Fairly or unfairly this blog has had a reputation of being ‘anti’ Neil Lennon. To begin to redress the balance, here’s some praise for ‘The Gaffer’ by Andy Reilly.
The Green Brigade.
Peter Lawwell and the PLC board.
Distribution of cup final tickets.
There are a lot of issues dividing the Celtic support these days. In fact, probably the only thing that seems to be uniting the fans is the dislike of what appears to be the new kit.
The most divisive topic is The Gaffer though, Neil Lennon.
The Celtic support isn’t one for a unified approach and attitude though. Never mind notions of #Celticfamily, one of the best things about the club is that it welcomes everyone and everyone has a right to support and to have their own opinion.
When the wheels were falling off in his second season and Lennon was looking a bit precarious, some folk started to have the opinion that he was not cut out for the job. On the field losses, ref bust-ups, arguments, Twitter-time and the unwavering support from some sections of the crowd led a good number of folk to start taking umbrage and upset in everything Neil Lennon did. This has pretty much continued since, through the title triumphs, through the Champions League and through all those bloody days at Hampden. At this point you’re probably full on We Are Neil Lennon or Get The Gaffer To F***.
For me and this campaign, he has won us the league, the Cup Final can go either way and we made big strides in Europe. There was huge pressure in the qualifiers, if we never made it to the group stages this season would have been horrendous and the club’s finances would have been far from healthy.
Apart from a dodgy ten minute spell in the opening game, the qualifying rounds went like a dream and that was it, European mission accomplished before August was over. To get into the group stages alone was huge but of course, once you’re there, you want to go as far as you can. We had a solid but very boring start against Benfica, we played brightly and with invention in Moscow deservedly winning, we were very unlucky in the Camp Nou, we had the night of the year at home to Barcelona, we underperformed in Lisbon and while we got a bit lucky at home v Spartak, we dug it out.
Any Champions League team that gets 10 points deserves credit. Any team in the Champions League that comes from the fourth pot and has the inexperience and budget we have yet still manage to gain 10 points and second place in the group deserves a hell of a lot of credit.
It wasn’t just luck, there was great tactical play, we were set up well in a lot of the games and credit has to go to Neil Lennon. Again, by the time we got to the Juve game, rather than being glad to be there, there was a feeling of let’s win this too. Which is the right attitude to have but that doesn’t mean people should have been angry at us falling short or getting a score-line gubbing. It is hard to properly judge the home game versus Juventus because they scored early on but we played very well for 70 minutes of that match.
Neil Lennon rightly deserves criticism by playing Efe Ambrose, without hindsight, it seemed a risk. With hindsight it is possibly the worst decision that Lennon has made. However, in the Champions League the introduction of James Forrest in Moscow worked a treat. The tactics of forcing Barca wide and being disciplined at the back were spot on and have been replicated by other teams since. The throwing on of Tony Watt at home to Barca worked out alright. All of these were big calls made by Lenny and if he had got any of them wrong, they’d have been thrown back in his face.
So for the European report card, which is where we need to be each year, Neil Lennon deserves an almighty amount of credit this year.
As for the league, he has taken his eye off the ball; of course he has as well as the team. I’m not saying it’s right but I think it’s worked in our favour with regards to Europe. I think we could have had this league wrapped up by February or March if we went out all out for it but we may have finished at the bottom of our Champions League group or just about scraped into the Europa League. That’s just my assumption and my reading of it but I think we’d have struggled in Europe if we went full-pelt in the league. For this reason, I’m prepared to back Lennon and hopefully the medical team with their preparation for the cup final. If we lose that, he’ll never hear the end of these holidays and dropped focus from the league but we’ll see what Hampden brings.
It’s a shocking indictment (which Lennon must share some blame but not all) that our squad isn’t equipped to deal with both SPL and CL but I think the management have tried to juggle both competitions. In the end, we achieved our aims in both competitions and I think you have to give Lenny credit for that. The cups…well, if we win the Scottish Cup, he gets a pass from me for domestic cups too, even though the St Mirren semi-final was a black stain on humanity, never mind football.
I think it’s a good thing that we have a manager who has won 2 leagues in a row but will receive criticism for decisions, dropped points and his behaviour at times. I think it’s a really bad thing that a lot of folk have painted themselves into a corner so much that they can’t acknowledge his achievements or provide the praise that the manager or team deserves for their overall achievements this year. I don’t really have an opinion about his Twitter behaviour or how he deals with refs. Yes, the manager of the club should be acting more responsibly but with the abuse I give refs, I’m not going to call others out on it. I also find it funny to see some of the characters slating Lenny for his twitter behaviour and then you take a quick look through their timeline. He is being judged by different criteria and rules obviously but a lot of the abuse he takes is hypocritical at times.
You get the feeling the Scottish Cup final is going to be the decider on whether Neil Lennon and Celtic had a good season in 2012/13. I clearly want us to win and I don’t mind admitting, I don’t care how we do it. If it’s a poorer game than the Joe Doumbe final, I’ll live with it as long as we win. That’s as much for me and my family and my mates but it’s also because if we lose, I think all of the goodness from the season will be obliterated by those moaning about another Hampden loss.
I perhaps need to get a life/wife (delete as applicable) but I enjoy watching Celtic as often as possible and we’ve had a lot of great moments this season, certainly a lot more great moments than many of the seasons I’ve been there week in and week out. A lot of this has to be down to the manager and while I always hope for improvement, Neil Lennon has had pass marks from me for this season.
You can follow the author on Twitter – @andysays78