Changing Manager Might Not Instantly Improve Celtic

There seems to be a huge difference of opinion between some of the Celtic support and the Celtic boardroom.

A group of the Hoops faithful are calling for managerial change, while Peter Lawwell and Co seem intent on giving current manger Neil Lennon time to get things back on track as the club chase down an historic tenth title in a row.

In all honesty I get both sides of the argument.

As a group of supporters, Celtic fans have always demanded an exciting brand of football and passionate, committed performances from their players.

That simply hasn’t been the case this season and Celtic’s issues do seem to lie at the door of their manager.

The team look extremely vulnerable at the back, especially when it comes to defending when the ball is in the air. In their last outing at Hibs (BBC Match Report), Celtic lost nineteen aerial battles and won just nine as they dropped two points. Even in a comfortable win against Motherwell, they still allowed the opposition side the chance to hit twenty-one crosses into their box.

In recent weeks, Celtic have changed their system without solving any of their problems. A few big name summer signings (Vasilis Barkas, Albian Ajeti and Shane Duffy) have so far struggled to make the necessary impact.

As each poor performance arrives, Neill Lennon has met it by blaming his players and by throwing them under the bus. That rhetoric hasn’t seen a change in performances nor has it been met with approval from the Parkhead faithful, who are worried it signals that things are going the same way for the gaffer as it did at his previous job at Hibs where he seemingly lost the dressing room!

Some Celtic fans genuinely believe a managerial change has to take place now, if The Hoops are to stand any chance of catching and overtaking Rangers in the Scottish Premiership race and claim that tenth title in a row.

Yet the board seem extremely hesitant to change things.

They may point to the fact that since arriving back at Celtic Park, Lennon has won every bit of silverware that’s been there to win. That the current boss is that one that started this journey in the first place. Plus they’ve only lost one domestic game in this calendar year.

When you look at that first title win back in 2011-12, Celtic supporters were also calling for Neil to be sacked back then. It’s believed that he would have indeed been given the axe had his side not comeback from a three goal deficit in October to claim a draw with Killie at Rugby Park. That result signalled a turning point as Celtic chased down then leaders Rangers, overtook them and claimed the title that season!

Even last term, Lennon showed he had the skill-set to get more out of his squad and turn things around. Having lost to Rangers in late December, it was believed that Celtic were going to struggle in 2020. Yet after the winter break, Lennon’s side went on a ten game unbeaten run in the Scottish top flight (nine wins) and were thirteen points ahead of their nearest rivals when Covid-19 brought the league campaign to a premature end (Rangers did have a game in hand).

The board might believe that once again Neil Lennon can turn things around. They might also feel he has been hampered by injuries and by pandemic restrictions. It might be believed that when they have a full quota of players available to them, then things will change dramatically for the better.

Now while I do indeed understand both cases for keeping and getting rid of the current Celtic manager, I don’t see a natural succession plan in place that would automatically change things for the better if Celtic were to bring in a new gaffer.

The Celtic board aren’t known for being long-term football thinkers. They seem somewhat reactionary. Just look at how they do their transfer business after their Champions League dreams are over and how they gave Lennon the job on a permanent basis in the first place.

Instead of scouring the football world for the best candidate and interviewing people; they decided that Neil had steadied the ship, knew the club and was the cheaper option. Thus offering him the gig in the showers at Hampden Park after the Scottish Cup final in 2019. A final that didn’t really see the Green half of Glasgow play at their best.

The current options I am seeing being linked with the job are far from appealing.

Returns for Gordon Strachan and Martin O’Neill have been mentioned.

Strachan never quite got the full support of the Celtic fanbase. Yes he enjoyed successes at Celtic Park but you always felt it was a marriage of convenience rather than one of love. His style of football again didn’t usually capture the spectator’s imagination. The former boss has only had one club gig since his departure in 2009 and he flopped big time at Middlesbrough.

Martin O’Neill is a Celtic legend. He brought the glory days back to Glasgow’s east end. Would a dream team of him and Roy Keane change things?

I doubt they’d get any more out of this current squad than Lennon. Their six month spell in charge at Nottingham Forest in 2019 was a bit of a horror story and by all accounts they couldn’t to grips with the modern day footballer. I am not sure the answer to Celtic’s problems is Roy Keane going into the dressing room and throwing verbal grenades into it.

Plus I just don’t see O’Neill taking over the reigns if it meant seeing his prodigy Neil Lennon getting the boot.

Martin O’Neill has gone on record to back his former player:

 “If I had walked back into Celtic Park for a second spell after a manager had just left and there was a treble Treble at stake, if I had delivered it and then stood on the cusp of delivering another one – and he is just one game away from that – I would be asking myself ‘just where is this pressure coming from?’ It is shocking.

“The pressure he is under right now is entirely unwarranted for the success that Celtic have had and the part he has played in that.”

Via Daily Record

Then there’s Eddie Howe.

I like Howe and the job he did at AFC Bournemouth. But look at the way it ended there. He couldn’t change the mindset of his players and the club’s fortunes as they headed out of the Premier League.

He could be one if you are thinking long term but you cannot say he will change things immediately.

You’ve also got to believe a new manager would want to change things in the January transfer market. Can we see the Celtic board doing that? I’m not sure.

In all honesty, if the Celtic board haven’t already identified a candidate and put a transfer strategy in place by now then I think panicking and getting rid of Neil Lennon won’t see them solving the major issues at Celtic Park.

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