It seems a good while ago now, but Celtic 0-2 Rangers was effectively the match where things started to plummet for Neil Lennon.
The absolute insipidness of that performance left Celtic fans both alarmed and fuming. It was unacceptable/out-of-order/whatever else you want to call it.
It was then followed by another confidence-sapping defeat at home to AC Milan before we managed to let a 3-2 lead slip at Pittodrie to drop another two points in the title race.
The fans weren’t pleased. We all knew there was something wrong and the pressure ramped up on the manager. So, what was his response to the criticism? Did he hold his hands up and acknowledge things hadn’t been going well and that he had to rectify it?
Nah, he effectively told us to be quiet because it had only been “one bad week”. As quoted by the BBC, this is what Lennon said in full:
“There’s a clear lack of respect because of one bad week.
“We’ve lost one game in the league and pundits are talking about me being two games away from the sack. Players getting singled out, abused, criticised, it’s absolutely shocking.
“There’s no justification for me to be sacked. None whatsoever. If things start to deteriorate rapidly, I’ll hold my hands up and say, ‘this isn’t working, we need to look at something else’. But at the moment we’re nowhere near that.”
The Celtic support isn’t foolish
What annoyed me about these comments at the time was that Lennon appeared to be telling everyone who was criticising him that they didn’t know what they were talking about. The fans included.
Yet we could all see the decline that was about to happen. We knew the troubling performances against Rangers, Milan, and Aberdeen were a sign of what was to come. The reason? It was the same turgid performances we had been getting away with during the early parts of the season.
Remember, it was only late goals that saw us survive at Tannadice and McDiarmid Park to name a couple. Livingston and St Mirren also ran us close in eyebrow-raising manners too. There have been several other games in which we’ve won where points could easily have been dropped.
Yet Lennon refused to acknowledge that. And since then, Celtic have gone on to be mauled by Sparta Prague in a 4-1 embarrassment at Parkhead, and then came within a whisker of losing at Easter Road yesterday. That’s not even mentioning the fact we carelessly threw away a two-goal lead in Lille.
Lennon has yet to revisit these comments, and seems to actively be trying to avoid them. It’s no longer been one bad week, as we all knew it wasn’t going to be at the time. It’s now been over one bad month. But he’s yet to hold his hands up and say ‘this isn’t working, we need to look at something else’.
At what stage does the manager start to think “Nah, I’ll need to move on for the good of the club”? That time doesn’t look like coming anytime soon, and considering where we are at the moment, that’s a big concern for Celtic supporters.