Celtic linked to former Premier League manager, Alex Neil

By Euan Davidson

January 28, 2021

Celtic could look to Alex Neil, if Neil Lennon is to vacate the manager job at Paradise.

The Scottish Sun are reporting that the odds on Neil have been slashed over the last 24 hours.

Neil, who currently coaches Preston North End in the Sky Bet Championship, is a familiar face. He played for Hamilton Academical for 10 years, becoming their player-manager in 2013 [BBC]. His career has taken him to the Premier League with Norwich City, before arriving in Preston in 2017.

His Preston side have been raided by the Bhoys as recently as the last few hours. Celtic have agreed a pre-contract deal with defender Ben Davies, although he could join over the next few days. The Hoops had also been linked with midfielder Ben Pearson.

Neil Lennon refuses to cede control of the Paradise dugout. Last week, following a grim draw with Livingston, Lennon told the Daily Record:

“I won’t walk away, absolutely. A month ago we won the Treble.

“You’re asking the wrong guy and I’m fed up answering it. Everyone seems interested in my job. I’ll be here until told otherwise.

“Everyone is frustrated. We look to the next game and try to put wins together because the run isn’t good enough. Of course we can turn it around.”

Next Celtic boss? Alex Neil of Preston North End / (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

For Celtic, is Alex Neil of the required standard?

Alex Neil is, by all means, a decent coach. He has taken bold steps, leaving the comfort of familiar surroundings at Hamilton to take up the reins at Norwich. While with the East Anglia side, Neil experienced a season of Premier League football, with a style that was entertaining.

His is by no means the sexiest name attached to the Celtic job, however. Rafa Benitez, Eddie Howe and Frank Lampard have all been talked up as successors to Lennon.

His Preston side currently sit 11th [EFL] in the Sky Bet Championship, so it’s surprising to see Neil being linked so heavily. If the Deepdale side were on a hot run of form, challenging for promotion, it would make more sense. As it is, they’re a mid-table club.

Upgrade on Lennon?

It’s possible that bookmakers have seen all of the Celtic-Preston transfer talk and put 2 and 2 together to make 5, here. While Neil is undoubtedly a talented coach, there’s probably not enough substance to these rumours to make them truly worthwhile yet.

Would he represent an upgrade on Neil Lennon? Very possibly; you have to imagine the experience of Premier League football and shrewdness of his past acquisitions are real assets for a club like Celtic. He’s also Scottish and “knows the city”, which for some reason is a huge boost to his chances.

His understanding of Scottish football and the defensive side of the game are top-notch, too. While at Hamilton, he worked to keep the Lanarkshire side competitive on a tiny budget. That meant his teams had to be organised and clinical with few chances. His side’s win over Celtic in 2014 was evidence of his abilities [Sky Sports].

We’re keeping a wry eye on this one. Neil’s may not be the most glamorous name, but he may end up being what Celtic need in the future.