Neil Lennon has refused to bow to supporters’ pressure to quit his job as Celtic manager, believing that he is the man to lead the club to Ten-in-a-Row and as Alison McConnell reveals in tomorrow’s Herald he has the backing of the Celtic Board.
Despite losing only one domestic match in 2020 Lennon has come under intense pressure to quit or be sacked as an increasing number of supporters have become disenchanted, disillusioned and dissatisfied with both the results and the performances with so many players performing well below an acceptable standard, a number clearly no longer wishing to be at the club, disarray tactically during games with no clear understanding on how the team should be playing and which formation should be used and a confusion when it comes to the use of substitutes, and that’s only for starters.
Players seem continually out of sorts or unfit to start and there have been other factors such as Bolingoli’s cunning one man campaign to play in the Champions League this season – he clearly never fancied his chances of getting there wearing the Hoops! Covid robbed Celtic of key players Odsonne Edouard and Ryan Christie ahead of the only Glasgow Derby played in 2020 and defeat that day meant that it was advantage to theRangers in the race for the Scottish Premiership.
TheRangers have gone all in to stop Ten-in-a-Row and it is quite literally a case of win or bust for the club that has run up losses in each of its eight years trading and last Friday declared losses higher than Aberdeen FC’s turnover.
Yet in Michael Beale they have an ex-Liverpool Under 23s coach who knows what he is doing and has Steven Gerrard’s side ‘steamrolling’ sides (to quote Scott Bain from the weekend) so they are well worth their lead at the top of the table. Celtic need to ask questions of them and effectively win two and draw one of the three remaining Glasgow Derby matches.
Whether you wanted Neil Lennon sacked or not that is for now settled. He is staying. The Celtic Board, in what looks like being Peter Lawwell’s last season in charge of the club, still have enough faith in him to deliver the results through December then take us to Ibrox with a fighting chance. It’s now up to the players and the management team to deliver.
Throw in a Scottish Cup win against Hearts just before Christmas and we’ll be looking at a very different landscape come 2 January if we can win that one.
If it goes the other way and we lose on 2 January it’s curtains for Lennon and it’s also time to sell the want aways in the January window
We have three European games to play and frankly they are way down the priorities, even when thinking about pride.
Our advice to Neil Lennon is play your best players. Play defenders in defence. Elhamed, Jullien, Ajer, Laxalt as your back four. Play Griffiths and Edouard up front and the rest of the places are up for grabs, but no guarantees of a start for anyone. Deliver or dropped.
And to the Celtic support, it’s now time to get behind the team and do our bit to try to turn this season around. We all get the frustration, the performances have been unacceptable. Those players who want away can go after the ten and be fondly remembered. Otherwise go and don’t look back or come back.
We are now second favourites for this title. Underdogs. A win on 2 January and the pressure transfers to them. In the winter of 1979 Celtic had a poor start to the season and a big freeze meant we had time to regroup but had so many games to play. When the games started up again we were mid-table but could still win the league, mathematically it was still possible. Unlikely but possible.
We kept going, kept winning and got to the last game of the season, the New Years Day game against Rangers that had been postponed. They only needed a draw to effectively give them a Treble. They scored first. We got a man sent off. We needed to win with ten men. Unbelievably we got ourselves in front but the joy was short lived. Then through sheer will power and the single minded determination to win, we scored. It was an own goal. We were minutes away from the title but their pressure was immense. It was looking like there would be a carbon copy of their second goal but Celtic cleared and rather unprofessionally it has to be said, Murdo Macleod didn’t go for the corner flag or boot the ball into the terracing, he went for their goal from distance. The postage stamp part of their goal. Parkhead erupted like it had never done before on a Monday night.
So late on this Monday night remember this. Winning leagues the hard way is extra special. Let’s at least give it a go.
Tomorrow's @heraldscotland Sport front page #scotpapers pic.twitter.com/r7OhPNzpXN
— Herald and Times Sport (@HandTsport) November 23, 2020