Obviously the last couple of days have been frustrating for us as Celtic supporters, whatever we may think of Brendan Rodgers for leaving us to go to Leicester there is no doubting the man's coaching abilities or his record domestically, whatever we may think of him he gave us one of the best seasons ever as a Celtic fan in 2016-17 and I will always be thankful for that.
As the saying goes though, 'As one door closes, another door opens' and with Rodgers departure the door has opened once again for Celtic Legend Neil Lennon to rejoin as "Interim" manager until the end of the season, he will be assisted by John Kennedy and Damien Duff, Duff like Lennon probably cannot believe his luck over the last month considering he has only just joined the club as a youth team coach. Lennon who recently left Hibernian has already stated in a number of interviews that none of this is about him his assistants or Rodgers, it is about Glasgow Celtic Football Club and it's supporters. However like many, I am a huge fan of Lennon as a person, as a player and as a manager and am looking forward to his reign over the next few months and potentially beyond, so on that let's look at Lennon's history with the club as a player and manager.
Neil Francis Lennon signed for his boyhood club on the 6th of December 2000 for a fee around 5.75 Million, he was reunited with his former boss at Leicester City Martin O'Neil who had joined Celtic in the summer, Lennon who as said is a fan of Celtic was one of many players O'Neil signed who would become Celtic legends and icons.
Lennon would spend 7 years at Celtic as a player making 214 appearances and scoring an eye watering 3 goals. Lennon was a player who would go unnoticed in games simply picking up the ball and then moving it onto more attacking team mates or breaking up opposition attacks and starting counter attacks, despite his low goal tally and not so mouth watering playing style, Lennon's footballing ability and importance to Celtic should not be doubted as he received plaudits from far and wide over how good of a player he was and was a big reason behind Celtic's success in the early 2000's, he won 11 trophies while playing for Celtic and received a number of them as captain of the club. Lennon was part of the central midfield 3 that started the 2003 Uefa Cup final defeat to Porto, he also featured in a number of high profile European victory's including the famous 4-3 home win against Italian side Juventus. Lennon left Celtic in 2007 to join Nottingham Forrest and made a number of appearances for them and Wycombe Wanderers before retiring in 2008. It's also worth noting that Lennon made 40 appearances for the Northern Ireland and captained the side on a number of occasions before retiring from international football in his peak because of threats made against him.
* the Rangers
Lennon returned to Celtic in 2008 to join Gordon Strachan's coaching team and started to lean his trade as a coach, in 2009 Tony Mowbray was hired as Celtic manager and kept Lennon on as a coach, however it wasn't long until Mowbray was sacked and Lennon would take charge of his boyhood club, leading Celtic to 9 league wins during his first interim spell in charge, however a 2-0 cup semi final loss to Ross County appeared to damage his chances of getting the job full time. That cup loss didn't cause any problems and in 2010 Lennon was announced as the new manager of Celtic, replacing Tony Mowbray. In his first season Lennon bought players such as Gary Hooper, Charlie Mulgrew, Emilio Izzaguirre, Anthony Stokes & Joe Ledley, all players who would go on to give many years of good service to the club. Celtic lost the title to Rangers on the final day of the 2010-11 season, Celtic had been in a good position to win the league but a 3-2 loss away to Inverness handed Rangers the chance to go on and win the league which they did.
In the 2011-12 Celtic found them selves 15 points behind Rangers at one stage and were 3-0 down at half time against Kilmarnock, Lennon himself said years later that he had thought during that game of resigning, however a superb second half Celtic fight back which saw goals from Charlie Mulgrew and Anthony Stokes (2) meant Celtic got a 3-3 draw and started a run which saw them go on and win the league that year, this was also the last season of Glasgow Rangers as there club was liquidated at the end of that season.
That league title started the road to 10, we currently sit at 7 and Lennon also lead the club to the 2012-13 and 2013-14 titles in his 4 year reign in which he also collected two Scottish Cups. During his first spell in charge at Celtic we were also treated to a famous 2-1 victory at home against Barcelona and a number of other credible European performances and results, Lennon also guided Celtic to the last 16 of the Champions League were we lost to Juventus over two legs.
He left Celtic in 2014 for a break and ended up at Bolton and then Hibs, during his spell at Hibernian we were reminded first hand how good tactically Lennon is as well as passionate as they got a number of good results against us, something Lennon kept doing during his time at Hibs was take points of the Huns which also helped our quest for league titles.
Lenny at Hibs
Lennon's return is an exciting time for Celtic fans, while Rodgers gave us good attacking football for the most part, Lennon's preferred formations at Celtic saw us play with two strikers and that is something we should be excited about in my opinion, with attacking options such as Timo Weah, Bayo, Burke and French Eddy we have enough fire power to warrant two up front, could we also see a return for Leigh Griff? Celtic is in Lennon's DNA and he totally gets the club and how much winning the league each year means, we as supporters can be rest assured that the transition from Rodgers to Lennon will be a smooth one and we are in no danger of losing the league. Lennon's record in cups over his 4 years were not the best with some strange losses (Morton ), so winning the Scottish cup this year and helping us to the treble treble will be something he and his staff will be keen to do.
Lennon's first game is tonight away to Hearts, he as well as the players will be looking to really sink their teeth in the Edinburgh side to show that these last few days have done nothing to stop our quest for 8 in a row, his first team sheet and formation chosen is already exciting to think about, and players that may not have started so much under Rodgers of late should hopefully get a chance to prove themselves under him during these final few months and get a few starts.
Hail Hail and welcome home Lenny