An interesting debate is going on in some quarters, following Saturday’s game, as to whether or not Neil Lennon could one day return to Celtic Park as manager.
I think maybe. But it will not be next time.
Neil has won at Ibrox this season and drawn at Celtic Park. Those are big things for a manager. His team seems to play without fear. He has “brought the thunder” to Easter Road. All of that is worthy of commendation, and Neil’s stock will have risen accordingly.
But the next Celtic manager is not currently working in Scotland, nor will he be until we appoint him here.
Those days are done with.
Neil Lennon, The Man, is someone for whom I have the deepest, and highest, respect.
He is a hero of mine and I’m not someone who uses that word loosely. I don’t do personality cults or buy into that whole celebrity culture thing. Neil Lennon stood up to bullets and bombs and more pressure than most people could endure … and still got results on the park.
In some ways I think Neil Lennon is a better manager than he was when he was here. I think he’s improved because he’s been away a while and learned more about what he can do and what he can’t, and whilst some see his return as retreating into a safe zone I absolutely disagree. Neil went to Hibs when they were under real pressure to come up … he achieved that goal and did brilliantly to get them to the later stages of cup competitions.
But Neil is not at the level – yet – to step back into the manager’s seat at Celtic Park.
The conversation should be academic anyway, with Brendan in the job, doing well and going nowhere and probably not for a long time.
But Neil is already being talked about as his natural successor, and I think that’s just plain wrong.
A standard has been set with the Brendan appointment, a standard Celtic has to maintain.
There can be no going backwards and retreating into our own comfort zone. Brendan managed at the very top of the game. He came to Celtic a known quality, a guy who could have gone anywhere, who was rated and feted by the big boys. He was top drawer.
Nothing short of top drawer will do us now, or in the future as we go forward.
Neil hasn’t proved it yet, and that may sound ridiculous as he was here already and was a success … but Brendan’s talents are greater.
He is a special boss and only a special boss could fill his shoes.
And we will not find that kind of manager in Scotland.