Should tonight’s game go ahead, and Livingston have given us assurances that it will, there are some who suspect that it will be Neil Lennon’s last stand.
I have grown very cynical about these things over the past few months, because if he wasn’t sacked on the night of the home game against Prague, nor on the day we were knocked out of the League Cup, I wonder just what it will take.
It was clear that his presence in the dugout imperilled our title hopes, but the board held grimly on.
But over the last few days, something has shifted.
There’s something in the wind, something indescribable, something raw and heavy.
It was there in Lawwell’s face when he appeared on camera to mouth his hollow words of “contrition” but only to a point.
It was there in the way the team played against Livingston the other night; lethargic, slow, without any fire or conviction. A team that knows the times are changing.
It is there in the way Lennon’s friends in the media have started to drift away from him; first big John Hartson and then, yesterday, Stan Petrov. As I said a few months ago, the mark of a real friend is that a real friend will you tell you what you need to hear, not what makes you feel better momentarily. I wish more of Lennon’s friends were as honest with him.
And it was certainly there in Neil Lennon himself, appearing on the camera the other day ranting and raving and contradicting the club.
It is most definitely there in the way the club has moved to put as much distance between what Lennon said and itself as possible. Not one of his claims has been given an endorsement by those inside Celtic Park … indeed, they aren’t even acknowledged.
He said Sky would not get access to players until he got an apology, yet Celtic sent Scott Brown and Ryan Christie to talk to the broadcaster yesterday.
Not one word of his press conference has been repeated by the club or put online by the club.
Not one word.
Two media outlets – the BBC and The Athletic – have been briefed that Lennon was acting alone, and not speaking for Celtic as a whole. Today the paper said that the board felt “blindsided” by him. Nobody at Parkhead is standing by their man.
There’s more too, of course. This morning, Keith Jackson of The Record has an inside story piece on how Celtic’s Dubai measures weren’t exactly as robust as Lennon claimed. What possible need was there for the squad to take six coach trips during the week they were there? Why were players allowed to mix as freely as they seem to have been?
Those details could only have come from inside Parkhead.
An official leak or an un-official one?
The question normally wouldn’t arise, but if the objective was to contradict the manager and make him look even more isolated then it has achieved that goal because Lennon has never seemed more on his own.
I don’t have one iota of sympathy for him at this point.
That disastrous presser the other day was a desperate attempt to do deflection and build some sort of siege mentality … it’s a shoddy piece of theatre we could have done without.
But it, too, achieved its primary objective.
Did you hear football questions at that presser the other day?
There was one about the title race and a couple about injuries, but the size of the gap, the poverty of the performances and everything else have been set aside. Lennon talked with great conviction about how brilliant we were against the Ibrox club … but we lost that game, and I cannot fathom how he can take any satisfaction from it at all.
They say that this is a “results driven business” and that’s true.
We’re 20 days into January.
We’ve played three matches in 2021.
We haven’t won a single one of them.
We’ve dropped seven points out of nine.
Lennon will claim extenuating circumstances, but when does he not?
The truth is, we’re just not good enough under this guy. He’s just not good enough.
It’s tempting to say that he needs a win tonight, but one out of four so far for the month won’t be good enough. Even the board must know now that the decision to leave him in place this long was a disastrous choice.
The signs are that they do.
I think the decision has already been taken, and only the timing of it is being worked out.
If I had to bet on it, I’d say Lennon will survive tonight unless we lose in which case you really could see the end before Joe Biden’s even signed his first Executive Order.
Win tonight, and Lennon will live to fight another day.
But either way, he’s running out of days.