Goodbye And Good Luck Neil

spt_ai_kilmarnock_celtic_13.jpgToday the Timsophere is in mourning. Some of it anyway. I cannot even hide how not in mourning I am, and I won’t even try. Neil Lennon has gone, and it leaves a manager sized hole in our club, but, my friends, my heart is glad and my joy is full.

Neil Lennon departs a hero, a legend, a winner, a champion. He departs having secured another league title. He goes on his own terms, in his own way, leaving behind nothing but admiration and the pride we all feel that he is one of us.

Neil Lennon underachieved as a Celtic manager though. Our trophy haul was pitifully underwhelming.We saw great opportunities squandered. He didn’t appear to know what to do with certain of his players, including some of those he allegedly signed himself. Most worryingly, he appeared perfectly content to live with interference from above.

For all that, I loved him and I do love him.

I cannot wish Neil Lennon anything but well, because Neil Lennon is my hero. I dedicated my first book, Fragments, in part to Neil because as a man he is a role model and an inspiration. No-one should have had to stand what he had to stand in his time in this country, and for his own sake, and that of his family, I would not have been sad today if he had delivered three trebles in a row.

Today, I am celebrating not because Lennon the Manager has gone, but because Lennon the Man has left in triumph, with his head held high, with our club at the top where it belongs. Criticism of Lennon the Manager is acceptable and goes with the job, yet we know what was directed at this man, this good man, went well beyond that. The media hated him. Sevconian’s despised him. Many of the “neutrals” couldn’t stand him, for reasons they don’t even rightly understand, but you can point to a media culture which painted him as Public Enemy Number One and draw your own conclusions.

I cannot imagine the pressure he must have felt, every single day he was at our club. He took over at a difficult time, came in and steadied the ship. He was a great influence on the dressing room, a great leader on and off the field.

I believe he was a great ambassador for us, regardless of what the media might say. He represented himself, and our club, with more class, dignity and poise than certain other managers at certain other clubs, who remain media darlings no matter how useless on the park and vindictive and hateful off of it.

Neil Lennon is a family man, and if the pressure on him must have been enormous I cannot even begin to imagine what it was like for them. They endured these last few years with him, and for them today must be like the opening of prison gates. Their love for him must be extraordinary, and I am happy for them, as for him, that wherever he goes next he will not be subjected to this hate.

Celtic will have to move on from this, but that’s neither here nor there to me. I’ll go on the record right now and say I am dead-set against Henrik Larsson as manager. He’s not ready, not anywhere near it, and he won’t be for years. He’s at an unheard of team in Sweden, for Gods sakes, and if he hadn’t been a club icon would we even be looking at him? Take the blinkers off, friends. That would be a backward step of gargantuan proportions.

I think even the idea insults us, and it insults Larsson himself, to say “ah but he’ll win the SPL …”  That is not the only criteria here.

The failings of Lennon the Manager are, in no small part, down to his own lack of experience as a coach and I would be furious if, for the sake of tugging on the heart-strings, our club decided to appoint another complete novice because he is a former player and appeals to the heart rather than the head. It’s time to be hard nosed, and to demand the best we can get.

But that’s for another day.

I am also going to shy away from writing an article highlighting some of the reasons why Neil Lennon might have decided not to stay. Today I don’t care about those reasons, I am just glad that this man will no longer be at the center of the storm.

Neil Lennon, I would have stood in front of the guns for you. You are an inspiration to us all. You are a true leader and a true warrior. I had doubts about you as a manager, but never as a man. The way you stood your ground in the face of the racists, the thugs, the terrorists, the haters … I have never seen anything like it. Your courage was monumental. You are a lion.

Thank you for it all. I wish you nothing but the best of everything.

Love and respect to you and to yours.

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James Forrest

James Forrest is a writer and blogger from Glasgow, and the author of two books, Fragments and Believers, which are available on Amazon.

18 thoughts on “Goodbye And Good Luck Neil

  • 22 May, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    Correct me if im wrong but cant recall Lennon managing pre his appointment and I would bet that whoever gets the job will win more silverware next season than we won this

  • 22 May, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    You are right mate, he didn’t … and I think we paid a price for his inexperience over the years.

  • 22 May, 2014 at 1:26 pm

    Well said james.

  • 22 May, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    Excellent James, My sentiments exactly. Thank you. I am very happy for him.

  • 22 May, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    Lenny is the bravest of the brave.The victimisation he suffered in this country
    should have led to parliamentary enquiries.
    Scotland’s SHAME was shown for all to see,with a complicit media.To have a bodyguard,speaks volumes for the bitterness and hatred he was up against in this country.
    He can now relax.And enjoy a ‘ normal ‘
    family life.I salute Neil Francis Lennon as a true Celtic Legend.Who will always have
    a special place in our hearts.

  • 22 May, 2014 at 7:11 pm

    16 Trophies in 11 years as Player and Manager.

    God Bless Neil Lennon.

  • 22 May, 2014 at 7:25 pm

    I don’t quite get where the bookies are getting their hunches from that shows HK as a shoe-in based on the odds quoted.
    However after listening to the Tom English interview on Irish radio where he says the huge Celtic support would love to see him installed as the new man in charge. This is in total contrast to the views expressed on the few Celtic forums I have looked at. We had a very bad experience with a well seasoned manager in Mowbray and I cannot see us going down this road with a very inexperienced HK. THe support will always see HK as a living Celtic legend and will not want to see that image put in jeopardy by taking such a gamble, not for a few years at least.

  • 22 May, 2014 at 11:24 pm

    Thank you for a well-balanced account,
    Most of which I agree with. However, I would be reluctant to criticise Neil Lennon on any front ,in view of the bigoted abuse he has had to suffer in our name. Neil Lennon has been the most abused player/mananager in the history of Scottish football simply because he was a Northern Ireland Catholic playing for or managing Celtic. Neil Lennon came to Scotland after years of playing unnoticed in England. He was booed in every park in this country and was the only person punished in ‘the game of shame’ when our opponents had thousands of supporters breaking the law,along with their players and managers.If this little country of ours has learned nothing from this experience, then God help us.. Thanks Neil for what you have done for the Celtic cause and I hope you and your family enoy more peaceful times elsewhere.

  • 22 May, 2014 at 11:32 pm

    Calm down folks,there’s no chance henrik will get managers job thats jist the bookies taking some easy cash aff the fav backers,owen coyle looks a cert,,not my cup of tea tho,,think when sammi made comment about not getting offer to stay and lenny agreed the writing was on the wall!also read fosters tweet today he speaks “of my time when i was at celtic??a step too far by the board maybe.

  • 22 May, 2014 at 11:56 pm

    Spot on James. I see the media are at it again interviewing all the so called pundits speculating about why he has left. Was it the budget, was it that he had no control over players coming and going, was it that he was bored because there was no competition because Sevco aren’t there. So I will do a bit speculating myself. Maybe he and his family are fed up having to have security 24/7, maybe it’s because he and his wife want to bring up their kids in a better environment without living in fear, maybe NFL has had enough of the threats over his career playing and managing Celtic, maybe it’s because every thing he says is always twisted by the MSM, ( succulent lamb). I for one am pleased that Neil and his family are are off to pastures new to live a normal life for the sake of his sanity. God Bless NFL and his family

  • 23 May, 2014 at 8:02 am

    Read para 1 and straight to comment..Bang on right. Neil could have maimed-killed and how many among us with kids etc would have stayed?
    His human heroics are a standout for me in the face of elements of Scotland’s bigots. They aren’t fit to be mentioned alongside NL. PS He could also play and manage. He’ll be just fine. Peace to Neil Lennon and his family and a massive thank you.

  • 23 May, 2014 at 10:33 am

    Thats excatly what i was going to write in my column if i had one. Made me shed a wee tear reading that. Bring on the next man. God bless Lenny. You’ve earned your name in Celtics history.

  • 24 May, 2014 at 2:11 am

    I wish Neilbl the best..
    The stuff he had to put up with is beyond belief..

    As for the next manager, Ronald Koeman is free.. Not heard him mentioned once, but the last few years he has done outstanding at feyenoord on a budget fractions of his oponents..

  • 24 May, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    Goodbye and god bless Neil. You will forever be in our hearts

  • 24 May, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    spot on. totally agree.
    I have a strong feeling that moyes will come in for 1 year with henrik joining him in October/November when the sweddish league ends as his understudy and then take full control the season after that.
    moyes would like a crack at the champions league but wouldn’t want to do any longer than 1 season in Scotland, the henrik part is more from my heart than my head but who knows ?

  • 26 May, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    dunno what he’s up to now but he was (is) a manager at one time, so has the name Ľubomír “Lubo” Moravčík been bandied about as Lenny’s successor?

    Just a thought but again great piece James.

  • 31 May, 2014 at 12:05 am

    so well said – he is a true celtic hero but more than that he is a man that stood up in the face of derision, hate and threats to his life and simply got on with his job, without publicly returning any of the anger he must have felt – a true celtic hero xxx

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