There are subjects this blog assiduously avoids because they have nothing to do with football, but this one is so clearly important to the future of our club and the general wellbeing of the man who presently runs it that we need to take a look at it, however much we might want to turn our eyes away from it. The issue is Neil Lennon’s emotional state.
I would not have willingly brought this up for discussion, but the discussion is being had and Hugh Keevins placed it at the centre of his own piece in the Sunday Mail. And for once, I think he might have done us all a favour in trying to create a bit of controversy because this is something we really ought to have been talking about.
Lennon doesn’t look well, and he hasn’t for a while. But it’s in the past few weeks that we’ve really begun to get a sense of how isolated he must feel, and it’s starting to come out in his general demeanour and temperament.
It is nearly impossible to imagine what it must be like at the centre of all this scrutiny and pressure. I am going to admit that I have limited sympathy, because this is not a job that was forced on Lennon and if he went to the board tomorrow and said he wanted out I am sure that they would pay up the better part of his contract. He can walk away from this.
But that worries me in itself, because it’s as if the manager isn’t thinking straight. He must know this is damaging him and the club. Let’s be honest, he has to know that the game is just about up, but he clings on, increasingly frustrated, increasingly detached.
His press conference before the last game was really painful to watch.
He was still snapping before the match kicked off, and again afterwards.
Some have said that he’s behaving like a guy who’s had the bad news delivered to him … I think he’s behaving like a guy who’s under immense pressure, who sees the end coming and doesn’t want to accept it.
You or I might feel the same in Neil Lennon’s position.
But if you or I were floundering like this, in our jobs, in front of our bosses and our clients and our co-workers, in a manner that suggested we weren’t in a good place inside our own heads, I’d like to think – I’d hope with all my heart – that someone would tap us on the shoulder, and take us into a wee room and ask us how we were doing and then move us out of the front line, for our own good.
If the board has decided that Neil Lennon is going at the end of the season, then I can’t see the sense of subjecting him to much more of this.
They aren’t only damaging the club, they are damaging the man himself.
They have a duty to this guy to act in his interests here as well as our own, and I cannot imagine how they can think he’s going to get through four more months of it.
I don’t want Lennon to remain in the job, so I’m battling here against my own wish to see him removed quickly and cleanly. I’m trying to take my own feelings out of this and to try and see it through the eyes of a neutral … and all I can think of is that it’s just plain wrong to leave the guy hanging when the likelihood is that things are going to get worse.
It’s a natural reaction at clubs with nothing to play for; the concentration levels go.
Players stop wanting to chase every 50/50 ball if it’s in a lost cause.
The manager himself and the coaching team lose all motivation. It’s not difficult to see how the slide continues and the contrast between that and the club across the city will just get bigger and bigger.
Lennon is sitting right in the firing line, and I can’t help now but wonder if there are people in our boardroom who aren’t just fine with that, who are perfectly happy to leave him there whilst they spend four months trying to get their own shit together.
How much of it is loyalty to the man and how much is expediency?
How much is this about giving him the chance to go out with “grace and dignity” and how much is it about the good old fashioned covering of their own backsides?
Lennon makes a great lightning rod for fan frustration and anger.
You would be forgiven for harbouring the suspicion that this is one of the reasons he’s not gone already.
Last night, I posted a 7000 word piece on doping and football, and the use of caffeine and other non-banned substances as performance enhancers; my question was about whether or not this practice explained the mind-boggling form at Ibrox.
Part of that article was an attempt to explore how dark medicine has infiltrated football at the elite clubs and has begun to trickle down with dire effects … some of those effects are psychological.
What’s missing from that piece is a recognition that football management is a high-stress profession even without doping.
We don’t know how many managers are on drugs for their stress level and blood pressure and all that other stuff, because no-one tests for that. This would be true in individuals who didn’t already have a history with mental health problems.
This is another element to the Lennon situation which doesn’t get enough scrutiny; our board knew all this before they hired him, they knew this was a high-pressure season like no other, they knew they weren’t going to surround him with his own coaches and his own support network, that they were going to impose one on him … and then added to that was lockdown and the effects that has on all of us.
Yet nobody realised that the manager might not cope well under those circumstances, with all this heighted expectation, in enforced isolation.
It’s astounding to think that the people running Celtic are this slow on the uptake, are this narrowly focussed and incapable of seeing what might be coming down the road at them.
It makes the total absence of a Plan B all the more ridiculous and unforgivable.
Four more months of this. That can’t be tenable.
That cannot be the plan.
It would be more than just dereliction of duty; it would be an almost treasonous act, just short of Trump’s abandonment of his post the moment the election was lost, with his country in meltdown and the virus crawling over every state.
At the centre of it all would be Lennon, running out of friends, running out of supporters with every passing day, struggling to hold on.
Nothing would damn them more, these “leaders” of ours.