From mid-November, there has been one correct course of action every time Peter Lawwell gets out of bed in the morning. To get dressed, to travel to Lennoxtown and tell Neil Lennon that he has taken his last training session with the club.
That’s it, it’s as simple as that.
It’s been nearly two months since a Celtic statement told us that Lennon would be in post until the January review. The league race was still salvageable at that point. We were not mired in petty fights with half of Scottish football and the government. But it was obvious to almost all of the supporters that this was a gamble too far. Yet our directors took it.
There is something Trumpian about the way we do things right now.
Absolute arrogance as a mask for reeking incompetence.
I watch American politics closely, and it was painfully obvious for that country that the moment Trump lost the election in November that he basically chucked doing the job, which is why the virus is now rampaging unstoppably through almost every state in the union.
At which point did our own directors down tools? Around the same time.
There are problems at Celtic Park that are almost too big to wrap your arms around. The worst thing our club faces in the short-to-medium term has nothing to do with performances on the pitch.
It’s the trust issue.
The unfortunate truth is that the people who can sort this mess out show no willingness to do so, and worse; they are not trusted to do it either.
Imagine we fired Lennon today. Imagine that we appointed the next guy almost immediately. Unless he was the sort of name nobody could argue with, fans would assume he was another Lawwell sock-puppet.
It is probably a fair assumption because no halfway decent manager is going to come to this club whilst Lawwell is in the building.
Believe me when I tell you that his reputation for meddling, interfering and undermining managers goes way ahead of him. The way his behaviour toxified Rodgers’ relationship with the club is known in every corner of the game.
He thinks he’s a marketing genius, but what people see when they look at Celtic from the outside is a “stepping stone” club with zero long-range ambition … which is how he has portrayed us over the past ten years.
He and the other directors might tell themselves that in “backing the manager” they have shown they won’t be blown about in the prevailing winds, but what people outside see is an incomprehensible loyalty to one individual at the expense of the club and a board of directors which rates what they have built so lowly that he might be the best we can get.
They don’t look at Celtic and see a board that is strong in the face of adversity. They see one that is clueless in the face of adversity. They don’t see strength; they see appalling weakness and a failure to act out of fear and the lack of a plan for what’s next. They don’t look at us and see a club that stands by a great servant, they see one where failure is okay if you can prove that your heart is in it. That’s fatal for the credibility of this institution.
Lawwell claims to want the best for Celtic. He personally asked me once if I believed he would ever let this club fall behind.
My twin answer to that is that I no longer believe he does wants the best for Celtic, because if he did he would announce his own departure at the end of the season. I look at his actions and inactions and see a man who has let Celtic fall behind and who’s calamitous and unpardonable decision to give Lennon the job in 2019 is the reason we’re here.
Neither Lawwell nor Lennon cares about this club. It is impossible for this club to heal whilst either man is inside the walls. It’s only their own arrogance which stops them recognising this fact. For this club to heal both of them have to depart.
But they can’t go together on the same day, because like or loathe Lawwell, he has to at least put the framework in place for appointing Lennon’s successor. The framework. In other words, he has to put in place the team whose job it will be to find us the best possible manager we can get. Then Lawwell has to start planning for his own departure.
Trust has to be restored. It won’t be whilst he is here.
Faith has to be restored too.
Faith in the club itself, and in what it strives to be.
That’s much easier to do. Lawwell is already at his desk, but that’s not where he ought to be. He should be at Lennoxtown, delivering the news Lennon half expects. That his time is up, that today’s the day, that it’s over.
We’re another day closer to this crisis spilling over into next season. We’re another step nearer season ticket renewals and with no end of this in sight except wishy-washy talk of a review “within a few weeks.”
But what is there to review?
The league table tells one story. The League Cup semi-finals will be happening without us. Europe was a catastrophe for our continental reputation, and now the manager is charting his own press strategy with disastrous results.
Whatever other “evidence” the board is considering should be frankly irrelevant. Yes, Lennon has served the club. He has won things as a player and as a manager.
This is not the Neil Lennon Appreciation Society we’re running here, it’s Celtic.
With every day this goes on, the hole gets a little harder to dig our way out of. It’s mid-day and since we’re no further forward I have to conclude, with regret, that we have already squandered another one.