Opinion: Why Celtic must act cautiously in new manager search to instantly reap the rewards

Logo: The Celtic Star

The Celtic Star

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The major news coming out of Lennoxtown this week is that Neil Lennon has left the building.

On the face of it, Two Premierships, Two Scottish Cups and a League Cup would suggest that Lennon had done a stellar job at the helm of the Celtic ship that so easily cruised down the Clyde and dominated the domestic scene over the 2010’s. There were positives, of course; the invasion of Rome, clinching the 8th and 9th title in a row – which gave us all so much hope of clinching the ten – completing an unprecedented quadruple-treble (as shaky as the final was) and some excellent wins against theRangers.

If Celtic had been showcasing the footballing equivalent of cruising down the M8 for the past nine years, then this season was a trek up Ben Nevis barefooted, backwards and upside down.

Yet you really do have to look back with regret at how sorrowful, pitiful and self combusting the last six months have been. The lack of direction, the distinct neglecting of simple planning and the pure incompetency – not only of Lennon and the players but quite especially the board – was plain for all to see. It begs the question: why on earth was nothing done to curtail the rot this great club endured? Even if we did not catch up to theRangers in the end, any form of effort in the title race whatsoever would have still been a positive – you can’t win everything, but some effort would have been nice and at worst appreciated, given that not one fan has been to a Bhoys’ game all season.

Even the most optimistic of us would agree that this was the best thing for the club given the tumultuous rocky road of a season Celtic Football Club has endured this season. If Celtic had been showcasing the footballing equivalent of cruising down the M8 for the past nine years, then this season was a trek up Ben Nevis barefooted, backwards and upside down.

The one positive from this – if you can call it that – is that Celtic at least have nothing else to play for this season, given that the 2020-21 Scottish Cup doesn’t look like coming to a head given the state of the pandemic. The league is long lost, European football seems like a distant pipe dream, and the Scottish League Cup is best left unspoken about given the exit to Ross County back at Christmas.

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Why is this a positive, you may ask? It most definitely can be seen as an adverse feeling, but at the same time it is a positive because it means that the dust can now settle from the eruption that Lennon had created. Akin to the Roman town of Pompeii in 79AD, we can take the remaining good parts of history the volcano created, look at what we can take from the current state of the circus and build again.

Therefore, with nothing to play for, why do certain fans feel there be a need to hire a permanent manager instantly? If coming second is the best Celtic can do this season, why rush into a managerial decision with just eight games of the season left – twelve points ahead of third – when John Collins can lead the team to the finish line – without having to pay new astronomical wages for a new boss – in which Dominic McKay and co. can then plan concisely in order to regain the battle for the title?

For potential incoming managers, this could be the perfect scenario they envisage to get themselves back on the footballing ladder. How often is it that you are given the chance to join one of the UK’s – and objectively Europe’s, at least in terms of support – biggest clubs, whilst simultaneously being offered a complete rebuild of said club to tailor it to your exact needs and with a huge transfer kitty from player sales to boot?

On top of this, you have a chance to manage in front of 60,000 adoring fans week in week out, and with the chance to get the club back and roaring as a feared outfit in the UEFA Champions League, you’ll become a club legend. It is not often this happens, I’ll tell you that for free.

In all honestly, the links to Steve Clarke given the above statement are baffling. Yes, Steve is the messiah that took Scotland to their first tournament since the turn of the millennium, and he deserves great credit for that, but given what has happened with Lennon – after enduring the brilliance of Brendan Rodgers – would Steve Clarke and his style of play mean that he would really be the manager to turn Celtic’s potential fortunes into the golden era fans have long pined for? I highly doubt it. His playing style is the biggest factor: it has worked for Scotland and Kilmarnock, but you must remember these sides are constantly underdogs and Celtic, as a side who 80% of the time are the better outfit on the field, would find this change of playing style likely detrimental.

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That negativity being said, the links to Roberto Martinez, Eddie Howe and Frank Lampard are much more refreshing and rightly so give that little bit more effervescence to Celtic fans’ hopes. Three proven managers, especially Martinez, who have all competed in the English Premier League and excelled somewhat, who would bring attacking flair to Paradise. What isn’t to like?

Fans have their doubts over whether Martinez would join the club given that he manages Belgium’s National Team, currently the best national team in the world, according to the FIFA world rankings, and with Euro 2021 coming up, it would be ludicrous for him to switch allegiances now given the Spaniard has a real shot at securing his first major trophy in the Flemish nation. However, it is instances like this why Celtic need to wait.

Suppose Martinez has a disastrous tournament with Belgium, making only the round of sixteen before being sent packing. The ‘Red Devils’ sack him on the spot there and then, and all of a sudden the former Everton boss is unemployed. Yet just weeks earlier, in a bid to appease fans who have gone into unrest over the lack of an appointed manager, Celtic have appointed Steve Clarke. You are then left with a much worse manager, and with Martinez having a Scottish wife and Shaun Maloney as his assistant, it would be a given that he would move to Celtic under the circumstances.

What is three months more to add the cause which will ultimately benefit the club extremely well in the future?

The same applies for the gaffer who I would choose to come in, Rafa Benitez. He took the job at Newcastle United under similar circumstances and even spent a year with them in the English Championship – would he be foolish to move to Celtic given the competitions and history he could be afford to write on offer? Most definitely not. A chance to prove himself in Europe once again after his Scouse heroics, and the chance to overtake his old captain Steven Gerrard as Glasgow’s greatest. It is mouthwatering already!

Celtic fans have witnessed mediocrity for the best part of a year, in the most depressing year of the century. Their fortunes are well and truly deservingly going to improve, yet only if the Celtic board don’t act impetuously.

Lawwell and his merry men waited six months too long to sack Lennon. Now that more and more managers are being linked with taking the throne at Paradise, what is three months more to add the cause which will ultimately benefit the club extremely well in the future? It’s absolutely nothing! Let’s hope they finally add some competency into the mix and benefit the club positively for once – Celtic are Scotland’s greatest club, we just need to show it.

And now is the time to do so.