Today 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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