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The Best Five Celtic Managers in History

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Ange Postecoglou has been in his role for less than two years.

It is safe to say he has firmly established himself not only in the hearts of all Celtic fans, but is also well on his way to being in the conversation as one of their best managers ever.

With just a few weeks of the season to go, and sites such as oddschecker ramping up their betting specials, there will be numerous Hoops fans putting money on the treble, an indication of just how far the Australian has taken this club.

Of course, success brings its own problems. Putting aside those concerns and the next few weeks of what has been another excellent season, who have been the greatest managers this great club has had at the helm? Here they are, in no particular order:

Willie Maley

I said in no particular order, but it only seems right to start at the beginning.

No conversation about Celtic managers, or indeed Celtic FC itself, would be complete without mentioning the club’s first, longest serving and most successful manager. It is not always easy or relevant to compare eras, but Maley’s record is so incredible it stands up for itself no matter what it is compared to.

Willie took over the role in 1897 when he was just 29 years of age.

His methods were unusual to say the least. He took little to no part in training or revealing his team through the newspaper every week, meaning the players would only hear if they were picked the same time as the fans.

He was also very forward thinking. Until then, Celtic had concentrated on buying the best players they could. Maley changed that, preferring to bring young, hungry players up the ranks from local junior clubs.

His approach worked, not just in the club ethos and identity it engendered but on the pitch and in the trophy cabinet. His 16 league titles and 14 FA Cups says it all. Maley was in charge for 1,617 games, managing a win percentage of 64.44.

One of Willie Maley’s biggest contribution was taking young talent from local clubs, a bond that would never be broken (Photo from Pexels)

Jock Stein

Probably the most famous name associated with the club, Jock Stein was in the dugout from March 1965 until August 1978, after beginning his managerial career with Celtic reserves in a three year stint starting in 1957.

Whatever else Stein – the first and one of only four protestants to manage the club – achieved at Celtic, he will always be remembered for securing the European Cup in 1967, the first time any team from Britain had ever won it.

There was plenty of other successes that came his way too, including 10 league titles, nine of those on the bounce, as well as eight Scottish Cups and six League Cups.

This makes Stein the second most successful manager in the club’s history by a distance.

He achieved a win percentage of 70.14 percent across his 690 matches, a figure that has only been beaten by two people, one of whom is Ange.

Martin O’Niell

O’Niell took over Celtic in June 2000, right after they that had just finished 21 points behind Rangers.

The turnaround was as impressive as it was quick. Not only did he guide the club to the title in his first season, but he also won the treble, and compounded his reputation by retaining the league title in his second season.

If Martin hadn’t left the club for compassionate reasons to care of his sick wife, there is little doubt that the Ulsterman would have gone on to even greater accomplishments at the club.

As it stands, he collected three league titles, three FA Cups and a League Cup during  his 5 seasons with Celtic.

He also – and this is critical – got the cup to a European Final.

His win rate of 75.53 percent from his 282 games is a club record.

Neil Lennon

Lennon has had two stints as Celtic manager, both largely successful.

His first spell at the club came near the close of the 2009/2010 season, when he took over from Tony Mowbray. At the season’s end, he announced a damning verdict on many of the players and, true to his word, that summer he oversaw a major overhaul of the squad.

Improvement was the key word for the following season, coupled with frustration when the team lost the race for the title on the final day. The following season saw the Hoops once again triumph in the league, and he followed this with two more league successes, as securing two FA Cups during his tenure.

When Lennon left in May 2014, the club was in a considerably better position than how he had found it.

Lennon returned in February 2019, replacing Brendan Rodgers.

That season saw Celtic win the treble for the third successive season. Lennon extend the run to a fourth treble, but the following season was a different story.

Poor results on the pitch coupled with controversy off it saw Lennon leave the club in February, 2021.

Lennon amassed five trophies in each of his spells at Celtic Park, three leagues and two FA Cups in his first stint, and two leagues, two FA Cups and one League Cup in his second.

His win rate for both stints was remarkably similar, 70.04 and 70.00 percent.

Brendan Rodgers

Rodgers’ first season could not have gone much better, at least at a domestic level.

Not only did he consign Rangers to four straight defeats (including a 5-1 thrashing), he also secured a domestic treble. Amassing 106 points, Celtic were unbeaten in all domestic competitions.

More records came the following season.

With 63 league games undefeated, Celtic surpassed the British record set by a certain Willie Maley exactly one hundred years earlier.

It also saw Rodgers’ claim his second domestic treble in a row. The following season, after bagging the League Cup, Rodgers’ 7th consecutive trophy, he parted company with the club to join Leicester City.

Brendan’s trophy haul was seven, made up of two leagues, two FA Cups and three League Cups.

Over his 169 games, his win percentage was 69.82.

There are several other managers who could easily have made the article, all of whom have added to the club’s rich history and its extensive honours list.

There have been 26 Celtic managers in total, taken coming from seven different nations. Of particular note are Gordon Strachan and Billy McNeill. Where Ange ultimately ends up on the list, we await to find out.

Headline image by Unsplash

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