There’s a schism in the Celtic support just now.
Through a drab couple of months in which Celtic have only won 2 in 10 games, conceding 21 times, supporters are divided on the best route forward.
Many believe it’s time for Neil Lennon to go, while others believe we need to get behind the former captain through the storm.
I’ve spoken before about whether or not bemoaning Celtic’s current fortunes is valid, or if there’s a sense of entitlement in the fan base.
For the first time in a long time, we’ve got a real title race on our hands. The 10 means everything to us. Rangers are desperate not to let us be the first to reach it and have thrown everything at preventing us from doing so.
Meanwhile, the pressure seems to have got to our players and staff.
There are two schools of thought here:
The ‘back Lenny’ group
I ask this in all sincerity and good faith: what does “backing Lenny” look like at this stage?
Pundits, particularly ex-players, have been falling over themselves to defend the Celtic boss. It makes sense; many of that contingent, including Chris Sutton and Kris Commons, either played with or for Neil Lennon.
Much of the commentariat have watched in awe as large portions of the fanbase, including the Green Brigade, have questioned why Lennon is still in a job.
Supporters backing the current coach point to his trophy wins, what he’s been through as a person and his utter commitment to Celtic Football Club.
Their arguments are that changing coach at this stage will be a hindrance, and that there’s nobody with more fire and passion to see this out. This team is, after all, largely built by Lennon himself.
This is the coach who beat Barcelona. You’d have thought he can take care of Rangers, Aberdeen and Hibs.
Our manager has been backed in the transfer market, many supporters would point out, so why not let him see the job through?
#LennonOut calls are gaining volume
On the other side of the aisle, a lot of fans are desperate to see the back of Neil Lennon as Celtic manager.
There was immense cynicism about Lennon’s return, even in the context of our 2019 Scottish Cup win, that sealed our third consecutive treble.
Even amongst the euphoria, the appointment lacked ambition in the view of much of the Celtic support. The fact that it was hastily announced following a shower summit after beating Hearts added to the sense that it was a short-sighted move.
At that exact moment in time, nobody in Green and White had a bad word to say about Neil Lennon. However, having been coached by Brendan Rodgers, who’s now doing incredible work with Leicester City, it looked as if standards were dropping.
Now, huge sections of the Celtic family would argue they’ve dropped to an unacceptable standard.
Over and Over
So that’s the scenario in Celtic’s mini Civil War, but it’s the rhetoric around these arguments that bothers me to some extent.
Lennon’s backers claim that dissenting voices are being disloyal, that they’re predominantly youngsters who have only seen success and are throwing the toys out of the pram now that there’s a title race on.
Additionally, they argue that the Green Brigade’s demonstration outside Celtic Park was just an example of Celtic fans giving up now that times are harder.
I’m sorry but I just don’t follow that logic.
Does not necessarily believing that Neil Lennon is the best man to coach Celtic mean that fans have stopped supporting the club in general? Surely not.
When Celtic Park is full and we’re playing badly, fans of all creeds, ages and opinions can be heard encouraging Celtic players to do better.
When we concede a goal, there aren’t cries of “Aye well, remember the 90s!”. People get upset and want the team to be performing better. That’s just the nature of watching football.
In fact, the loudest, most supportive portion of a full Paradise when we’re labouring at home? That’d be the Green Brigade.
Alienating the youth
As the fall-out from Celtic’s recent decline plays out on social media, due to the global pandemic, the younger Celtic supporters are getting the brunt of the criticism.
Yes, there’s no question that younger Celtic supporters, specifically those born in the late 90s and early 00s have seen our team dominate domestically. They’re used to it.
But that’s not to say that they don’t know their history, or that they’re ungrateful now things aren’t going our way.
They just want the team to be better.
It’s this demographic of supporters who have endless information about our club at their disposal, by virtue of being brought up in the information age, and I’d bet they could give anyone from the Jungle in the 60s a run for their money on Celtic trivia.
These supporters know all about the bad times, because their families would’ve told them all about it. They’re no different to the supporters who are claiming “entitlement” now; largely speaking, these are Celtic supporters who are from backgrounds where knowing the history will have been made a priority.
I wonder if young Celts who were born in the late 50s were being name-called for being a bit fed up once the Lisbon Lions and Quality Street Gang were phased out of the team.
Granted, there was no Twitter then, but I wonder if the pubs and supporters clubs were full of fans going “aye, well you weren’t there in the 40s”.
Every fanbase has these moments
Every large group of people has disagreements now and then, and factions who carry particular mindsets.
The key thing is that all of these groups-within-groups are (here’s that word again) entitled to have their say. The point of rallying behind a football club is that where you’re from and what age you are isn’t important. You share one common value: you support the team in the good times and the bad.
But criticism of obvious problems isn’t an act of not supporting Celtic. In fact, I’d argue the opposite: it’s just another way of showing that you care.
It’s as valid as wanting to back Lenny through this. That’s the point of debate, and with all the time we have at home currently, on our phones and computers, the debate is one of the only social endeavours we have at the moment.
People of all ages want Lennon to go, while a similar variety of folk wants to rally behind him. Just because the former are louder on social media, and more young people are on there, it doesn’t mean that it’s only the younger Celtic fans who are of the opinion that change is needed.
Remembering the 90s involves remembering protest against the board on an unprecedented scale. It’s important to remember that part, too.