Former BVB man, French star: 3 left-field Celtic management candidates

By Euan Davidson

February 23, 2021

As Celtic labour to the end of a dismal season, it’s quite obvious that change is needed.

The stewardship of Neil Lennon has, predictably, come to an unfortunate end. His contract ostensibly runs out in the summer. However, given that the Lurgan-born manager has a “rolling contract”, it’s hard to say what he’s entitled to.

With Celtic becoming so difficult to watch in recent months, with very obvious limitations that aren’t being worked on, Lennon is surely on borrowed time at the club. For an institution like Celtic to be so widely criticised this season is an embarrassment. The standards have slipped, and players don’t look motivated.

With the Bhoys looking to make some enterprising moves under Dominic McKay, including the possible implementation of a Director of Football, expect the unexpected. Sometimes the most obvious solution is the correct one. However, the Hoops have gone left-field before, with Wim Jansen and Dr Jo Venglos enjoying spells in the dugout.

Here are three choices for the top job who aren’t in the papers, but have their own merits.

Favre, airborne in 2011 / (Photo by Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Would Lucien Favre fancy Celtic?

Swiss manager Lucien Favre isn’t long out the door at Borussia Dortmund. The end of his reign was a sad one, only 11 games into the Bundesliga season.

Despite not winning any major trophies at BVB, his record is still considerable. According to DW:

“Favre leaves Borussia Dortmund as the club’s joint highest performing Bundesliga coach, recording an average of  2.09 points per game, the same as Thomas Tuchel and significantly higher than Jürgen Klopp (1.91), Ottmar Hitzfeld (1.85) and Matthias Sammer (1.77).”

The former Nice, Hertha, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Zurich boss is still held in high esteem. Sure, he hasn’t won a great deal. Two Swiss league titles and two Swiss Cups is all he’s had to show for his career in management. However, he’s repeatedly managed in European competition.

Furthermore, he’s turned more obscure clubs into challengers. Gladbach were hardly world-beaters when he took over in 2011 – they’re regularly a top 6 side in the Bundesliga these days.

Yes, his stock is low, but he has the nous, tactical flexibility and experience. Under Favre, stars like Ter-Stegen, Granit Xhaka, Marco Reus and Dante have developed into top players. He ticks plenty of boxes.

Hellas Verona coach Ivan Jurić / (Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)

Ivan Jurić

The work of Gian Piero Gasperini is hard to ignore. Atalanta have turned from mid-table also-rans to competitors in the Champions League. The attacking play under Gasperini is breathtaking, with relentless energy and pressing, flying full-backs and All Mod Cons of modern football.

One of his disciples is making a mark in his own way. Ivan Jurić, who worked with Gasperini at Inter and Palermo, is doing fantastic work at Hellas Verona, who sit 9th in Serie A [Sky Sports]. That may not sound like much, but Verona were sitting much higher until a bad run of form. Given that they’ve had to sell many of their top talents, even staying in the top-flight is a success unto itself.

Jurić is a name which comes with acclaim. His 3-4-2-1 uses a dynamic press, with two central midfielders in a pivot – a style that would benefit a pairing of CalMac and Ismaila Soro [Total Football Analysis].

Much like Brendan Rodgers, Jurić’s sides emphasise effort and relentless running from wide players and attackers. Verona’s front three are used as pressing forwards, hustling opposition defenders into making mistakes and seeing less time on the ball.

Jurić isn’t particularly happy with the hierarchy at Verona [Football-Italia], so he might be looking to move on. Celtic might just be the best place for the Croatian manager to develop.

Lens coach Franck Haise / (Photo by DAMIEN MEYER/AFP via Getty Images)

Franck Haise

Last year, Lens were in Ligue 2. Today, they sit 5th in Ligue 1 [Transfermarkt].

Not bad going for a side who have suffered from years of mediocrity. A historic giant in French football, Lens last won Ligue 1 in 97-98, but are only recently back from a 5-year stint in the second tier.

The man behind it all? Franck Haise, a coach with a growing reputation around Europe. In his first elite job as a manager, Haise’s 3-4-1-2 has yielded a promotion and the very real possibility of Europa League football for a side that’s far from star-studded.

Haise is known as more of a defensive coach, who uses wingers to great effect. This season, for example, ex-Chelsea man Gael Kakuta has made 14 goal contributions, while Arnaud Kalimunedo has come on loan from PSG and starred. When his side attacks, they attack quickly [Ligue 1 Analysis], with Haise stressing positional awareness to create overlaps.

While he wouldn’t be the most exciting hire, Haise has already achieved a great deal in an alarming short space of time. Lens, a sleeping giant, have been rejuvenated by the French 49-year-old. He’s well worth a look for Celtic.

READ MORE: If you’re reading this, Neil Lennon, get this issue sorted.