Ok so first up, I’m neither a “Lennon hater” nor a “Lawwell hater”, so please don’t waste your time, at the end of this piece, by posting that infantile nonsense in the comments.
Instead, I want to have a look at some of the claims made about both.
Firstly, there’s old Pistol Pete himself.
Anytime I or others criticise him we hear about how “Lawwell has overseen eight in a row and the progress of the club.”
I’m certainly not trying to detract from the fact we’ve won a Treble Treble, which is an incredible achievement, but would we have expected any less than eight in a row?
Let us be completely honest, with the Ibrox implosion, and given our finances, we’ve had a free run at it.
Even in the last three years, the NewCo has lurched from drama to crisis and overall have been pretty shambolic.
With our finances and the difference in playing squads, I think eight in a row was the least we could expect to have done.
So where do we measure progress?
It has to be in Europe!
Peter Lawwell arrived at the end of Martin O’Neill’s time. We weren’t that distant from having been in a European final, but a decision had been taken to hit the brakes. Obviously we couldn’t spend the way O’Neill did in his first few seasons, and every sensible person accepts that … but when it comes to season book renewal time we’re constantly told we’re a Champions League, so should that not be the standard that we hold Lawwell to?
People of my age and older will vividly remember the champions league campaigns under O’Neill. That’s when our club was really punching its weight.
The last one saw us in a group with Bayern Munich, Lyon and Anderlecht.
We finished on seven points if I remember right.
A typically ‘Celtic’ defeat to an Anderlecht team we probably should have beat cost us but the image that’s always stuck in my mind was at the end of the 0-0 home draw with Bayern Munich; their players were celebrating on the park for securing a draw and I was gutted we hadn’t won.
Against Bayern Munich!
Now Munich are in a different stratosphere, but can you imagine any of the top 4 or 5 teams in any of the top 5 leagues coming to Celtic Park and us being gutted with a 0-0 draw while they celebrate holding out? No, it would be the other way round.
After O’Neill left and the downsizing began.
We were routed by an Artmedia Bratislava team containing Filip Sebo, but WGS being the tactician that he was punched above his weight and we had some more magnificent nights at Celtic Park. We were still a fortress.
Strachan eventually left amidst rumours being that he could no longer work under Peter Lawwell’s constraints.
We won’t talk about Tony Mowbray, the gentleman that he is, except for this; he was Peter Lawwell’s appointment. He was the guy Lawwell chose to replace a manager who delivered three titles in a row and two Champions League knock-out stages.
So we move onto Neil Lennon. A risky appointment – James still says it was a scandalous one because Lennon had no experience – but thanks to either John Park or his own ability to spot a player we made a handful of excellent signings and managed to get out the groups again.
We also beat Barca which was one of the most iconic of Parkhead nights.
Everyone involved deserves credit for that one including Lawwell. But what did we do? Did we double down and try to improve the team? No, Rangers imploded and we sold five first team players and eventually Neil left for the same reason as Strachan.
I’m not going to go through all the years since, but if we fast forward a decade to Lennon being appointed manager again can anyone really say we’ve made progress?
We’ve lost 5 out of 7 qualifiers to teams with a fraction of our wage bill.
AEK Athens, Malmo, Cluj, Maribor are all teams that you would expect a ‘Champions League team’ to beat over two legs.
We got through by the skin of our teeth against Hapoel Beersheva, we’re coming out of a Europa League qualifier against the team who finished top in Sweden last year and it was far from certain that we’d beat them and we’ve appointed Lennon again after having a top notch manager leave, in no small part, because of Lawwell’s constraints.
We appointed him after Lawwell himself admitted to not interviewing any other candidates!
That’s an appalling dereliction of duty.
What qualified Neil to get the job of progressing Celtic? It certainly wasn’t his record since leaving before, so what was it? Just being a Celtic fan? Being a cheaper option? Being more pliable? I would have liked to hear why he was given the job, but Lawwell never speaks to us.
Lennon may well turn out to do a great job – many think he will – but I thought our policy was “risk averse”?
How can this not be a risk, or does that only apply to players?
My opinion is that we’ve all been so content laughing at what’s happened at Ibrox, and sweeping up domestically, that we’ve taken our eye off the ball … or as the Green Brigade put it falling “asleep at the wheel.” What’s been going on over across the city has been a welcome redirection for our board while they downsize year after year but continue to talk us up as a CL club.
Lawwell has overseen a period where we’ve gone from Bayern Munich players celebrating on the pitch for taking a point off us to facing the 3rd best team in Sweden and sweating it before the match kicked off, so where’s the progress here? Someone lay it out for me.
Chris Cominato is a Celtic fan and blogger, and one of the admins on our Facebook Group.