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Lennon spurred on by Tottenham's managerial template

WHERE would Celtic fit into the Barclays Premier League?

And where, for that matter, would Neil Lennon? Since the Northern Irishman caught the attention of world football by triumphantly leading Celtic into the last 16 of the Champions League in late 2012, a dozen managers have been appointed in the top division south of the border, only four of whom have been British passport holders.

But more worryingly than that, at least for Lennon's career prospects, is the fact that all but one, to a lesser or greater degree, of that tiny band of bosses had previously served their time in the English top flight. Mark Hughes was given a second chance at Stoke, Tony Pulis, formerly in that role, came in at Crystal Palace, then of course there is the progress of Everton old boy David Moyes at Manchester United.

Fashions are everything in football and where there suddenly seems to be a fad for a fresh face, it also tends to be foreign. Perhaps inspired by the Roberto Martinez factor, the appointments of Pepe Mel at West Brom, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Cardiff, Fulham's Rene Meulensteen and Gus Poyet at Sunderland suggest the old-school British manager is an endangered species.

While Lennon is hardly agitating for a move away from Parkhead, this is a highly unfortunate development for a manager whose achievements are worthy of consideration in that list, not to mention placing him ahead of interlopers at clubs lower down the English food chain, such as Uwe Rosler at Wigan, Aitor Karanka in Middlesbrough and Oscar Garcia at Brighton.

It all means no-one is rooting more than Lennon for a successful conclusion to the one exception which proves the rule, Tim Sherwood at Tottenham Hotspur, even if rumours persist he may only be keeping the seat warm for Louis van Gaal's arrival in the summer.

"What I think is with my own group of players we would be OK in the Premier League," Lennon said. "We would hold our own. There is quality down there, no question about it, but there is a lot of mediocrity as well. Top 10? Maybe not top 10, but mid-table anyway. I don't think we would be in the relegation dogfight. There is an influx of foreign managers coming into the game again.

"There seems to be more of a template now where the manager's role is getting taken over by the director of football, or technical director and what they bring in is a head coach who just looks after the football department. To me, a head coach is a manager, that is just another title for it. What you want really is continuity at clubs, which is not the norm at the minute.

"What pleased me more than anything this season was Tim Sherwood getting the job at Tottenham. He had been around there for a while. He knows the club, he knows the younger players a bit like I did here myself and I am hoping Tim will be a success and give the British managers a shot in the arm - which they need."

Sherwood had left Blackburn by the time Celtic met them en route to Seville in 2003, but the paths of the two feisty midfielders did cross. "I didn't really know him, but I played against him," said Lennon. "Sutty [Chris Sutton] knows him quite well from his days at Blackburn. He is a good character, Tim. He has a good eye for a player and he has a big personality as well. Maybe Andre Villas-Boas didn't go like they wanted it to and now they have a manager in who knows the club inside out. Sometimes that is important and the way the results have gone for him so far it looks it has been a very shrewd move."

Lennon's comments only gained further currency when morning reports suggested he was being lined up as a potential replacement for Chris Hughton should Norwich City's troubles worsen.

As it is, until some club chairman is prepared to look north of the border, Lennon - the SPFL manager of the month for December - will continue trying to defy the law of diminishing returns in the shrinking soccer environment of Scottish football, having demoralisingly huge prices quoted at him for even humdrum Championship players. "You are always looking to improve," said Lennon. "But whether you can improve in the environment we are in is another thing. All you can do is keep getting results, keep looking to recruit well. It makes your job better when you have good players coming in."

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