"They could've got Ivan Toney"; Hartson on what let Lennon down at Celtic

By David Walton

February 24, 2021

John Hartson, who recently had a public dispute with Neil Lennon, has been discussing what let him down at Celtic.

The big Welshman was a team-mate of Lennon’s during the Martin O’Neill era, and also played a season together under Gordon Strachan.

However, after Lennon’s time as Celtic manager ended, it brings to an end a season of disappointment and controversy. Hartson himself experienced that after he called for the manager to go earlier this year. Lennon responded by telling the media that his long-term friend’s opinion meant “nothing” to him. That was something big John admitted hurt him afterward [Daily Record].

But as he reflects on Lennon’s spell in charge, Hartson feels Lennon has been let down elsewhere.

As quoted by Sky Sports, Hartson said: “It’s all gone desperately wrong. It’s a pivotal moment and Neil shouldn’t be held accountable for all of the things that have gone wrong. You have to look at the recruitment – was paying £5m for Barkas, a goalkeeper who isn’t even in the team and hasn’t made a decent save all season, a good piece of business for Celtic?

“They need to get it right because Celtic have been so successful in the past 10 years and this was a massive year for them and the supporters. This was the Holy Grail for them, if they could get 10 (titles). And it’s not been acceptable the way the team has dropped so low.

“They could have got Ivan Toney for another £500,000, I don’t know why they didn’t go and get him. I was telling people Celtic would win 12, 13, 14 titles in a row, that’s how dominant they were. Rangers have had a good season, they’ve capitalised on Celtic’s poor performances and are doing very well in Europe. They will certainly win the league now too.”

Hartson points to recruitment, but Lennon had enough quality at Celtic to get the job done

Yes, there’s some merit in this. You can easily find the underperformers when you look back at the summer deals. Albian Ajeti only has 6 goals for the season. Ultimately that’s just under £1million for every goal scored. Vasilis Barkas, meanwhile, has only played in 20 matches and failed to look convincing.

That’s not even taking into consideration the vast regression of the likes of Shane Duffy and Diego Laxalt. Even Mohamed Elyounoussi hasn’t been good enough for long periods.

Outside of David Turnbull, you’ll do well to justify another summer signing that’s worked for us. Even the only January addition – Jonjoe Kenny – has looked nothing special either and certainly not used to the way Celtic play.

Neil Lennon and John Hartson (Photo by Craig Watson/SNS Group via Getty Images)

Nobody was complaining in the summer

But Lennon has been helped in an outstanding manner. When the window was complete, all you heard from supporters and the media was how strong Celtic looked. They had managed to hold onto the same players that blew the competition away last summer sprinkled in with some additional quality.

That so many of these players have regressed can always be pointed towards attitude. But the man overseeing all of this has to take responsibility. And he’s been given his marching orders far too late – something even Hartson would agree with.

The failures of the recruitment team won’t truly be known until next season. When we see just how much quality these players have under a new regime.

In other news, former Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers has touched on Neil Lennon’s departure and the importance of the Director of Football role.