Ex-Celtic man and pundit Craig Burley in odd, circular manager row

By Euan Davidson

January 28, 2021

Former Celtic midfielder Craig Burley has been working in the US as a pundit for several years now.

The ex-Scotland international became a pundit for ESPN in 2013, and isn’t always a controversial figure. He is, however, never shy in expressing an opinion.

Born in Cumnock, Burley spent the early portion of his career at Chelsea, before moving to Celtic in 1997. He starred in Wim Jansen’s famous 97-98 squad, as well as under Dr. Jozef Venglos the season after. Over 8 years, he won 46 caps for Scotland, memorably scoring in the 98 World Cup against Norway.

Burley raised plenty of eyebrows during a strange, circular argument on the Disney-owned sports network. Host Dan Thomas and pundit Jan Aaje Fjortoft, formerly of Middlesbrough and Sheffield United, didn’t seem to know where the ex-Celtic man was going with his point.

The debate started around Ole Gunnaer Solksjær, the Manchester United manager. Somehow, it ended up being about Claudio Ranieri, via Celtic boss Neil Lennon. Here’s the clip, try and follow this one.

Craig Burley takes a shot against Lyon in 1999 / (Photo Credit: Clive Brunskill /Allsport)

What was ex-Celtic man Craig Burley saying here?

Burley – we think – was trying to argue that winning titles doesn’t make you a “great manager”. The discussion then went into a strange tangent, with Fjortoft arguing the merits of Claudio Ranieri, but Burley pointing out he was sacked not long after winning a title with Leicester City.

From then, it becomes more confusing:

Burley: “So Celtic are talking about sacking Neil Lennon at the moment, he’s won leagues and trebles, does that make him a great manager?”

Thomas: “Celtic? What are you talking about? Him winning a treble with Celtic in Scotland is on the same level as Ranieri winning the title with Leicester?”

Burley: “I don’t know, is it?”

Thomas: “No it’s not, you know it’s not”.

Burley was subsequently wrapped on the knuckles for Fjortoft for daring to making any comparisons between Neil Lennon’s situation and anything that could conceivably take place in the Premier League. The Best League in the World. Etc.

Admittedly, there’s not much to be learned here. If anything, it’s good to hear from Craig Burley, who seems to be doing well as a pundit in the US. That is, aside from this strange argument.

It’s not quite Charlie Nicholas v. Jeff Stelling, but it’s a good bit of respite from the endless misery following Celtic just now.