Part of my great relief that the Lennon nightmare is over comes with no longer having to argue with my fellow Celtic supporters over this man and his record.
For years I’ve been accused of being a “Neil Lennon hater.”
The irony is, in some ways I’ve undoubtedly lost my happy thoughts about him, but that wasn’t true at the time he was hired for his second stint at the job.
I’ve never rated Lennon as a manager, but I always admired and respected Lennon as a man.
The circumstances of the last few months have completely eroded that admiration and respect, to the point where I don’t believe it will ever come back. People around me feel the same way, and some of them don’t want to feel like this.
They believe that time will be a great healer.
For me, though, Lennon is now the equivalent of an ex who cheated on you or dumped you for no reason; I don’t wish him ill, but I would rather never think of him again.
There are some, though, for whom today is a great tragedy and there’s an outpouring of sympathy and even in some places near grief.
I know a lot of those people, and I won’t knock them for that, but I won’t even pretend to understand any of it either any more than I understood those wretched hysterics who wailed on the telly over Diana dying in a Paris tunnel in 1997.
Lennon was an icon for a lot of people in our support; it’s one of the reasons we should never have hired him in the first place, and it’s one of the reasons why we did.
The board knew they could get away with it, they knew that there would be a hard-core amongst our fan-base which would protect this guy, and therefore the decision itself, from even the most deserved criticism.
From the minute that decision was announced to mostly shocked fans in the aftermath of the Hampden game, in what some have described as “the worst shower scene since Psycho” those of us who questioned it were being flamed by the guardians of Lennon’s reputation and honour. That has never stopped.
The deeper the crisis, the deeper their commitment to defending him from the rest of us.
Even now, some of them are frantically trying to re-write history on his behalf.
Some seem almost pathologically determined to try to convince us that he was the best choice in 2019. They are determined that he was outdone here by board interference, the effects of the virus, a conspiracy involving refs, the SFA and the Scottish Government, a media which was out to get him and sabotage from within his own dressing room.
One otherwise highly intelligent individual, with a place of prominence within the Celtic support, has already accused Lennon’s critics of behaving like the people who once booed Fergus McCann.
There are one or two points to consider before subscribing to such a ridiculous point of view.
Lennon lost our ten in a row, whereas Fergus helped stop theirs.
Lennon wrecked a great Celtic team, Fergus rebuilt the whole club.
Lennon has failed in his principle responsibilities, Fergus succeeded and kept every promise that he made.
One deserved criticism, the other deserved acclaim.
One got the criticism he deserved, the other was subjected to an unpardonable disgrace.
But this is just like the Lennon Cult, to defend him and burnish his reputation, even as we stand in the midst of the wreckage of this campaign.
The problem with hiring Lennon was that he was the sort of person about whom some folk are simply incapable of being objective.
I compared the Lennon Cult to the people who voted for Trump and for Brexit.
Not because they were, or are, bigots and I’m not calling them stupid either or anything like that.
But on this subject, they are very, very blinkered.
I tried debating with the Lennon Cult.
At various times during this evolving crisis I tried to point out facts about his career both at Celtic Park and outside of it. I talked about the wreckage he left behind at Bolton and Hibs, the way he never seemed to learn, the way he’d repeat the same patterns and the same mistakes over and over again … but none of it got through.
Lennon is their hero.
This is why clubs should never hire its heroes as managers unless they come home with proven track records.
Even now that Lennon is gone, the guardians of his reputation will not let up with their campaigning on his behalf.
They will forever be convinced that Lennon has been done some tremendous wrong here, and there’s no amount of evidence that will sway them towards any other conclusion.
In their eyes, Lennon is a victim of horrible circumstances and bizarre plots rather than the architect of his, and our, disastrous campaign. Lennon never accepts personal responsibility for any of this, so perhaps it’s not surprising that they don’t believe he has any.
I believe the Lennon Cult has been highly destructive to this club in this campaign, most obviously because it has actually penetrated the internal workings and leaked out into the boardroom, which is one of the reasons it’s taken this long to get us to the point of removing him.
Worse is that it has divided supporters amidst some of the most vicious in-fighting I’ve ever seen as a fan.
I don’t want the next manager to have any prior relationship with this club.
Let that person be judged on the basis of what they do here, not on anything they’ve done before. It is all too easy to confuse the two things and believe that because someone gave us great service as a player that we should accept their failure as a manager.
No Henrik Larsson, not now, not ever.
There are idiots in the media who think it would be “box office”; it would be an appalling appointment, in no way justified by anything he’s done in the dugout prior to now. But a lot of our fans would undoubtedly celebrate it as some kind of homecoming and it would be impossible to convince them that he should be sacked if that had to arise.
The next manager must be someone we can objectively analyse, someone who no fan should be afraid to criticise, or made to feel like a traitor if they do.
The Lennon Cult is one of the worst things to happen to this club in my lifetime; the longer his tenure lasted the more venomously our fans started to turn on each other, splitting us into pro and anti camps as if we were all following different clubs.
This is a mistake we can easily learn from.
No more ex-heroes. Just get us a manager who knows what he’s doing and someone every one of us can get behind without any confusing sentiment – good or bad – blinding us his performance. Let us worship our playing heroes from afar, let us remember them exactly as they were. Let us never, ever go through this kind of turmoil again.