In my experience, there are broadly three types of “friends” in the world.
Those who wish you well during a crisis and then stay out of your way are the kind you can do without.
When the chips are down they are no better than total strangers.
All of us know a couple of “friends” like that.
The second will be by your side. But only to a point.
They are the friends who will offer to hold your jacket during a fight.
They will be right there with you, but on the side-lines, and they will cheer you on and they will attend your victory party or wait with you until the ambulance comes.
I wonder what would happen if a punch were thrown in their direction though.
We all know a few friends like that as well.
The last type are the real deal.
They won’t be asking to hold your jacket when the rough stuff starts, they’ll be piling their jacket with yours in the dirt and rolling up their sleeves alongside you.
If they’re not hoisting you onto their shoulders for the big win, they’re in the hospital bed next to you and bartering with you over the remote control, with no regrets whatsoever.
We can never have enough of those people in our lives, but the way of the world is that we don’t get many of them to begin with.
They are a handful of folk in number.
Does it take a crisis to identify those people? I would say no.
In my experience, there’s a way of sussing out who they are before you arrive at such a juncture.
You can identify them by the quality of the advice they give you if you bother to ask them.
I have some experience with this, on both sides of the fence. I’ve had “friends” keep bad news from me and I’ve kept bad news from “friends.”
But I’ve also had folk pull me aside and give me some much needed home truth and tough love, and I’ve done that for people I genuinely care about.
I believe that a real friend is the one who will risk falling out with you to tell you something that it’s in your own best interests to hear … whether solicited or not, whether wanted or not, because they care. Because sometimes we can’t see – or won’t see – what’s in front of our own eyes.
A real friend won’t let you twist in the wind, oblivious to what’s going on around you … a real friend puts you right and lets you decide a path in possession of all the facts.
Neil Lennon has spent the better part of his adult life in Scotland, surrounded by sycophants and fair weather buddies. I have no doubt that he has a few friends who are honestly rooting for him and cheering him on from the side-lines as well.
But Lennon will need those really, really good ones to come to the fore for him in the days and weeks to come; indeed, I would argue that he needs them now, right now, to do that thing that real friends do, to tell him what he doesn’t want, but needs, to hear.
He needs them to tell him it’s over.
It’s been done before.
In 1990, Thatcher had been determined to go on even after her own cabinet told her the position was hopeless.
They did a great imitation of the “stand on the side-lines” friends, in that they swore up and down that they would be with her to the end if that’s what she chose.
She knew they were only interested in saving their own skins.
It was Denis, her ever loyal husband, who urged her to quit, for her own good, who finally got through the defensive barriers and made her consider the abyss.
This is serious for Lennon, more serious, I think, than he appears to know.
For openers, he’s not thinking about the rest of his career here.
The longer he hangs on the worse this gets and the worse this gets the less chance he has of ever working in the football business again. If he digs in his heels and seems to be making it about money other club chairman will be even more wary of hiring him. Yet there’s an even graver risk and he has to consider that.
Neil Lennon is not the most popular person in Scotland, as he is clearly very aware.
The one thing he’s been able to rely on is that this Family is behind him.
He is now risking leaving Celtic Park without a shred of respect or goodwill from our supporters; Glasgow is a lonely enough place if one side of the city can’t stand you and a section of our fan-base is nearing breaking point with him.
Before anyone starts, I am not suggesting that he will be subjected to attacks or hate mail or any of that from our fans, but can you imagine that instead of being greeted by worshipful supporters instead getting sullen resentment everywhere you go? That would be tough to bear, psychologically, and that’s very much the mood that is growing towards him.
You can see it on the forums and elsewhere. I personally don’t think the club owes him a thing at this point, and I think he’s behaving with utter selfishness. I know that my own view on him will forever now carry an element of bitterness because of what we’re watching; I’m honest enough to admit that I’ll never forgive him for not quitting after Prague at Celtic Park, because that was the moment where the blinkers came off for a lot of people.
Many now feel the same way.
All he’s got left to him is to negotiate his pay-off with the club and to leave having accepted that it’s over. His obstinacy and lack of self-awareness has already cost us the League Cup, Europe and probably the title.
If he goes on to cost us the Scottish Cup, a match he’s only in charge for to bolster his own ego, the journey from hero to zero will be complete for many, many, many of our fans.
Those who care about Lennon, those who are his real friends as opposed to the hangers-on and drinking buddies and “I’ll give you support but not advice” chums, need to speak up and they need to speak up now, whilst any part of our relationship with him is salvageable.
He needs the good people in his life, those with his best interests at heart, to read him the writing on the wall.
It will not be easy for them to do, but that’s how you know that someone is a friend, that they are prepared to tell it true and take the flak.
Some people do refuse to listen when those who care about them give them the real and the raw; Lennon’s friends cannot make him listen, but they can implore him, for his own benefit, to face up to the realities here and I think if they do that then he will.
Because he is not a stupid man, and he has to have a sense of how bad it’s getting just from what appears online and in the mainstream press.
He has already done real damage to his own reputation amongst our fans. That’s a fact. He can make that damage greater, and permanent, if he hangs on much longer and things get worse … and there is no sign that they are getting any better.
This doesn’t have a happy ending; he’s shot it, already. The league is probably over with which means that’s what’s he’s remembered for, whether he wins the Scottish Cup final or not. He’s the manager who lost us the greatest cup run in British football history.
One trophy from this campaign has already been surrendered and he was at the helm.
He cannot fix that or make it so it never happened … it’s over and only the manner of his departure is to be decided. He has failed. He will leave Celtic Park with that weight on his shoulders, that’s the reality of it and there’s no way of changing it.
His friends have to help him accept it and help him to move on.
That way, Celtic can do the same.