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Lawwell’s Greatest Mistake Haunts Neil Lennon More Than Celtic.

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Neil Lennon’s sacking by Omonia Nicosia, which was announced to the amazement of almost everyone who heard it last night, is not something any Celtic fan will take the least pleasure or satisfaction from. But for many of us, it had a grim inevitability about it from the moment he was announced in the role.

Neil Lennon is not a good manager and he never has been.

But he has, at times, been a lucky manager, mostly in having caught the eye of Peter Lawwell. That gave him two shots of the hot-seat at Celtic Park, two more than he deserved or was ever justified, and whilst that set him up for the rest of his life, it also gave him ideas about where he might go in management.

Well that question has been answered. Bolton, in the lower leagues of England. (Sacked.) Hibs in the SPL. (Sacked.) And now his Cypriot disaster. None of these clubs was Lennon hitting the heights he had believed were within his grasp. None of it had a happy ending. His second tenure at Celtic was such a calamity that many of us thought it would take years to clean up his mess.

Thankfully, an exceptional manager was able to accomplish it in a very short time-span. But the mess Lennon left behind is no less because it was so swiftly put right.

We will never know what happened in Cyprus any more than we will ever know the full stories of what happened at Bolton or at Hibs. But we do know that when Lennon got the job for a second time his plans for his backroom team were vetoed by a board which didn’t trust his judgement on that and yet still handed him our most important campaign since 1997.

Peter Lawwell’s tenure as the untitled director of football was an ego-driven farce. He thought he knew better than his managers what players the club should have. He thought he knew how to spot a manager.

That’s why many of us still won’t join the chorus in applauding him for any role that he played in the appointment of Ange; we got lucky on the big man, because there is no footballing universe in which that wasn’t a left-field risk of momentous proportions.

Lawwell’s appalling decision making and tendency to meddle where he shouldn’t have been allowed to cost us ten in a row. It’s one of the reasons he can never return to this club in any official capacity.

I think his egomania harmed us. His lousy stewardship is at least partly responsible for the dismal European record which Ange is working tirelessly to turn around.

You only have to look at the overall performance of the club when the CEO stays in his lane and leaves the football decisions to the football department.

But Lawwell’s greatest act of harm was against Neil Lennon himself, a man who the CEO knew – and I write that with no equivocation – knew full well was not temperamentally suited to being Celtic boss when it was offered to him the second time around.

Lawwell knows what happened at Bolton and at Hibs. He knows full well the chaos which reigned inside both clubs, and it was no great shock that some version of it was later to reign inside Celtic Park.

He elevated Lennon above his abilities and that harmed Celtic, and Lawwell did this, in part, because he believed he could operate Lennon like a puppet on a string.

But of course, his experiment escaped the lab on that one, and by the time the board concluded that all control had been irrevocably lost – and I suspect Lawwell could have kidded himself on about the football side of it for even longer than he did – at around about the time when Lennon went on a media rampage against the Scottish Government over the Dubai disaster, for which the CEO had already publicly apologised, it was too late.

Lennon was allowed to stay in situ when everyone knew the game was up. Lawwell, who was the sole person responsible for his being in the job, knew he was floundering, knew he was shredding his relationship with the fans and knew he was doing probably permanent harm to his own managerial prospects, and he should have acted swiftly and spared us all.

Spared Lennon in particular.

But he didn’t do it, and so the original error – which was ever to give Lennon the idea that he belonged at a top tier club in a management role – was compounded further by letting him drift into self-pity, anger and paranoia. Thus the idea that Lennon might learn some lesson about his ability to handle such a job went completely by the boards.

Lawwell made sure that when Lennon’s departure was announced that he poured praise on the man he had twice given a job which was way too big for him. In doing so, Lawwell was not honouring Lennon at all but defending his own colossally bad judgement.

Lennon left Celtic believing that he had deserved to be there and that he had earned the chance to stay. He left still convinced that because he had gotten to the summit at our club that he had a foot on the managerial ladder to even bigger and better things.

Lawwell’s greatest sin perhaps has been allowing Neil Lennon to persist in that delusion.

Nothing speaks to how damaging that idea is to Lennon himself than that the only job he was able to get after leaving Parkhead was in the Cypriot league. He put a brave face on it, and dressed it up as a chance to “manage abroad” but it would not have been his first choice, not even close, and having failed there you wonder where else he can go.

He has always been a decent pundit, in the sense that having both played and managed the game and having worked under Martin O’Neill he will understand it better than most.

He certainly has a future doing that, although the BBC probably won’t put him on because he lacks the basic qualification necessary for one of their gigs – he never played for one of the Ibrox club’s.

But he has a future on Sky or BT or Premier Sports if he wants one there. Yet I suspect he will continue to believe in his chances as a manager. That’s the true cost of believing in Lawwell’s judgement.

That’s the true cost of our CEO’s greatest mistake.

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14 comments
  • Bob (original) says:

    Whilst not a fan of Lennon as a manager by any means, his CFC appointments – and his delayed departure from Parkhead sits squarely with PL.

    I think Lennon has actually done pretty well in Cyprus. Winning a trophy, achieving EL group qualfiication – and giving ManU a fright – is not to be sniffed at.

    That overseas experience might get him another opportunity in the lower leagues of England, Scotland or elsewhere in Europe?

    But, good for him for having a go in Cyprus.

  • king murdie says:

    yep…the arrogant bastard that is peter lawwell was the villain of the piece…but lennon is an adult…and obviously has no self awareness….he valued his ego over and above celtic..
    lawwell and his poodle lennon….what a fukn pair……..

    • UlyssesGunt says:

      Agreed 100%

    • Kevan McKeown says:

      Lennon was every bit as culpable as lawwell where ‘ego’s’ were concerned. Saw himself as the only manager ‘entitled’ tae go for the ten win or lose. Remember his arrogant ‘no panic’ i know better, attitude to the Celtic support when the ibrox club were pullin well away from us in the league. Could’ve walked at the right time and unlikely, but just maybe, dependin on the next manager, the 10 mightve been saved. But naw, his massive ego was bigger than what was most important tae the club and support. That shouldnae be forgotten.

  • UlyssesGunt says:

    Lawell is fully complicit in the 5W agreement , and I believe Celtic were to win 9 IAR , but never 10 .
    He knew his huge bonuses were set up for those years from 2012 . 10 IAR would have been a step to far for those masons at the SFA
    They really had no competition for the 9 , and he held us back quite deliberately. Our focus should have been on Europe .. building a team to compete firstly in the Europa and then by now , being a mainstay in the Champions league. He has cost us millions , but he cares not a jot . He has his £ millions in rewards … a true Judas .

  • James White says:

    The 10IAR covid, behind closed doors season. Has long since passed into history.
    Gerrard’s outfit clicked and went undefeated in the league. No pressure from the Ibrox stands and Beale could quietly fix any malfunctions away from the baying mob. No surprise that Gerrard’s true managerial talents, or lack of, are now being exposed. It was never even close that season.

    Lennon was a great player for Celtic, a ball magnet, a main player during the MON years. As a manager he gave us some great days and Euro nights. He appears to lack a bit of self discipline and can certainly “enjoy” himself socially.

    I hope he finds a bit of peace and lasting contentment in life.

    • Kevan McKeown says:

      There’s lackin in ‘self-discipline’ and there’s sheer arrogance. One’s got nothin tae dae with the other. Lennon knew he had the full backing of lawell and Desmond, so he treated the Celtic support in whatever way he saw fit and that was with utter contempt. Ffs even now he accepts nae responsibility for the total failure of that hugely important season and still blames everyone and everythin else. Why should the Celtic support ‘respect’ HIM after that.

      • Stephen McAdam says:

        Spot on mhate he was a disgrace!! I will never forget that ross county 2bd goal he leans in to look at the laptop! Like some little school boy trying to hide! As he knew he was f##d but no!! He wasnt sacked!! And hang around knowing full well he was causing chaos amongst 99 percent of fans and treated us with zero respect!! We are the club !! Tho him not being a real fan of our great club he didnt give a f%%k! Lets be honest he is a dodgy character at best of times and had no right ever being Celtic manager ever!! His sense of entitlement made me sick also ! Never a manager or supporterof our great club in his puff! Lawell and desmond for their own benefits created delusion in that guy, pathetic but we had to deal with the consequences for me he should never be welcomed back to our club ever! In any capacity!

  • S Thomas says:

    Sacked again, oh dear. He should take a job with sky, or bt sport, because he ain’t a good manager. But I’d imagine his ego will take o we, and he will say “Oh I still feel I have plenty to offer”. Yes plenty to offer all right, blame every man and his dog, if decisions go against you, and not blame yourself. I stop liking him, when he through Alan Thompson under a bud, Christ if that’s what a friend is, who needs enemies. There is a pattern here, I guarantee he has upset someone along the way. Gary Neville, and Chris Sutton dipped into management, and after experiencing it, decided it wasn’t for them. The both of them are top class pundits, but I’d imagine that will be beneath Neil egomaniac Lennon.

  • SSMPM says:

    The 5 Way Agreement outweighs everything else

  • Al says:

    I believe the sacking at Hibs was manufactured after he was advised Rodgers reign was coming to an end. In short he was tapped up. I also believe it’s why he was not sacked at Celtic when he should have been

  • Roonsa says:

    Great article and a very decent read. I think the punditry call is a good one, stick him alongside that grinning goon Boyd and it will make for good TV.

    I have to say I believed in Lennon the first time round and was sorry to see him go. The empty green seats at home matches multiplied when Ronny took over. Lenny originally promised to get CP rocking again after Mowbray and I think he delivered on that.

    I also defended Lawwell in the early days when we were getting to the knockouts of the CL under Strachan. But his ego just took over.

    I dread to think what will happen after Big Ange moves on. I don’t think all the damage has been repaired yet. Our reputation in Europe is still in tatters. But I reckon we can fix that if Ange stays for a couple more seasons.

  • Iljas Baker says:

    Ask MON for an assessment of NL’s abilities as a manager and you’ll get something quite different from what you have on here. MON must have seen him up close so I’d say his opinion counts more than many with no first hand experience of NL. 10IAR was not simply NL’s failure as a manager as there were many other factors at play the 2 most important being COVID 19 and the mistake of refusing (the Board’s fault, I believe) transfers to players who wanted away. As far as Bolton goes, surely they were more at fault for the chaos that reigned than NL. At Hibs it was his desire to win, to achieve, that set him against a number of players who weren’t willing to make the extra effort. And he wasn’t sacked – the official announcement of the end of his tenure there stated this. He did quite well in Cyprus but fell victim to some weird goings on on the business side. Modern managers tend not to last unless they offer instant success – sure there are exceptions. There are many who have failed multiple times and still succeeded. The manager is often a scapegoat.

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