So as we creep into Monday evening, there’s still no announcement as of yet regarding the future of Neil Lennon as supporters undoubtedly keep refreshing their phones.
Many of us are expecting something today regarding what the future holds for the manager. Perhaps it’ll be his exit, perhaps it’ll be a vote of confidence from the board. Regardless, something must be said either today or tomorrow at the latest on what’s happening here.
The manager will still have his backers, but that group of supporters is lessening by the day nevermind the game. There’s quite clearly a massive vocal collective within the Celtic support that want a change, and I’m one of them.
But just because I, and many others, want Lennon out, it doesn’t mean his reputation is in tatters by any means. In fact, it’s quite the opposite – many of us want Neil to depart because it’ll actually SAVE his reputation amongst the support. If he leaves now, the fans will thank him for his incredibly hard work and treat him with the love and admiration he deserves for the service he’s given the club.
All Lennon has to do is look at one of our former managers in Ronny Deila. Deila looked like he had been building something special in his first season after securing a double and a place in the Europa League last-32. Fast forward a season and his team’s performances rapidly deteriorated and it culminated in an embarrassing Scottish Cup semi-final defeat to Rangers.
Immediately after that, Deila announced his intention to step down at the end of the season and pave the way for Brendan Rodgers to revolutionise the club. He could see that things weren’t getting any better, and he moved out of Parkhead before Rangers arrived in the Premiership to allow us to prepare as well as possible.
The rest is history. Celtic won 11 consecutive domestic trophies (potentially 12) and Deila went off to Valarenga back in Norway before taking the life-changing move to New York City in the MLS.
Deila still fondly thought of by the Celtic supporters
Even today Deila is still adored by a Celtic support who appreciated his vision for bringing fast-paced attacking football to Parkhead, even if it didn’t really work out in the end. And a lot of this love comes from the fact he was able to realise when things were over.
Deila wasn’t under the cosh for weeks and weeks by the supporters the way Lennon has been. The warning lights had been there by losing in the Champions League playoff round to Malmo and exiting the Europa League at the group stage. But it was only after the Rangers loss in that cup semi-final that the pressure was really on him to go. And he obliged.
When he was announced as the new manager of New York last year, plenty of Celtic fans were lining up to wish him all the best. He then spoke to Open Goal’s Si Ferry back in May and stated that he hoped Celtic would send him an invite to any potential 10-in-a-row party:
“Neil and his team have done fantastically well. I am sure he is going to drag the club to ten and hopefully I can be there to celebrate with them.”
Everyone looks at Deila favourably. It doesn’t matter if his exit was designed to look as though he resigned or whether he flat out did indeed make the decision himself. The fact is the decision was agreed by both parties and Deila left with his head held high. And that’s for a manager who only had a two-year association with Celtic. Imagine how much of a hero Lennon will forever be considered if he makes the right decision.
Lennon simply must replicate that same form of exit if he’s to continue being loved by the Celtic support as much as his career deserves him to be. Make no mistake, if Neil stays on and loses the 10, it will be unforgivable for many. That’s not a warning, but an observation. The fury in the fanbase at the moment is as high as it’s ever been on the manager.
He’ll be loved and admired by the Celtic support as a whole again one day, but he has to emulate Deila’s exit to show he has the club’s best interests at heart.