona superstar Ronaldinho.
“He started it with some new players, no fans in the stadium and things didn’t go well.
“That is the same for other clubs, too, but it seems like Celtic weren’t the same team without the supporters at games.
“I was surprised at the results and when I saw some of the games, you could see the players had become a bit fragile.
“But I know Neil will return to football soon. He is a great man and gave so much to Celtic.”
John Kennedy has been put in interim charge and will be in the dug-out when Rangers are schedule to visit Parkhead on Sunday in their first game since winning their first ttitle in nine years following the official end of an era from the nine-in-a-row champions after a tepid goalless confrontation against Dundee United at Tannadice.
Agathe is convinced the occasion will not faze his one-time colleague and, speaking to the Scottish Sun, added: “John was always very calm for such a young player coming into the Celtic team.
“He kept his emotions inside. He didn’t talk too much, he was focused and professional.
JOY BHOYS…Stan Varga and John Kennedy celebrate after a 2-1 win over Rangers at Ibrox in 2004.
“I remember his performances in the games against Barcelona and Rangers in 2004 when John was only 20. Those were big occasions and he was terrific. For his age, he was so calm and so composed.
“But that was always the mentality John had. He was mature for his age and he could handle the pressure.
“He was there for a reason. It was because he had talent, but also because he didn’t panic on the field.
“Whether it was Barcelona or Rangers, John was always very calm and that won’t have changed over the years.
“Celtic have lost the league, but there will still be pressure on them this weekend. You always want to beat Rangers, and getting the three points would at least lift the atmosphere at the club.
“But John can handle that pressure. He will be focused this week and he will have the team prepared.
“I have no doubt John can lead Celtic to good results in the games until the end of the season and beating Rangers would be so important.”