Kennedy won't become Celtic boss; is he a contender for the job Rodgers wanted him to have in 2019?

By John McGinley

February 28, 2021

John Kennedy is very unlikely to become the next permanent Celtic manager. That’s my firm stance and opinion, even before seeing what the next few months have in store.

Celtic could well go on a winning run between now and May. However, I reckon that will have little bearing on the club’s direction regarding the managerial vacancy.

The Bhoys need a fresh start on that front. We need new ideas in the dugout and a character who can come in and provide inspiration for this current crop of stars.

Could Kennedy remain at Celtic, though? There’s a possibility.

There’s an interesting article in today’s Scottish Mail on Sunday (28/02 print edition, page 152) by journalist Graeme Croser which explores the viability of Kennedy being appointed to the newly created sporting director role.

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As reported there, it’s a job Kennedy was almost given in 2019. The outgoing Brendan Rodgers, who wanted to bring Kennedy to Leicester but was knocked back, recommended him for the role.

Eventually, Kennedy would be handed the assistant manager position, backing up Neil Lennon for the rest of the 2018/19 season and then beyond.

Croser reckons, now that Celtic are again at a crossroads, there’s reason to think Kennedy is a strong candidate for the sporting director position in 2021.

The case for and against Kennedy as Celtic sporting director

First of all, let’s get the negativity out of the way.

There would be a severe perception issue with this appointment. Kennedy doesn’t have a fantastic reputation amongst the support given his complicity in the failure this season.

When it comes to a fresh start, keeping on Kennedy in any capacity isn’t exactly going to have fans clamouring to renew their season tickets.

There’s also no experience in this specific job. Kennedy’s roles at Celtic have primarily been based on coaching and working directly with players, not overseeing strategy, scouting, and managing different departments. It could be perceived as a risk.

However, let’s examine the benefits.

Nobody will know the processes at Lennoxtown better than the current interim boss. He’s worked under multiple Celtic managers now. He’s witnessed the successes, failures, mistakes and strokes of genius at the club over a long period of time.

John Kennedy during the Ronny Deila days at Celtic / (Photo by Jeff Holmes/Getty Images)

That kind of knowledge could be crucial in ensuring a progressive, forward-thinking structure is developed at Celtic. It’s knowledge we simply won’t be able to bring in from elsewhere.

If Celtic are truly to create an identity and philosophy from the youth teams through to the first-team, then Kennedy is in a unique position to act upon that. He knows the academy players and coaches, he knows the reserves and obviously he has a relationship with the first-team.

Most importantly, however, he could have the Celtic board and executives’ explicit trust to do the job. Celtic can’t embark on this next period half-heartedly. Anyone coming in as sporting director needs to be given the keys to the castle. They need to be able to rip up the roots and plant new seeds.

Interim Celtic boss John Kennedy / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Kennedy might just know the internal diplomacy and politics of Celtic to be the one who can get on with the job.

Am I touting Kennedy for the job? Do I think he should get it? From the outside looking in, not really.

However, I honestly wouldn’t be surprised.

In other news, the latest comments from Scott Bain suggest a return to a Brendan Rodgers tactical philosophy at Celtic.