If Celtic is a club with a strategy at all, the time for calculation, for pragmatism and for a final acceptance of reality has come.
Sentiment cannot dictate the path ahead of us.
Loyalty is good. But loyalty to the club and to its future path comes first, above any that people might believe we owe to the individual. For we are Celtic. We are not the Neil Lennon Appreciation Society.
Whatever debt we owed that man has been paid, and then some.
Now we have to think about what’s right for Celtic as a whole.
At the end of November, however they want to look at, whatever way they want to frame it, the board gambled on Lennon turning it around. That gamble has failed. It doesn’t matter whether it was a by a fine margin or a moment of luck or whatever other argument those who made it or supported it may wish to deploy.
When Madden blew time up yesterday the failure was all that mattered.
The board rolled the dice and they crapped out.
We can cling to fantasies that the people who got us here can somehow find a way out of the hole or we can deal with reality, which is that the league season is over with and we’re left with what seems to me to be a simple choice; to waste precious time or to act now and start building for next season and beyond even that. To me, it’s a no brainer.
Every second where we leave the current manager in the job is precious time squandered. It’s time the next manager doesn’t have to work with these players, assess who stays and goes, talk to those who want to leave and identify his own targets to replace them.
Every penny Lennon gets in this window is money the next guy doesn’t.
Every major strategic decision we take under the status quo is a condition imposed on who the next manager is – which lessens our ability to get the kind of guy we want – or builds something we have to dismantle at his request.
It makes no sense whatsoever to carry on a minute longer under the assumption – which we, all of us, must know to be ridiculous – that Lennon will be the manager next season.
To pretend we don’t know otherwise is to delude ourselves.
This season is going to end in failure, and the architects of that failure cannot remain at the club. If the club expects to sell large numbers of season tickets the decision has to be made to terminate the Lennon experiment.
Since we all recognise the truth of that, why put that off?
I understand that there’s a certain part in all of us that wants to hang onto hope as long as we can.
This is the ten in a row season, after all. To win that prize would make up for a lot of what’s come before, a lot of the pain my generation endured in the shadow of Murray’s club.
Those were our dark years, watching them win league after league with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of money. We know now that it was great big con job, but the knowledge of that makes it worse, not better, and the prize all the greater.
I’ve accepted that ten in a row is gone. A lot of us have.
You can call us whatever you like for coming to that conclusion, but we prefer to deal with reality, where we can actually take concrete action in the here and now which might be some use to us tomorrow, as opposed to living in hope and quite possibly damaging the next campaign into the bargain.
It was tough for me to come to that acceptance. I clung to hope as long as I could.
But jettisoning it allows me to see things with a clear head and with a clear head the course of action now is to relieve Lennon of his duties immediately, and appoint an interim manager with one remit only; to hold the fort until the next guy gets here. Don’t give the interim manager the slightest encouragement or hope that he can have the job permanently.
The interim manager is here until the club conducts a proper search and appoints the right man. The right man is to be given total control of the football operation, with one major caveat; he has to start the job as soon as possible. In this campaign. He is not expected to work miracles, but he has to take over before the end of this season, and preferably with some time to spare.
I am not suggesting that the club rushes this, but we can’t drag our feet on it either. This is why it is imperative that we get underway right now, without delay, that the board and Lennon come to some pay-off agreement and that he no longer acts as a drag on our attention or as a divisive force amongst the fan-base. The club will only unite again once he and a handful of others have gone and there is a clear sign that we’re moving in the right direction.
The next manager is going to have a lot of decisions to make. He is going to need to make a plan and implement it over the summer; if we’re spending the summer trying to find him critical days and weeks are going to slip away. If he’s in before this campaign ends he will have a good idea of what he’s taking over and what he needs to do to fix things.
We will be prepared when European qualifiers come around. We will have our strategies in place when we get acceptable offers for the key players who want to leave. We will know who their replacements are because the manager chose them, not some accountant who’s played too much Football Manager. We will have the confidence of knowing there is a plan.
Right now we are a club wandering in darkness without direction. The sentimental claptrap that got us here has to be the first thing to end. If you believe Lennon is a club icon, unimpeachable, forever to be in your heart, keep him there as you like, but accept the inevitability of things and that it has to be this way. Pledge yourself to Celtic’s cause, not a personality cult.
Billy McNeill, not Lennon, was the greatest Celtic captain and we fired him because it was the right thing to do, because it needed to be done. Tommy Burns will forever be in our hearts, but Fergus was ruthless and that’s what stopped their ten. Tony Mowbray gave us the Huddle and was one of the most decent men ever to hold the post. But still, we acted.
It’s time to do likewise, right now, because not to is to waste all we have left of this campaign, which is the opportunity it presents us to do better in the next one.