Credit: Thomas Nugent / 1967 Flags on Celtic Way at Celtic Park / CC BY-SA 2.0
November 26th 2020. Sparta Prague 4-1 Celtic.
Celtic are eliminated from the Europa League group stage with two games to spare. They also trail Rangers by 11 points in the Scottish Premiership.
They have won only two of their last nine games and Lennon is under pressure from an ever increasing number of Celtic fans.
This was shown by ‘The Green Brigade’ earlier in the week with the following banner and statement.
Despite this statement and growing discontent from fans – especially those on social media – Neil Lennon remains defiant that he can turn the clubs fortunes around.
When asked by STV if he is still the man the lead Celtic he responded:
“Of course I do,” he said. “I know this group better than anybody.
“I remember last year when we lost to Rangers and had everyone writing us off and were getting slaughtered from everyone, our own supporters or everyone else in the game. They were saying the league was over and we put a great run together in the second half of the season.
“This feels a little bit different. It feels like we have a little more work to do but we’re confident we’ll turn it around again.
“It’s a lot of work catching up in the league but it’s not beyond us. Far from it.”
His knowledge of the squad and his reference to last season may be true but does he really believe that lightning will strike twice?
Steven Gerrard’s Rangers haven’t lost a league game this season, were convincing albeit not spectacular winners in the first derby match of the season and have impressed again this season in the Europa league.
Crucially, his squad now has more quality from the bench due to signings such as those of Kemar Roofe, a proven finisher, who can provide much needed competition to Rangers talisman Alfredo Morelos. Another difference to last season that suggests that lightning may not strike twice this time around.
The big question that seems make keeping Neil Lennon in post the easy option for Celtic is: who would take the job at this stage of the season with so much on the line?
The bookmakers have Eddie Howe as the overwhelming favourite and crucially he is available immediately having left Bournemouth in the summer. Whether he would consider a move to Scottish football is unknown at this stage.
Other names mentioned are former manager Gordon Strachan and Martin O’Neill but would they really put their respective legacies on the line with a squad of players that aren’t theirs?
Managers or assistants who are currently employed such as Steve Clarke, Michael O’Neill, Jack Ross, Rafa Benitez, David Moyes and Henrik Larsson are mentioned too but any move would have to be quick as Celtic cannot afford a protracted effort at agreeing compensation with any of those names or any others currently in situ elsewhere.
One thing that is for sure is that this debate over Neil Lennon and Celtic won’t go away anytime soon.
Are the Celtic board right to back and respect the loyalty of a club legend or are they showing blind faith by backing a manager who isn’t producing convincing results or performances?
Only time will tell.