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Neil Lennon must be the boss at Celtic

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Jim Spence | 15:21 UK time, Friday, 4 June 2010

In my blog on 27 March I wrote, Neil Lennon is now in pole position for the Celtic job: a good run to the end of season and securing the Scottish Cup may be enough to land him the job permanently.

He didn't win the cup, suffering a horror show in the semi final v Ross County, but his refusal to make excuses for his team, his frank assessment of their failures, plus their subsequent SPL form, showed his mettle.

Now he seems set to be handed the challenge of regaining the league title, which must be Celtic's main objective.

As I revealed on last Saturday's Sportsound on BBC Radio Scotland, the man Lennon wants beside him in that dugout is Alan Thompson.

That is a shrewd move.

lennonthompson595.jpgThey played together in a hugely successful Celtic side, and know and trust each other.

That will be crucial as Lennon takes his first managerial post.

What is less clear, however, is why anyone thinks Lennon needs a "mentor" or "father figure".

Lennon has huge playing experience, deals confidently and articulately with the media, and knows the Scottish football scene inside out.

European football may tax him more, but he will have no shortage of contacts that can help him on an informal basis in that arena.

So what is Celtic's thinking in contemplating such an appointment?

The risk of undermining a new manager by installing a senior figure is a real possibility.

Lennon may of course be willing to sacrifice a limited degree of autonomy in return for a job which he rightly covets.

But it's the manager who carries the can in football.

If things go badly, it'll not be the mentor who gets the stick, it'll be the manager.

So why should the boss have a boss?

In football one man usually makes the decisions and stands or falls by them. That man is the manager.

If Lennon is given the job and it seems highly likely that he will be, he should be the manager; full stop.

Personnel, tactics, selection and style of play must be his domain and his only.

Matters such as contracts, youth development and the myriad of other things that go on at a football club can be attended to by others.

But there can only be one manager and on that point Neil Lennon will I suspect, and should be, unmoveable.


  • Comment number 1.

    Regardless of playing experience, coaching & managing is a completely different prospect. How many players that have played at a high level have failed as managers? John Barnes for one springs to mind. I get the feeling Celtic would have liked a more experienced manager, maybe a Davie Moyes or even Martin O'Neill once they realised they couldn't get a manager of that ilk they had to appoint Lennon. The move towards a director of football is purely to allay their fears that Lennon is not experienced enough.

  • Comment number 2.

    I agree Lennon is more than capable of doing the job with correct assistants and Alan Thompson fits the bill along with the big Swede.
    I think you will find that Lennon's appointment will be announced in just less than 2 weeks, with or without an older figure. I suspect without.

  • Comment number 3.

    Ok, so we're not as good technically as the europeans. We're not as good tactically as the europeans.............but our style of management is better!!

    Everyone seems to pooh pooh this mentor appointment as someone who will interfere; why is that assumed? If the manner of the relationship is set from outset there won't need to be any stepping on toes, it all seems very straight forward to me.

    Lenny instilled hard work and fight into a team that consistently rolled over under Mowbray; however, he was found wanting tactically in the last Rangers match. As soon as Smith moved Davis behind the striker we couldn't keep the ball and were under a lot of pressure and the shape wasn't changed. The same issue could be related to the Ross County debacle, plan A didn't work but plan B wasn't there. I think that the mentor would be helpful in this type of capacity, provided Lenny was able to make the final call.

  • Comment number 4.

    Its vital that Lenny gets off to a good start. If we start to fall behind Rangers early in the year then he should be shown the door sharpish. Although we had a good finish we played a lot of route one stuff and it was not pretty to watch. Lenny met the boards first criteria in that was he was available and cheap. He'll always have Ross County on his CV but if we win the league then we can start to forgive. His priority must be to replace our whole forward as , without Keane, it must the worst in living memory.

  • Comment number 5.

    Good question Jim. Lennon's efforts so far make it pretty clear that he's not John Barnes mark II. Many inexperienced managers fail, but others succeed. Off the top of my head, Guardiola, Mark Hughes.

    The nature of Lennon's relationship with his "mentor" must be the key. Lennon must be the boss. The mentor must be the man he can go to for advice. Which, now that I write it down, doesn't sound like even a part-time job.

  • Comment number 6.

    Good article and I agree throughout. Celtic could really be shooting themselves in the foot here. Surely he could just phone MoN if really necessary? Not some duffer who no-one's ever heard of and has never proven themselves anywhere yet is deemed superior simply due to age?

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 8.

    Scotland cannot wait for Lennon to become Celtic manager, To see a great club Celtic once was stubble from one crisis to another is sad to see but this shows the Parkhead Boardroom have a sence of humour. After shortchanging their fans each season the board have finally brought out the trump card, The Celtic board has found a man who covers all the bases, available, cheap, passionate about the club, will be given more time than the last manager and with Rangers financially crippled they dont need to spend big in finding Tony Mowbrays replacement. The only downside is if the "experiment" fails whats will to happen to Lennon?

    I wish Lennon all the best he is a straight talker and seems a decent bloke but for the neutrals (ie people who dont support the Old Firm) this will be an interesting spell to see if this is the year Dundee Utd, Hibs, Hearts will split the Gruesome twosomes hold over Scottish football.

  • Comment number 9.

    Lennon will be a huge success at Celtic. He has a vital ingredient and that is hunger. It will drive him on.
    He is idolised by the supportand that will gain him another precious comodity - time.
    I here Celtic are negotiating with S Baxter. That is a good bit of business and I reckon he will become Celtic chief scout too.

  • Comment number 10.

    7. Jo, When was the last time that your team managed 3 in a row ?

  • Comment number 11.

    Lennon should be confirmed very soon but if he he is the right man for the job why wasn't he appointed sooner?
    because the board were trying to get someone more experienced, and we now know trappatoni got offered the job...and im sure there were others.
    As much as this appointment will could make or break lennon's managerial career the real buck stops with the board because they make the appointments and it cant get any worse than last season.
    If you go back to the 2009 january transfer window when strachan was told by the board that all he could buy was willo flood but then in the summer mowbary was given a lot more. That january if the board had spent then the league would have been won and probably this year too. On top of that rangers would have fallen deeper into crisis.....but of course as anybody who has of supported celtic for a few years will tell you, the board are well known for failing to take the inititive but never slow on taking the support for granted!

  • Comment number 12.

    " What is less clear, however, is why anyone thinks Lennon needs a "mentor" or "father figure"."

    Well the only game out of the nine that meant anything to Celtic was the Cup semi-final and he tactically made a cock-up on that one, Spectacularly.

    Would you put your house on an untried manager on his own or an untried manager with back-up from someone he respected and trusted ?

    I know where I'd stick my dosh, belt & braces my boy.

  • Comment number 13.

    One of the hardest things to learn in coaching I think is man-management. O'Neill was or probably is the best in the world at it. And Jock Stein was the master. Its the ability to work well with players on a one to one basis, individual players who are having a problem, maybe lack of confidence, maybe trouble off the park, maybe fighting with other players. The ability to take a lad aside and work through it with him and give him the confidence to shine again, that's very difficult, especially for a young man. I think Lennon probably will end up being a naturally good manager, but he is going to find those times when he feels alone on a subject, or at a loss of what to do with a player who is upset or lacking confidence, and he will need to turn to an old head for a wee pointer. I don;t think this is a bad thing, but I do think it should be someone Lennon agrees on and is comfortable with. Baxter is mature and well travelled with lots of experience, but still has that bit of a lad character that may fit well with Lennon. And if its just someone who can turn to only when needed, I can;t see why it would be a problem if Lennon is allowed to manage the squad the way he wants to.

  • Comment number 14.


    3 in a row will be confirmed in the next couple of weeks when Lennon gets appointed. :-)

  • Comment number 15.

    We only know there is gunna be a show and Neil Lennon will be the boss. I think Celtic want to put on a show with Neil. Announce him as manager at the same time as 2 or 3 signings.

    The other reason. Having been a manager of absolutely no significance i can tell you in some walks of life managerial life and politics is rubbish and it can cause burnout. I suspect Neil may not be ready for some of the "meetings" that as a manager he would be required to attend. Having an ambasaborial person shuvle this cack could be a very good move. I'm sure WGS left because of all that nonsense and with the media mental world we now live in the celtic top job is no place for a hot head ... I think he will be a fantastic boss if kept away from that side of football which is to do with marketing and pr and little to do with football.

    Anyway - lets pray - God please bless Neil Lennon and the Celtic team - Amen. Also bless the orcs, our enemies, just not as much!!!!

  • Comment number 16.

    It does not strike me that Celtic have been falling over themselves to sign up Lennon. Suspect Baxter is more of an insurance policy if Lennon bombs than fulfilling a true mentor role, i.e. Baxter could become the manager as Lennon exits. Also suspect that Lennon knows this but will take the risk if it means getting the job.

  • Comment number 17.

    The Scottish Press want to give Lennon the job, so if it doesn't work out the Scottish Press will have a field day when and if it fails, this is the real reason why they are all clambering to give Lennon the job. Wake up everybody.

  • Comment number 18.

    I've been saying since the season ended that I'm desperate for Neil Lennon to get the job. My flaber is well and truly gasted at the amount of time it has taken to make the appointment though and I'm really starting to lose patience. Whether the board are trying to give the impression of taking care and due diligence over the appointment or not I'm unsure, but we need to make this appointment quickly now and move on with the business of getting ready for next season.

  • Comment number 19.

    To Scott Graham at comment 17.

    Scott, do you think the Scottish press is one homogenous body ? Mulder and Scully might follow your line of reasoning but very few others will.

    No one is clamouring to give anyone the job as far as I can see. Most of the media are simply reporting what we know.

  • Comment number 20.

    Neil Lennon is either good enough or he is not. Give him the job and we will find out. If the board or the supporters think that he needs a mentor then they obviously do not think he is either good enough or ready to take on the job.

    If Neil needs someone to bounce ideas off, then that will be his assistant. There can be only one man in charge, one man to accept responsibility, one man with full authority to make the decisions, and one man to take the blame if it all goes wrong.

    The director of football position is not one that works well in British football. It did not work for Kenny Dalglish at Celtic and it failed miserably for Dennis Wise at Newcastle. If Celtic are considering this position for someone to mentor Neil Lennon then they obviously do not think that Lennon is up to the job. Lennon should refuse the job if this is the thinking of the Celtic board.

    The Celtic board obviously do not have total confidence in Neil Lennon or they would have given him the job already. It is fairly obvious, however, that attracting someone experienced and with a proven track record is not an easy task, even for one of he old firm. Lennon will get the job if there is nobody else with the appropriate credentials willing to take the reigns at Celtic park.

    It will hardly be a ringing endorsement by the board if Lennon is eventually appointed.

  • Comment number 21.

    Lennon, Mjallby and Thompson.

    Great, just great.

    Lennon and Thompson were decent players, Mjallby an exceptional one.

    So let's add up the experience they all have in management...




    Ermmm... I make it a grand total of ZERO, nothing, nowt, not even at small lower league clubs.

    What on earth persuades anyone that they have the necessary credentials to manage a club of Celtic's stature is utterly beyond me.

    Even a penniless, talentless Rangers - a club falling apart in front of our eyes - has in place a shrewd, very experienced manager in Walter Smith.

    We, by comparison, have the clueless leading the clueless.

    My expectations for the coming season are low - very low.

  • Comment number 22.

    Lennon must have the final say on whether he wants a Director of Football or anything similar. The Celtic board either trust him to do the job or they don't.

    I do think however, that he needs some experience in the coaching team. A senior figure, even as a coach would compliment the inexperienced Lennon, Thompson and Mjallby.

  • Comment number 23.

    scot graham .

    you hit the nail on the head .
    lennon for manager until it goes wrong then the backlash begins, is that not how it all works .
    they're are some really good comments replied to jim spences blog but he singles you out . why.
    they're maybe one or two journalists who have a some moral code when it comes to covering games and reporting on them but the majority act like a pack of wolves .
    scottish football on it's knees, bring lennon in and give him a chance, it would be bold but whose to say it wouldn't be successful, lets face it he has a 50/50 chance of winning the league, it's one or the other.

  • Comment number 24.

    Interesting discussion , I like many celtic supporters have watched and studied and discussed the tactics of many great celtic managers. If the criteria for the job is passion, aknowledge and affection for the club as well as the desire to win at the moment neil lennon is only 9 games more experienced than me and thousands of others. Guess what id be cheaper. Mowbray was an illadvised appt lets not compound that by making a crazy one.

  • Comment number 25.

    regarding comment 17 and 21

    I absolutely agree that friends of Lennon in the scottish media have helped him get the job. As a Celtic fan I am horrified that after losing the only important game of last season. Ross County off course!!He was given such an easy ride. He won most of his other games in charge but I'm afraid they were absolutely meaningless. Not only that he started publically slating celtic players and was applauded by the scots media for doing so even though Mowbray was destroyed for doing exactly the same thing. What a disgrace the broadcast and tabloid media is!! We also get all these ex football pundits weighing in with their backing. Rubbish. After Mowbray it is absolutely vital we get an older coach who can bring strict discipline and vital management experience to the Hoops. If we bring in lennon rangers will dominate for at least five years and celtic may go into financial meltdown without the champions league.

  • Comment number 26.

    I'm also not sure as to why Jim Spence felt the need to respond to only one comment. Incidentally, the only comment to point out what the Scottish media and their hacks do so well: build people up simply to tear them down at the first available opportunity.
    Unless everyone's been under a rock the past 2 months, there have been a myriad of articles in almost every rotten red bannered tabloid rag, from a selection of ex pros, so-called 'experts' and remedial journalists, talking Neil Lennon up for the Celtic post.

    It's ludicrous to suggest the media do anything else! Half the 'stories' are non-stories to begin with, so they fill the rest of the page space up with guff talk about Lennon and Celtic, and as usual, completely ignore the shambles going on on the other side of the city. You know, the shambles of financial doping, 3rd party payments, HMRC tax bills, the breaking of SPL rules and laws of the game. But hey, why comment on that when you can post the same boring old tosh about Lennon, the same boring old tripe that's been ongoing for several weeks, with barely any new developments.

    And why? So that if he succeeds they can take the credit: "my blog, on the 4th of June 2010 said that he deserved the job blah blah blow some more smoke up my own @rse"

    Or alternatively: "my blog on the 4th of June 2010 said that European football would be taxing blah blah blah what another debacle from the Parkhead hierarchy"

    Honestly, the Scottish media is ATROCIOUS. Even this blog states the glaringly obvious. I can't believe people get paid for writing this dirge.

  • Comment number 27.

    I think that personally the Celtic board are taking far too long in appointing Neil as manager. I mean we have a game against either Ajax,Fernabahce,Zenit,Dynamo Kiev or Sporting Braga in 7 and a bit weeks.

    With Neil,Alan and Johan as the new management team with some shrewd signings like Sol Campbell,Joe Ledley and a quality striker I am confident we will take the SPL title back where it belongs in Paradise.

    Hail Hail!

  • Comment number 28.

    Neil Lennon is a great character and a Celtic legend, but he should not be starting his managerial career at this level. No inexperienced manager should. Ask Liam Brady. As for mentors, the whole discourse is Orwellian, like Barnes & Dagliesh never happened. Lennon lost his right to this job at this time with the Ross County result. County were saying a soon as the draw was made that they planned to attack Celtic; there was plenty of time and data available to get that result right.

    Wim Jansen was a seasoned European manager, and MoN worked his way up through a series of small clubs. What is that quote about those who fail to learn from the mistakes of history being destined to repeat them? Does the Celtic Board really believe the supporters can be fobbed off like this?

  • Comment number 29.

    Bilge not dirge!

  • Comment number 30.

    It is high time that the Celtic board give Neil Lennon the job.It is perfectly obvious that the board have failed to attract someone with the experience that was expected. There is no need to assign another individual as a mentor.Lennon has worked with experienced managers, has played in CL football and has proven that he has what it takes to be successful in the SPL.With assistants that he has chosen, that should be enough to see Celtic regain some pride and prestige.Experience will come and there are enough "old heads " still kicking around Parkhead if he needs any advice.There have also been quite a few names being banded around as perpesctive signings that Lennon must have had some say in, so isn't it now time for the Celtic for the board to get off theit butts and name the new manager.If the board insists on a mentor, there must be some misgivings and therefore Lennon is not the man for the job. Who else is there?

  • Comment number 31.

    Why does Lennon need a DoF Jim? Because he has managed 'nobody'! And as both the Ross County and the Rangers game showed he is worryingly short on tactics. If they needed somebody who was motivated well they have it now. I'm just not sure what else he has apart from being a decent guy.

    Didn't people expect him to get a positive reaction in his 8 or 9 games? Things usually improve (briefly) when a new manager comes in and players want to impress, or they are just so glad the previous guy is away. But will the 'bounce effect' after Mowbray stay? I'm astonished that based on the remaining matches of last season that Celtic will appoint Lennon. He's desperate for the job (after all appearing in papers virtually everyday tells its own story!) but to appoint him and then appoint someone as a DoE to give him advice is also telling: that the board are worried about his inexperience. And if they are worried about his inexperience why appoint him in the first place to this postition? Madness!

  • Comment number 32.

    No, dirge. I think you will find many use it as slang for rubbish or pure tosh.

    Thanks anyway, your comment was extremely worthwhile.

  • Comment number 33.

    Pepe Guardiola seems to have done not too badly at Barcelona as manager, despite stepping into the job straight from playing.

    To say that Celtic won SPL games under Neil Lennon where nothing was at stake fails to take into account the fact that they didn't win games where plenty was at stake under the previous regime.

    As I said in the blog, Lennon may be willing to sacrifice some autonomy, but someone needs to explain more about the role of a Director of Football or a Mentor.

    Just exactly what will the duties of that individual be, what will be the parameters of the job, will the Mentor be in the dugout on match days for tactical advice and assistance, and who will make the big decisions.

    These are crucial questions and need answers.

  • Comment number 34.

    Jim - I'm sure that you are not saying that Lennon is the next Guardiola which would be a bit premature and possibly silly but you are wrong in saying that Pep stepped into 'job straight after playing'. Guardiola managed Barca B for a season (and won the title!). Perhaps the question should be whether you think an inexperienced manager who hasn't managed at any senior level for a season can be successful at Celtic? We've had Liam Brady and John Barnes in recent memory and the 'memory' isn't good!

    Winning the remaining games last season Jim? Ever heard of the 'bounce effect'? Lost to Ross County Jim!!!

    Btw the crucial questions that you think need answers, also need answers at Ibrox.

  • Comment number 35.

    Rob04. NoI'm not saying Lennon will be the next Guardiola. His main job however, is to win domestically and in that he'll have a huge advantage given Celtic's relative wealth and ability to attract players of a quality that no other Scottish club can match (depending on how Rangers financial situation pans out of course).

    As to the bounce effect, many managers never achieve one at all so give Lennon credit where it's due.Yes they lost to Ross County who also beat Hibs and Accies and were a good first division side.

    As to my point about the duties of the Mentor, I'm interested to know what you think they should be and where the demarcation lines are drawn.

  • Comment number 36.

    I would like to pose a theory. Surely if we feel the need to support the new manager with a mentor that suggests he doesnt have the experience in the first place. I think lennon was a good celtic player but would not agree with legend status. I think domestically this could be ok but in european terms this could be a massive mistake.

  • Comment number 37.

    Celtic's board (Peter Lawwell, John Reid) makes no sense to me. To have pursued Tony Mowbray so hard and paid £2 million compensation to West Bromwich Albion, then to sack him after less than a season after bowing to Celtic fans' pressure, and to replace him with a complete rookie in Neil Lennon takes some fathoming. I'd like to hear Lawwell's and Reid's reasoning behind their decision-making.

  • Comment number 38.

    Jim, if as big a club as Celtic appoint a manager who needs a mentor, have they in fact appointed the right manager?

  • Comment number 39.

    Ok, just read what Celtic have to say. Their insurance against getting their fingers burnt again (and a sign of their confidence in Lennon) is expressed in their giving him only a 12-month contract.

  • Comment number 40.

    So lennon was always the number 1 choice and nobody else was ever offered the job, the board just thought it would be best to delay the announcement for a month....

    Ok so none of us are going to believe this but we will get behind him and see what he can do. Regardless of his experience i dont think he needs a director of football/mentor as that just complicates things when it comes to who is actually in charge. Also im sure he has a list of people he can ring for advice ie Martin O'neill.

    The good thing is that he is identifying footballers who know the british style of play and also who know what celtic is all about, something that has been lacking recently.

    Re: rangers fans...enjoy walters last season because as much as you lot are laughing at lennon we're going to be in stitches the following year when super sally takes over!

  • Comment number 41.

    aries22, Celtic have given Neil Lennon a one year rolling contract, which refreshes itself every day. That's not an uncommon situation in football, and presumably one which both parties are happy with.

  • Comment number 42.

    Still thinking Celtic made the right decision? I think Lennon has to go.

  • Comment number 43.

    Lennon has to go now surely - he simply isn't safe any more? Even if it was a choice ebtween the World Cup and my family, I would have to choose my family.

  • Comment number 44.

    His win in the Scottish Cup arguably proves that he was right to be given the job. He let it slip up in Inverness, otherwise they would have been on the way to a memorable double.

  • Comment number 45.

    Can't believe Lennon is staying in charge. Yes he won the cup, but he isn't safe!

  • Comment number 46.

    Who should we sign? Latest rumours up my way are that we'll get Ramsey on loan, and also put a bid in for Ivanovic because he's not happy at Chelsea.

    Anything else? Craig Gordon would be good...


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