Celtic’s 17th Manager (2010-14; 2019-21)- Neil Lennon, always Celtic at heart

It is difficult to assess Neil Lennon as a Manager. On the one hand, he won Scottish League Championships in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2019 and 2020, Scottish Cups in 2011, 2013, 2019 and 2020 and the League Cup in 2019/20, and he once managed to have us playing in Europe after the turn of the year, something that does not happen very often.

He was Manager from spring 2010 until summer 2014 when he suddenly departed to return to fish us out of a very large hole in 2019 before his career collapsed ignominiously in 2021. He remains a controversial character who manages to split the support down the middle.

Of his commitment to the cause, there can be little doubt. He was a tough, feisty character, never far from an argument with a referee or authority, and Celtic were never pushed around when he was in charge. He wasn’t necessarily the best of motivators, and was sometimes let down by players who did not always give of their best, particularly in big games, like finals and semi-finals. He never won the League Cup in his first spell, and he had some dismal European performances.

As to why he left in 2014, no-one will ever know, but it did seem strange for a Manager who had won three League Championships in a row. Rangers were not there, of course, but that need not diminish the achievement. He had also won the Scottish Cup in 2011 and 2013, but season 2013/2014 had seen dismal exits from the domestic Cups, both at Celtic Park to Morton (of all teams) and Aberdeen. Nevertheless, the League was won comfortably and the team was at least respectable, one felt. There was at least something to work on.

He had an unhappy time at Bolton Wanderers, then came back to Scotland as Manager of Hibs, but had left them a month or two before he was suddenly recalled as temporary Manager of Celtic in the odd circumstances of the departure of Brendan Rodgers in March 2019. Basically he carried on the good work, won the League and the Cup in 2019 before being appointed as permanent Manager.

He then won a treble in 2019/20. The League Cup was won by beating (the)Rangers in December, but the other two were won in strange circumstances because of the Covid pandemic. The League was awarded to Celtic (but they would have won it anyway!) and the Cup semi final and final had to be played behind closed doors later in the year.

07.11.2012 Glasgow, Scotland. Neil Lennon in action during the Champions League game between Celtic and Barcelona from Celtic Park.

Lennon won these games, but season 2020/21 was a disaster for Neil. Frankly, the peculiar, unprecedented season got the better of him, and he simply could not cope with empty stadia and players who could themselves not cope with the bizarre circumstances.

Many players, particularly the foreign players were possibly homesick and gave the impression that they could not be bothered, and that reflected badly on the Manager. This does not excuse the way that so many of the support turned on him, but it was clear that he had to go. Long before the end of the season, he had departed ignominiously.

Neil Lennon, Scott Brown and poolside after arriving Dubai ahead of the Winter training getting underway.

This distressed many people, because Neil’s record with Celtic is far more in credit than it is in deficit. He will always be Celtic at heart, and he has a great deal to be happy about. To his credit, he has been able to come out and discuss his mental health issues.

Photo: Andrew Milligan

David Potter


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About Author

I am Celtic author and historian and write for The Celtic Star. I live in Kirkcaldy and have followed Celtic all my life, having seen them first at Dundee in March 1958. I am a retired teacher and my other interests are cricket, drama and the poetry of Robert Burns.

1 Comment

  1. Jim O'Rourke on

    We should mention the sickening abuse he got as a player when he represented the north of Ireland and had to stop playing because abuse of their own fans simply because he played for Celtic and as our manager the assaults in the stadium and in the streets and the bomb sent to his house simply because hin being at Celtic and to me worse of all the disgusting abuse he got from our own fans towards the end of his tenure at the club.