Celtic faces the most difficult month of a long, turbulent and challenging year. It is probably no exaggeration to say that it might be the most intense and highly charged one we’ve faced in a long time. There are massive risks involved in it.
But those risks pale into insignificance when it comes to the ones we’ll be taking in January if Neil Lennon is still in the job.
I’m not even referring to the match against the Ibrox NewCo, which is perilous enough. I’m talking about the weeks after it, weeks in which Lennon will clamour for money, and players currently at the club might, seeing the writing on the wall, start heading for the exit.
Look, we all know that some of these players will be leaving anyway come the summer.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that some of them have just about had enough of Scottish football. Yet I still think we can prevent the mass exodus if we put in place a top class coach who raises the stature and profile and standing of the club, and sets his ambitions high.
Lennon will never be able to keep these guys here, not when he’s accused them of being weak, emotionally and physically, and questioned their commitment. There might be some who want to go in this coming window who wouldn’t even consider it if he was not at the helm.
There are the ingredients here for a perfect storm.
I think there’s a very real danger that a combination of boardroom panic at a season where we make a loss, the idea that next season’s ticket sales are no longer a lock, and Lennon’s desire to be rid of those in the dressing room who don’t respect him, will result in key departures at the core of this squad, and their replacement by footballers of a vastly inferior standard.
With that goes any chance of recovering this campaign.
And I think it could do untold damage to the medium term stability of the club itself.
If we give Lennon another large sum of money to spend in January, what do you expect him to spend it on?
More appropriately, you might ask who will be spending it for him?
We signed Barkas who he doesn’t want, we signed Turnbull who he doesn’t play, Duffy is rumoured to be heading back down the road, there’s Klimala and Soro … you wonder who’s making the decisions about our recruitment.
Do you really want to trust the board to make signings only for Lennon to not put them on the park?
At the expense of losing McGregor, Christie, Edouard or others?
And in case it wasn’t obvious the danger that puts us in, here’s another.
If we give Lennon another pot of money we’re as good as entrusting him with at least another year.
Because if you think they are going to give Lennon even more to spend and then fire him, whatever the outcome, think again.
If this board approves a spending splurge in January, they are all-in with the manager and will see no upside to firing him before they see how “his” team does next year.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t do another season of this, another season of watching players who aren’t properly coached, who aren’t fully fit, being humiliated by any club which goes toe to toe with us. If we do that we’re just giving trophies and titles away.
What decent manager, furthermore, is going to come in after Lennon to take over a weakened, demoralised Celtic with the fans in open revolt and the entire club having been propelled backwards?
There was an opportunity in the moment after Rodgers left; we had needed a guy like him to raise the profile, and we only got him because of his “Celtic credentials.” But by the time he left, we had swagger and credibility again. We had a top class squad with a growing rep for bringing through cracking emerging talent.
Players got the complete football education at Celtic Park.
Forget all of that if the Lennon experiment is allowed to continue.
The damage to our reputation could be colossal.
We had an open goal to shoot at when Rodgers was gone, had we utilised that moment in the right ways. Now we’re the team who just got hammered 8-2 over two matches by Sparta Prague. The further backwards we go, the less promising our options become.
January has become perilous for more reasons than one.
We can do momentous damage to Celtic in January if Neil Lennon is allowed to dismantle this squad.
And there’s an even bigger danger on the horizon than anyone has hitherto recognised; Brexit, and how difficult it is going to make signing players in the coming years.
That’s a whole article in itself; it’s too much to touch on tonight, but the effects of that will be felt as of next summer.
The more you look at the broad sweep of this the more you have to conclude that leaving Lennon in place until that window opens represents a grotesque level of risk which no board should even be contemplating.
Yet ours is. Our board plans to leave him in place until we go to Ibrox at the very least … I cannot imagine a riskier “strategy” than the one they seem determined to pursue. If this makes sense, then I’m not seeing it. Not at all.