"He's just world class": Damien Duff should be a dark horse for Celtic manager job - opinion

By Euan Davidson

March 3, 2021

Celtic supporters like Damien Duff, of that there’s little doubt.

As a matter of fact, there are plenty of supporters who blame Celtic’s decline on Damien Duff leaving the club. As a first-team coach under Neil Lennon, Duff left the Bhoys to take up a role with the Republic of Ireland.

A hero for Chelsea, Fulham and Blackburn Rovers, Duff had a glittering playing career. He began coaching in 2017 with Shamrock Rovers, before the Bhoys came calling in 2019 [Transfermarkt].

After a succesfull spell with Celtic, as a first-team coach under Neil Lennon, Duff suddenly left to join the Republic of Ireland coaching staff. Unfortunately, that spell didn’t end well, with Duff resigning earlier this year.

Celtic supporters were happy to hear that Duff had left Stephen Kenny’s Ireland set-up [Irish Mirror], with the optimism that the Irishman would join Neil Lennon’s staff once more.

However, these are changes days. Odds on Damien Duff taking Neil Lennon’s job continue to be slashed. With his reputation at the club, and the acclaim of other coaches and players, the ex-winger is a more-than-decent shout, even if he lacks managerial experience.

Here’s why Damien Duff is in with a chance of managing Celtic.

Damien Duff, scoring for Chelsea / (Photo by Ben Radford/Getty Images)

Family matters for Damien Duff, a potential Celtic manager

Firstly, Damien Duff has a long-held and public affection for the club. It was truly a wrench for him to leave after just one year of coaching, and he’s always keen to speak about matters at Paradise.

Upon leaving, Duff told Celtic FC’s in-house media:

“The role I had at Celtic was my dream job.

“I’m absolutely gutted, devastated to be leaving, especially at this time, when we’re going for 10.

“It was absolutely a family decision. There is no job in the world that would have taken me away from the role I was in. I’d love to be a brilliant coach one day, but I think it’s more important at the minute that I’m just a brilliant dad, I guess.

“For the first while I was away, my kids were like, ‘Daddy, Daddy, stay for nine and 10’, but as time went by, it was more, ‘Daddy, Daddy, when are you coming home?’ Celtic is one big family, but my family is here as well.

“It was the best year-and-a-half of my sporting life, and I include my football career in that. It was an absolute dream with amazing people. I’m gutted, but my kids need me, which is always the most important thing to any dad.”

If Duff was able to make a home base in or around Glasgow with his family, there’s every chance the Irishman would be able to make a go of the top job. His relationship with John Kennedy is well-established, having sung his praises in January 2020.

With many of the same people involved at the club next season, there’ll also be a freshness to the Celtic set-up. Kennedy will likely remain at the club in some form. With incoming CEO Dominic McKay coming in June, and a Director of Football set to arrive simultaneously, the pressure of recruitment will be taken from his shoulders.

If Celtic follow a more modern footballing model, they may see Damien Duff as a “head coach”. Given his prowess developed over such a short spell of time, it’s a potentially excellent appointment.

Damien Duff watching on at the Stadio Olimpico for Celtic v Lazio / (Photo by Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Influence on Academy players

Additionally, the former Celtic coach has had an influence on Academy players. The likes of Stephen Welsh and Mikey Johnston developed well under his auspices, and the next generation of Academy graduates have talked up his coaching and standards.

Celtic youngster Barry Coffey told the Irish News:

“Damien Duff was an idol of mine growing up but as a coach he is one of the best I’ve worked under so far in my career.

“He’s just world class, he has standards and stardust. There is just untold learning from someone like him. He’s done it all in the game. He’s been a massive influence on my career.”

With Hoops supporters wanting more opportunities to be given to youngsters, Damien Duff would be the outstanding choice here. While much investment will need to be made in the first-team, there’d be optimism for academy prospects like Barry Coffey. Equally, if the board can be convinced of the quality within the youth set-up, there’ll be cost saving to be had, too.

Duff during his successful spell at Fulham / (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

What are Damien Duff’s Celtic chances?

A smart coach and quick learner, Duff has a decent chance here.

No, he isn’t the big name that a lot of supporters will want. If anything, the ideal situation would be a set-up involving, but not necessarily led by, Damien Duff. For sure, John Kennedy would’ve liked to have had him in his interim coaching team for the end of this season.

Duff is as likely as Martin O’Neill or Gordon Strachan to land the Celtic job. Perhaps, more likely. Given the board’s lack of imagination, the former Chelsea man may have already had a phone call by now.

A Duff-led Celtic would be a youthful, energetic side. If his coaching is anything to go by, Duff would favour short passing and rapid build-up play. That’s based on this season’s performances compared to the campaign prior; Celtic were stodgy and uncreative with their approach play under Neil Lennon this season.

Whereas, in both Europe and the league, Celtic were scoring in bunches and utilised counter-attacks with precision and speed. That’s been absent in 20-21, and it’s not hard to put 2 and 2 together here.

Our view? It wouldn’t be the absolute worst idea. But with the quality of experienced candidates out there, we’re not sure it’d be a particularly popular appointment.

Even with all the goodwill aimed in Duff’s direction from the Celtic supporters.

READ MORE: Invincible backs Invincible.