Steve Clarke over Neil Lennon must be the decision when the time comes
Brendan Rodgers hopefully won’t be going anywhere until 10-in-a-row is secured at least, but Steve Clarke remains the natural replacement.
It’s looking like a two-horse race in terms of fan-demand for who the supporters want as the next man in the door. Many, of course, don’t even want to think about it either.
And whilst we all want Rodgers to lead Celtic to success for years to come, Clarke has surely now solidified himself as the perfect replacement for when the day comes and Rodgers makes his final Parkhead bow.
A knee-jerk reaction to Wednesday night’s win for Kilmarnock over Rangers? Absolutely not. That was just a by-product of the incredible 15 months of work the boyhood Hoops fan has done in Ayrshire.
Let’s not forget just how deep in the doldrums Killie were before he arrived. Lee McCulloch had them scrapping in a relegation battle, and they had the worst form in the division when he departed.
Then Clarke came in, sorted everything out at Rugby Park from the players’ diets to their training regimes, and look at them now.
Breathing down our necks
We’re now closing in on February, and Killie are still breathing right down our necks. That’s Kilmarnock Football Club. Not Hearts, not Hibs, and not Aberdeen. But lowly Killie.
All eight of Kilmarnock’s signings this season have been loan deals or free transfers. The likes of Stuart Findlay and Aaron Tshibola both came in for nothing, and Clarke has also managed to make it work with McCulloch signings such as Eamonn Brophy and Stephen O’Donnell.
His man-management has proven to be first-class. Every Kilmarnock player constantly buzzes about him, with so many of their first-team having grown their maturity and game-management under him. O’Donnell has also even managed Scotland caps under Clarke’s guidance.
So far, Clarke has only lost one of five meetings against Rodgers. He’s also beaten Rangers on three separate occasions in the space of just over a year. To put that into perspective, the last time Killie beat Rangers three times in the same time-frame was in 1957.
He’s turned a club facing near-certain relegation to top-of-the-table contenders. All in the space of a year-and-a-half.
Clarke of course has never managed a club as big as Celtic before. He has, however, worked at the likes of Chelsea before a successful stint at West Bromwich Albion. He knows how it works at the top level of the professional game.
He’s also Celtic’s next manager in waiting, regardless of whether Lennon is available or not.