There are many reasons why Celtic have secured nine titles in a row. I’ve written two separate articles on this subject which have tried to cover it in some detail.
The managers feature heavily in those articles.
When I was doing my piece on the ten most influential Celts during that timeframe, it was obvious who should be at the top of the tree.
Neil Lennon has done more to get us here than any other single person at the club.
Today he was named as Sportswriter Manager of the Year.
There really was no other choice for the hacks, although there was a shortlist of others.
Oddly, the man most of them helplessly fawn over did not make the final cut.
It is probably unfair to single out individual hacks when so many of them were sure that Gerrard would come out on top, but the radio station halfwit Ewan Cameron deserves another shot in the spotlight. He thought Gerrard would dominate so utterly that Lennon would very quickly be fired.
It was easily the stupidest prediction of the summer, although the competition was fierce.
Lennon stands atop the pile this evening, not only the best manager in the country but the biggest influence on the direction of football in Scotland in the last ten years, and I believe part of the reason the last campaign was so successful is that a lot of people believed what the idiotic Cameron did; that Lennon was inferior to Gerrard and would fold the hand.
I know this much; everyone inside Ibrox believed it.
They saw Lennon as a far less threatening presence than Rodgers.
Most people did.
But I was warning them against it all the way through the summer; Lennon was not my first pick, not even close, but I never thought for one second that we would not win the title.
I believe in the stats, and Lennon’s are too good.
His win ratio was, and remains, exceptional. He actually improved upon it over the course of the last campaign, and I didn’t even know if that was possible. His European results are arguably better than Rodgers was able to secure, and that’s an amazing thing.
Lennon has proved himself a brilliant man manager too; he has the total loyalty of his players, and they believe in what he’s trying to do.
Contrast that with the joker across town, who has never taken a shred of personal responsibility for anything and who seemed almost hell-bent on wrecking his own relationships within the club. The contrast couldn’t be greater.
Part of the underestimation of Lennon was rooted in how the last campaign finished.
The results might have been good but the performances were pretty sub-par at times. It was one of the reasons for my own doubts. I know that at Ibrox they were convinced that a Lennon led Celtic would struggle to hit any kind of sustained form.
They also believed that there was some significance attached to the last game between the two sides, their 2-0 victory on 12 May. They refused to accept that it was a sub-par performance from a side who had nothing left to play for and had taken their foot off the gas.
We went there early last season, of course, and secured the win. They should have been jolted out of their delusions right there and then. But of course, those fantasises persisted all the way through the first part of the campaign and when they won at Celtic Park in December all the hubris exploded at once although our form had been exceptional.
Lennon has always been able to put together long runs and get the best out of our team over the course. All they saw at Ibrox was a guy without Rodgers’ reputation, and I think that Lennon had divided opinion amongst our own support played into that too.
It’s another piece of satisfaction I draw from the whole thing; in spite of myself and other bloggers pointing out Lennon’s win ratio over and over again there was a widespread assumption that our fans feared having him at the helm and believed we were vulnerable.
I know this view was prevalent on almost all the Sevco fan sites, where they believed, hands down, that Lennon was not good enough to lead us to further success.
The thing is, in spite of us being on the brink of another treble, and in spite of Lennon having delivered and then some, I’m still not sure that their fans believe they’d been bested here and I’m not even convinced that people inside their club have grasped it either.
They really have swallowed, whole, this crazy nonsense that the league was brought to a premature close to benefit our club. They believe they should have won the League Cup. They doubtless believe they were just caught on a bad day by Hearts in the Scottish Cup … they are convinced that the success is just around the corner, and that’s why Gerrard is still in post.
Lennon will own this lot again next season.
He thoroughly deserves his manager of the year award.
It is his third.
It will certainly not be his last.
As Scottish football goes through the current crisis it is important to keep up with developments and the key issues. We are determined to do so, and to keep you informed as well. Please subscribe to the blog.