Why Lennon had to leave Celtic now rather than end of the season

By Euan Davidson

February 24, 2021

Well, it happened: Neil Lennon resigned as Celtic manager [Celtic FC].

Or so we’re led to believe. The Ross County result at the weekend was the final straw for both coach and club. At the very least, Celtic are letting Lennon walk out on his own terms, but the sword of Damocles was hanging over the manager well before this point.

And so, we’re left with a million questions. Why not earlier? Why leave before the summer? Was it really up to Lennon? Most likely, we won’t know any of these answers with certainty; Lennon will have a version of events, so will Lawwell and co. In what should’ve been a historic season, we’re left with chaos. Those responsible have got off scot-free.

But it’s clear; this is a good thing for Celtic Football Club, and for Neil Lennon. For his own sake, Lennon had to go now. It’ll take a long time yet, but for the ex-captain’s relationship with the fans, and his own mental health, this was the best decision to make.

It’s not just that results were poor. A seismic 18 points behind Rangers, Lennon wasn’t just struggling. He was making bizarre excuses, throwing his players under the bus, and generally being a toxic presence in the dugout. Not only that, Celtic were unbearable to watch. Our vulnerabilities were recognised across the league. Diddy teams knew how to beat us, and it was getting embarrassing.

Neil Lennon / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

With Lennon gone, Celtic can progress

Few will be that excited about John Kennedy taking over in the short-term. However, the former defender is held in enormous esteem. While he’s associated foremost with the Lennon era, he was around for Deila and Rodgers, too. The education he’s had in coaching has been excellent.

While there’s little evidence to inflate his reputation at this stage, let’s at least give the guy a couple of matches. With Celtic becoming increasingly ugly to watch, there’s optimism Kennedy will implement the changes needed in the very short-term. Kennedy could reintegrate a style and identity for the next coach to pick up on. That’s a good thing.

From the players’ perspective, Lennon’s exit must be some relief. Whether they liked the gaffer or not, it’s obvious that he was struggling to get a tune out of a squad which had served him with distinction in 19-20. The tactics were absent, the motivation lacking.

With little to play for between now and the end of the season, Celtic couldn’t keep Lennon until the summer. Firstly, the gaffer was getting ideas about staying for the inevitable rebuild. There was nothing on the pitch or the league table to suggest that was anything like a good idea. Secondly, this move shows the players, frustrated under Lennon, can play for a winning side again – that’s if the club get it right with regards to bringing a big-name manager in.

Dominic McKay represents change at Celtic, but he needs to bring in a new manager / (Photo by ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP via Getty Images)

So much is still uncertain

Of course, there are issues: what happens next? So much has been made of Dominic McKay and the possibility of bringing in a Sporting Director. Do the club appoint someone to help with the manager search? Or, have they already identified their man?

Who’s making the ultimate decision on this? How involved in McKay, or is this one last job for Peter Lawwell? With Scottish Rugby engulfed in its own busy period, there’s so little in the way of certainty about the decision making process here.

What we do know for certain: Lennon is away, Celtic have appointed Kennedy as interim boss.

And now, months of incredible drama at Celtic Park.

READ MORE: Damien Duff bigs up former colleague in recent quotes.