If The Mainstream Amongst The Support Turns On The Manager, Then Celtic Will Be Forced To Act.

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Yesterday, one of Celtic cyberspace’s most influential podcasts devoted its after-match segment to a discussion about the future of the manager.

I found it both interesting and insightful. I also found it depressingly bleak in its sober and realistic assessments.

There’s a story about Gordon Brown’s coup de tat which brought down Tony Blair which I think highlights the problem that this podcast has brought into the light. Let me give you some background first before I make the more general point.

Gordon Brown’s allies had tried several times to put Tony Blair under pressure and force him to name a date for his departure from Downing Street. But each and every time they did so those at the centre of the plot were the same individuals who had rebelled against Blair time and time again during the course of his leadership of first the Labour Party and then the country.

As a result of that, nobody in Blair’s inner circle took some of the earlier attempts seriously.

Because the people behind them weren’t seen as credible people; they were either embittered old foes who had never reconciled themselves to New Labour or newly minted enemies who had been sacked from, or denied, seats around the cabinet table.

What made the campaign that finally brought him down most effective and devastating was that those who ran it and who participated in it were not people who were quite so easy to dismiss. When Blair’s Parliamentary Private Secretary Keith Hill saw the names on the first letter of three that was signed by MP’s and sent to Downing Street calling for Blair to quit, he was shocked.

“These are serious names,” he said. “It’s a terrific threat.”

What scared him most, as he later recounted to Andrew Rawnsley, the journalist, was that these were “absolutely mainstream figures, solid citizens, respectable people that would have to be taken seriously by other people in the parliamentary Labour Party.”

Well, I thought about that yesterday listening to Paul John Dykes talking about why Neil Lennon ought to be replaced as Celtic manager.

Paul is nobody’s idea of a moon-howler, or hooded carpark protestor or screaming voice on the margins of rationality.

This guy is the quintessential “solid citizen”, a representative of the Celtic mainstream, a guy who gave Lennon unqualified support from the first day in the job, and more than that, a true believer that Lennon was the right guy at the time he was appointed.

Guys like Paul present a good image of our support and he’s a fine example of those in it who want every discussion about where we are and where we’re going to be moderate and respectful. He’s not one of those rush to judgement guys, he won’t be critical just for something to say and he’s not going to leap onboard every passing bandwagon.

He’ll give credit where it’s due, but also criticism where it’s warranted … and his fellow fans respect that and the way he expresses his opinions. He is one of the guys the club would want to have on its side if it was making a major decision which might divide opinion.

If Lennon has lost these guys, then I reckon he’s in big trouble.

If the mainstream turns, or has turned, against the manager, then those inside our club have to be worried about that and what it means. I said last week that Neil Lennon would probably still command a majority of our support if there was a way to poll us as a collective … I am no longer sure about that.

The result and the performance in midweek wasn’t what we’d hoped for.

The team that started the game was all wrong, and although it improved, our game management was dreadful … and that was repeated in spades yesterday where we never looked comfortable trying to defend the lead once we had got it.

The system at the start of yesterday’s game was all wrong, with us persevering with a slow build up and an over-reliance on the ineffective tactic of crossing the ball into a packed penalty box; yes, Lennon changed that at half time and we were direct and ran with the ball through the middle, which was hugely successful in opening Aberdeen up, but we then compounded the frustration with our inability to shut the back door and keep them from getting a point.

Confidence in the manager, which was already shaky amongst large sections of the support, has been rocked to its core by the last eight days and in particular by Lennon’s reaction to all that’s going on around him.

He seems disengaged, as it he’s not grasped the stakes either for the club or for his own future.

He looks out of sorts on the touchline, there’s no fire there any more that you can detect, and he keeps on telling us that things will eventually improve.

But you look at his demeanour and the overall level of the performances and you wonder where the improvement is going to start or whether more frustration and bad results are on the way. You wonder how he can be so blasé about having time, when we don’t even know at this point whether the season will be completed and how long we might have to claw back any gap that opens up.

There’s just a growing sense that this is going to end badly, and a kind of resigned dread that the only thing left to hope for is that it at least ends quickly and gives us a fighting chance.

My own deepest fear is that it might take something truly shocking to bring this to a close.

When a guy like me writes that I do so knowing full well that I’m wide open to being reminded that I never wanted Lennon in the first place, and some might even amplify that into the usual nonsense that I hate Neil Lennon and that I’ve just been waiting for a chance to stick in the boot.

All of it is garbage, of course, as I’ve written many times and as my unqualified support for him last season can ably demonstrate; but I know I’ll be painted that way just the same and it doesn’t matter how fair or unfair or right or wrong that perception is.

Nobody can level that allegation at Paul John Dykes or Phil Mac Giolla Bhain or the guys at The Celtic Star or even some of the writers on this blog who were delighted with the appointment and never wavered in their support for Neil Lennon … until now.

When Keith Hill delivered his fatalistic verdict to Blair on receipt of that first letter, the Prime Minister realised at once the gravity of the situation.

“If they want me to go,” he said, “I’ll go.”

He knew in his own heart that the game was up.

Paul John Dykes gave his own brutal assessment on the Lennon situation last night and he and his guest pondered whether Lennon might step down voluntarily.

If not, Paul’s guest said, “Celtic needs to take the decision out of his hands.”

If I were inside Celtic Park right now, that would worry me more than all the social media hysteria, the criticisms in the press and even the concern that has to be seeping into the consciousness of everyone of influence at the club.

That’s the voice of the mainstream amongst the support, calling for the manager to be fired … and that is not something Lennon or Celtic can long afford to ignore.

It isn’t over yet, and Lennon still has a chance to turn this around.

But if the manager has lost these guys – and many of them are now publicly expressing serious reservations and doubts, and a few like Paul have already said that they he’s done, that he should go and go as quickly as possible so we can salvage this campaign – then we’re much nearer a tipping point, and much closer to the end, than the calm of this morning would otherwise suggest.

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