“You learn to sleep at night with the price you pay …” – Bruce Springsteen.
For some people, Neil Lennon would have been at the top of the list of the guilty, but I cannot in good conscious put him there.
He’s third because the two men above him on the list didn’t even attempt to replace Rodgers with a manager of quality.
They picked their pal. Their yes man.
They then watched as their ghastly decision backfired and failed to act as the season unravelled.
In doing so, they cost us ten in a row.
I think they’ve also killed Neil Lennon’s managerial career.
Lennon should not have been given the Celtic job on a permanent basis.
You can make the argument that his initial hiring – on the temporary basis – was a smart bit of business, but the decision to give him the permanent gig was a travesty and it was destined to end in disaster from the moment it was confirmed in the Hampden shower.
The reasons why Lennon was a bad appointment are so many in number that it’s hard to know where to start; let’s, however, strip away those which are not the manager’s fault.
Neil Lennon cannot be blamed because he is not a good tactician. He never has been. He cannot be blamed because he is a one note boss who thinks a rousing speech or a verbal volley is the way to make players do what you want.
These failings were known to everyone at the club.
They were not a surprise.
The two men above him on this list of the guilty hired him knowing about those limitations and faults.
They could have plugged the gaps in his knowledge by hiring coaches who had those greater skills, but they left Lennon with equally limited men in those positions as well, and so the blame for his failures partly belongs to those men and they cannot escape from that.
But Lennon could have grown as a manager and learned.
He could have changed his working habits and developed into the role.
He could have used the analytics teams and re-watched games to see what had gone wrong in them.
He could have changed up the team.
He could have fought for the players he wanted and needed instead of accepting what the board gave him.
Lennon could have held his tongue that night after Ferencvaros instead of publicly lashing his team which certainly made matters worse and cost him the respect and support of the dressing room – a suicidally stupid move which you knew the moment he did it was going to cost us a lot, and eventually cost him a lot more.
He could have taken some personal responsibility as the mistakes piled up and one error compounded another instead of continuing to lash his own players, which only ensured that the resentments and angers burned until his removal.
There are mistakes which Lennon owns.
Whilst his tactical failings were known before his arrival there were some of them that were jaw-dropping, such as the decision not to field a striker against the Hungarians, and his failures to read the game-plan against Slavia at Celtic Park.
Everyone in my living room saw what they were doing when they made the changes that led to goals number three and four that night;
Lennon still hadn’t read them a fortnight later when the same tactics saw us get routed in Prague by the same score line.
What came across most about Lennon, as the ship went down, was his selfish determination to take no responsibility at all for the state the team was in.
He had driven wedges between himself and the squad and he even had one or two pops at the fans.
If it were possible for a manager to be responsible for his own appointment – Craig Levein sort of half managed it – and Neil Lennon had done so, he would be far and away the biggest reason for the utter failure that was this campaign.
But the men above him not only hired him, but were completely unwilling to admit their own mistake and let him stay in the post for far longer than they ever should have.
Lennon is why our season blew up.
But they stuck by him even when the whole of Scottish football knew he’d shot it because they, like Lennon are selfish men.
That does not give him an alibi. He is the third of the guilty men, and had those men acted faster he would have finished above them.
His hiring was a disaster. His handling of the job was catastrophic.
I believe it might well be his last job in the dugout, and if that’s the case I am sorry for him.
But I’m sorrier for every fan who bought a season ticket, every fan who had to sit in front of the telly and watch his lamentable efforts to manage this team and for every fan who dreamed of ten in a row and had it snatched from them by his amateurish tactics and dreadful decision making.