There is a tendency to blame Neil Lennon for everything that went wrong last season, and whilst he needs to accept a lot of the responsibility for things he wasn’t the architect of every single problem and issue that assailed us.
There were players at Celtic last season who badly let the side down. Others drifted away as the style of play didn’t suit them. Many of those players – like Klimala – were sold on to other clubs.
Others languished in the reserves, waiting to be found all over again.
It is obvious that some players badly declined under Neil Lennon.
Ryan Christie was an obvious, and horrible, example of that.
He went backwards so rapidly, and terribly, that I thought his career was in real trouble. It only took a few weeks of playing under Ange Postecoglou to put him back on the right track.
That was a minor miracle in and of itself.
But Christie was an oddity in that he could always play in several different positions, and we only saw the decline as clearly as we did because he was forever in the team.
Tom Rogic has only traditionally played in one position, and in a specific role at that.
Which is why Neil Lennon cannot be wholly responsible for the decline of this player.
He was simply a victim of a tactical style that did not suit him.
Rogic himself has also traditionally had a problem staying fit for 90 minutes; it’s clear that he was fitter under Ronny Deila and Brendan Rodgers than under Lennon, but that’s not really saying much.
It has taken a transformation in his training, in his application and in the style of play favoured by the team to truly get the best out of this immensely talented player. He is working harder, he is looking sharper and he is playing more games with more time on the pitch than he has probably at any stage in his career so far, and that’s all down to Ange.
But whilst Neil Lennon can be held accountable for him losing even more of his fitness, he can’t really be held responsible for Rogic’s lack of games except in a scenario where the entire way Celtic played was built around Rogic himself.
In some ways, that’s the real change. Whilst I wouldn’t argue that Ange has built his style around one specific player, it may well be that he has built it around a specific sort of player, the traditional attacking midfielder; we utilise two of them, in advanced positions, something I’ve never seen from another Celtic boss before, not even Brendan Rodgers.
Lennon’s team couldn’t accommodate that.
But Ange has constructed a tactical system around that philosophy and that is the critical difference. It wasn’t Lennon’s fault except in that he was limited in his thinking about how to use Rogic and Turnbull in those advanced positions in the same team without transforming the whole way we played.
It would simply never have dawned on Lennon to do that, and that’s not a dig, it’s just an admission that these two men come from very different places and have very different ideas about how the game should be played, as well as how to play it.
Even if Lennon had been able to see the tactical set-up in the way Ange does, Rogic would still not have made such a big impact in his team without the training and the physical work on top of that, and that is a failing he had which Ange doesn’t share.
But to blame Lennon for Rogic’s lack of games last season – as McAvennie and some others have done – is a little bit unfair. Let’s be honest; none of us saw a way back for Tom Rogic at Celtic. Most of us, right up until the moment Eddie Howe said no, fully expected him to be one of the casualties of the changes he was coming to Parkhead to make.
And then Ange came along, a manager who not only knew Rogic but knew where to fit him in.
That is the biggest stroke of luck the player has had in his career, and based on the stunning turnaround in his performances it’s a massive one for Celtic too.
December 7, 2021 at 10:24 pm
Very magnanimous James. Lennon certainly did carry the can for a lot of people’s failures to represent this club properly, a lot of people. Thus in many ways I was happy to read the more considered tone of this article. I tried to give my support to him for as long as I could last year, though I knew his tea was oot, simply because he was the Celtic manager in post. It was up to the board to have given him the push earlier and get the manager we needed.
I am lucky enough to get around games north and south of the border and I was asked by Liverpool fans a few years back who I thought was our most talented player and I said Rogic. I’ve never changed that view but I too thought he was going, being pushed out and for what – a crazy low transfer fee. Its great for us and his career to see him being believed in again and that Ange has the confidence in him that others didn’t. If we’re to win the league this year his resurgence will be pivotal. HH
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