IT has now been more than two months since Neil Lennon resigned as manager of Celtic. It is now three months until the second qualifying round for the Champions League kicks off. And yet, Celtic still do not have a manager.

That the club are taking their time in finding the right man to move the club forward, while also reviewing and modernising the overall structure of their football department, is perfectly understandable. But with the scale of the rebuild required when it comes to the playing squad, it is also understandable if supporters are becoming concerned about the shrinking window the new manager will have to ensure the team is ready for those critical matches towards the end of July.

That’s not to say that Celtic have not identified their preferred candidate. And indeed, it is believed that there is a verbal agreement in place for Eddie Howe to step into the Celtic dugout. He is certainly their number one choice, and has been since the former Bournemouth manager met with principal shareholder Dermot Desmond in a London Hotel almost a month ago now.

So, you may ask, what’s the hold up?

Well, there are reports that Howe is being given the scope to not only bring his own Technical Director with him in the shape of former Scotland international Richard Hughes, but that he will also be allowed to bring in his own coaching staff. And it is here where the delay seems to be manifesting, with two of those men - Stephen Purches and Stephen Weatherstone – still employed by Bournemouth.

The Cherries are gearing up for the Championship play-offs as they look to bounce back to the English Premier League at the first attempt, with Purches and Weatherstone reported to be due sizeable pay hikes to stay at the club if they do return to the top flight.

If Howe is indeed waiting to get some clarity on the availability of his preferred lieutenants, then Celtic may be left hanging until late May, with the final of the play-offs taking place on the 29th of next month. By that point, the Champions League qualifiers will be eight weeks away, with Celtic returning to pre-season training in late June.

Are the club’s board willing to wait that long to find out whether or not Howe is ready to accept the position? And what if the cards do not fall their way, and Howe ends up turning down the role? The window to the European qualifiers would be small enough for Howe, even supposing he started work at Lennoxtown on May 30th.

Should Celtic then have to go out and find another suitable candidate, and go through the negotiation process all over again, they are leaving themselves very little room for manoeuvre.

Howe, if he does in fact eventually accept the position, is also frittering away what currency he will have with the Celtic support the longer he waits, with any failure to progress through the Champions League qualifiers or a slow start to the domestic season likely to be pinned on his own indecision and delay in taking the role.

The Celtic team is light on the required quality and quantity of player to succeed on the domestic front, never mind on the continent too, and even interim manager John Kennedy conceded that turnover in the summer was likely to be higher than what Celtic are accustomed too.

Loanees Shane Duffy, Jonjoe Kenny, Diego Laxalt and Moi Elyounoussi will return to their parent clubs, captain Scott Brown is heading to Aberdeen, Odsonne Edouard looks certain to leave while Kristoffer Ajer and Ryan Christie seem odds-on to follow him out of Celtic Park. They appear to have checked out mentally some time ago.

Former Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers also looks likely to revive his interest in Callum McGregor, and were he to leave too, the squad would be bereft of leadership and experience.

In short, a mammoth task awaits whoever is to step into the Celtic dugout to get the team ship-shape by the start of next season.

And it isn’t only transfer plans that are being held up by Celtic’s period in managerial purgatory. The big push for season ticket renewals was well underway in March last year, admittedly off the back of a much more successful season. But it is a hard sell to make to supporters to fork out hundreds – if not thousands – of pounds again in a period of such uncertainty when no manager is in place, particularly when they paid so much last term to watch matches from their laptops.

Will the fans who so desperately miss the football or who back the club no matter what outweigh the numbers of those who are hedging their bets until they see who the next manager may be? I wouldn’t bet on it. Particularly when the ‘added value’ that was pledged along with last year’s season book has yet to be defined 12 months on.

This may well be the first big test of new CEO Dominic McKay’s leadership. At what point does the risk of missing out on Howe be outweighed by the risk of waiting on him?

If it is to be Howe, the time should be now.