Saturday, 14 December 2013
The Green Brigade may have hastened Neil Lennon’s departure from Celtic Park.
BY ANDY RITCHIE
CELTIC’S 6-1 defeat by Barcelona was an embarrassment and it may also turn out to be the moment when Neil Lennon decided that it’s time to move on.
Lennon’s stock was never higher than it was 12 months ago when Celtic progressed through to the last 16 of the Champions League.
That would have been the ideal time for him to have actively sought a job in the Premiership and I don’t know whether he chose to remain at Celtic or there were no managerial offers forthcoming.
But one thing’s for sure, his stock is not nearly so high a year on. Celtic’s results in Europe have been disappointing to say the least and that will have impacted on Lennon’s chances of landing a job in England.
It used to be that simply being manager of Celtic and Rangers was sufficient to guarantee you a job down south if you made it known you wanted one. Not anymore.
But there’s nothing to keep him at Celtic that I can see. He punched well above his weight last season as far as Europe was concerned but this campaign has been a huge let down not even qualifying for the Europa League.
And if he has any sense – and I believe he does – he will seek pastures new over the coming months.
It’s clear that the sort of money required to achieve a level of success in Europe isn’t going to be forthcoming from Peter Lawwell and Lennon understands that he needs a different type of player for Europe, and they cost big bucks.
He lost three players at the end of last season and tried to replace them with something like seven others who proved to be less than effective in the Champions League and maybe even the SPFL as well.
So, I think he’ll be saying to himself that he has probably gone as far as he can at Celtic Park and as the situation stands in Scottish football, the Premiership is a bigger deal, even at the clubs lower down.
If you have genuine ambition you must want to test yourself by flexing your muscles in the Premiership, and that applies to managers as well as players.
I suspect the Norwich job will become available soon although I hear that Malky Mackay is in line to take over there, and, if so, there will be a vacancy at Cardiff, while there may also be an eventual opening at West Ham.
It’s getting to that time of year when chairmen and owners start becoming increasingly twitchy, as we saw in the case of Fulham, so there will definitely be opportunities.
It all depends on how much Lennon wants to test himself at Premiership level. If, as I suspect, he does, then he’ll let it be known in the right circles.
Meanwhile, the so-called Green Brigade isn’t doing Celtic, or Scottish football for that matter, any favours.
They have caused mayhem in recent weeks and while they are clearly a minority of the support, there is a sizeable enough number to cause concern and they appear to be gathering momentum.
I have no idea exactly what their agenda is or what they are trying to achieve. Maybe if they declared their aims something could be done to tackle the problem before it gets completely out of hand.
The situation can’t be allowed to continue and if their aim is just purely vandalism then the sooner they are kicked out of football the better.
At £55 an hour for each constable, the SPFL clubs have been examining ways of reducing policing costs for some time now and selective matches have been police-free within the stadium.
By that I mean the stewards have carried out policing duties and taken on responsibility for ejecting unruly spectators and handing them over to officers stationed outside the ground.
I was the SPL delegate at the first ever police-free match, a 2-2 draw between Motherwell and Hibs at Fir Park several years ago, and the hope by now was that the majority of fixtures would be policed by stewards only.
But events at Fir Park have opened a fresh can of worms with the throwing of flares and the ripping out of seats. in addition to various other health and safety issues.
The bampots responsible have effectively set the whole policing issue back years at a time when the clubs are desperately trying to reduce their outgoings.
After all, with all due respect, you are not going to get stewards earning a fifth of what police officers receive risking serious injury trying to deal with the thugs who are hell bent on causing maximum damage and disruption to the game they profess to be fans of.
The Green Brigade may also have hastened Neil Lennon’s departure from Celtic Park.