Andrew Smith is the latest journalist to come out swinging on behalf of Neil Lennon, and like so many others out there he has turned the guns on the fans who think the manager is leading us to disaster. Smith has pointed to Lennon’s record, defending the board’s decision to give the manager more time.
These are not points without some validity.
You could make a case based on them.
But where Smith becomes a patronising git is when he calls our reaction hysterical and then questions the supporters who are unhappy with the following snark;
“Lennon is deserving of a respect not being accorded him by a support given to serenading they are “faithful through and through”.”
First, the idea that Lennon is not respected by the Celtic fans is completely and utterly wrong.
The man’s record with the club is afforded the full respect that it deserves, as we respect anyone who has brought success to us. Celtic fans respect the job Brendan Rodgers did, even if we think the man himself is a supercilious worm.
Furthermore, Celtic fans are fully appreciative of the struggles Neil Lennon has had, throughout the course of his involvement with our club.
I don’t know a single Celtic fan who “hates” Neil Lennon or who isn’t scunnered to see him in this position at this particular time.
I didn’t want him to get the job, but by God I wanted him to be successful in it … I wanted nothing more than to see Lennon taking a bow having secured ten in a row. I wanted him to have his final victory against those who do hate him and who tried to drive him out of Scotland once before.
But Neil Lennon is the manager of Celtic, and that job comes with scrutiny and flak and it comes with responsibilities.
It is not an easy job, but it is a lucrative one and one that has helped to enhance many a career, including that of Rodgers.
Neil Lennon didn’t do us a favour taking this job; indeed, it was our decision to hire him which afforded him the greatest opportunity he will ever get in his career … twice.
Lennon didn’t have to demonstrate exceptional loyalty to the cause, he only had to want to step up from being a reserve coach the first time and stop from having to sign on the second time. Andrew Smith might well view that as disrespect but it’s a statement of fact just the same.
I didn’t want Neil Lennon to get this job and I’m not alone in that.
Those of us who had been opposed to it had very good reasons for it, and all those reasons are haunting us.
This isn’t a knee-jerk reaction to a “few bad results” and a few bad performances, and it actually has very little to do with this being the ten in a row campaign.
The club is floundering at the moment; the team is a disorganised shambles.
Results are only a part of it. Team selections are baffling verging on ridiculous. Performances, even in games when we win, are nowhere near good enough. The team looks unfit. The manager is turning on his players … I could go on, but here’s one last point.
For many people, the straw the camel’s back was the 4-1 hammering at home to Sparta Prague reserves.
Nothing to do with domestic form or the ten.
Respect to Neil Lennon the man is one thing. To forgive this unfolding disaster is another entirely. As to the point about him having won trophies, there are various ways you can look at that, but here’s the most pertinent.
For sentimentality, breed puppies.
Football management is the wrong gig for it.
In that business it’s “what have you done for me lately?” and all else is bollocks.
Ask Claudio Ranieri.
It doesn’t take a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing either.
When it comes to sacking a manager timing is important, but you can’t leave it too long.
And there are no sacred cows in this business.
When Leicester City got rid of the man responsible for the greatest success in the history of their club, why did they do it?
They did because they were in danger of being relegated … they didn’t wait for the actual relegation to happen before they made the change.
It’s ruthless, even a little shocking, but serious people do what has to be done when it has to be done.
There’s a great movie moment, from Robert Redford’s under-rated gem Spy Game, when he extolls the virtues of acting purposefully.
“When did Noah build the ark?” he asks, rhetorically. “Before the rain.”
Ranieri understood that perfectly well and Neil Lennon would be equally understanding.
Yet none of that comes close to addressing my central gripe with what Smith said.
What really cheesed me off about it was that “faithful through and through” shtick.
I always love how that phrase is used as a stick to beat our fans with.
It would fit people better if they didn’t either wilfully misrepresent what it means or simply fail to understand it.
First, it’s not a reference to having faith, blindly, a kind of unshakeable belief in fairies at the bottom of the garden, which is what some are trying to sell us here.
Faithful means loyal, steadfast.
And the Celtic fans who want Lennon gone are loyal and they are steadfast, but in relation to the club.
When you listen to the song it says that quite clearly; “we are Celtic supporters, faithful through and through” … that song doesn’t mention loyalty to Neil Lennon or Peter Lawwell or Scott Brown or Odsonne Edouard.
It’s a song about the institution, it’s not an invitation to a personality cult, which is one of the things that concerned me about the appointment right from the start and still concerns me to this day; in appointing someone with such a history with the club, and about whom it is impossible not to feel strong emotions, they hired someone who a lot of our fans find enormous difficulty in judging objectively, or at least they did until very recently.
But I have rarely seen such near-unanimity amongst our fans on any issue quite like what there is about Neil Lennon right now.
The media can puzzle over this all they like – the same journalist thinks Gordon Strachan would be a good shout as his replacement, so I’m not sure how seriously we should take a word that he writes to be honest – but the fans know what they are watching and listening to when the manager speaks these days.
A few club friendly editorials where our loyalty is called into question and where our level of sanity is measured, negatively, against that of the board that is hiding behind tame hacks isn’t going to change what we can see with our own eyes.
Celtic fans are smarter than these hacks, and our club, seem to think.