THE timing and method of announcing that Neil Lennon had been offered the chance to return as permanent manager of Celtic were both a bit odd – via Twitter in the immediate aftermath of completing a treble treble when most of the players were still celebrating – but at least nobody could accuse the club of dithering.

The appointment may not have been the one all Celtic fans had been holding out for but at least they now know who will be in charge for the foreseeable future. It also put an immediate end to growing speculation about possible other candidates and provides clarity for Lennon, too, who now has the whole summer to plan for a demanding season ahead.

On this occasion owner Dermot Desmond and chief executive Peter Lawwell appear to have opted for familiarity over glamour. It begs the obvious question as to whether Brendan Rodgers’ appointment in 2016 will prove eventually to be an outlier rather than the start of a new trend.


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Celtic had traditionally eschewed the chance to bring in box office managers who would command big salaries commensurate with their reputations. Rodgers, therefore, broke the mould when he was hired to replace Ronny Deila. Granted he was, loosely, “a Celtic man” but he had also come within a whisker of winning a league title with Liverpool just two years earlier. This was clearly a sign of intent from Celtic that they wanted to ascend to a higher plane.

Rodgers undoubtedly delivered domestically, while there was also Champions League football in his first two seasons. He also brought a certain cachet, an intangible star quality that the Celtic fans swooned over - at least until he turned his back on them and moved to Leicester.

If there is a certain apathy towards Lennon from some supporters it is because they have warmed to the concept of the celebrity manager. There is no guarantee that the likes of Rafa Benitez, Andre Villas-Boas or Jose Mourinho, as unlikely as the latter ever was, would have been successful as Celtic manager but simply agreeing to take the job would have suggested a higher level of ambition among the club’s hierarchy and raised its profile in England and beyond.

Celtic turned to Rodgers after losing the Scottish Cup semi-final to a Rangers team who had also just won promotion to the Premiership. It had the effect of thoroughly blowing away any notion of their domestic superiority being challenged in the years ahead.


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Now, with Rangers slowly finding their feet again under Steven Gerrard, it is instructive to note that Celtic have not chosen to go down a similar road of unearthing another big name manager. That suggests they have a lot of faith in Lennon to see off the challenge but also places the Northern Irishman under additional pressure as the fabled nine and then possible 10-in-a-row milestones move closer into view.

Lennon may feel damned by the simple fact that he isn’t someone else. His record in his first four years in charge was mostly impressive, especially in Europe when he took Celtic into the last 16 of the Champions League – something Rodgers couldn’t repeat. There will be an expectation that he will return Celtic to that level, although, with four qualifying rounds, just reaching the group stage ought to be considered a success.

Domestically there can be no margin for error. It is difficult to read too much into Lennon’s short-term stewardship following Rodgers’ departure as he avoided the temptation to make too many changes too soon. On the plus side he achieved his remit of completing the treble, although the level of some performances, especially in the defeat to Rangers, will give cause for concern.

Lennon now has a clean slate to begin his work in earnest, with a move for Motherwell’s talented midfielder David Turnbull already in the offing. Rodgers was backed financially by the board to build the squad he wanted and now Lennon must be given a similar budget to start his own recruitment. If he is to be judged against hypothetical alternative candidate who could have got the job instead of him then the very least he deserves is to be given the same tools to succeed.


HAD the St Mirren players and their supporters survived relegation in the most dramatic fashion last Sunday and then simply walked off the field to minimum fuss – as some killjoys have suggested they ought to have done – then it would have been a very peculiar and entirely unnatural reaction.


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Instead, the instantaneous mass celebrations that followed Dundee United’s final miss in the penalty shoot-out told the story not just of one afternoon’s work but of a season of frustration, disappointment, and despair, followed by hope, joy and ultimately relief.

For the club and the players, retaining their place in the upper echelon of Scottish football means new contracts, improved deals, extra funds to support the youth academy and a general rosier financial picture. Relegation back to an extremely competitive Championship would have placed all of these things in doubt.

For the fans, it was a vindication of their loyalty and backing of the manager and his players during a difficult autumn, winter and spring when it looked as if all hope had been expunged. That was as good a reason as any to celebrate.