Friday, 18 April 2014


By Andy Ritchie

THEY are taking bets on Leigh Griffiths being booted out by Celtic, but the smarter money is on a much bigger name being gone before the start of next season.

I’m referring to the most important man at the club, the manager, Neil Lennon.

If Lennon has sense, and he’s got plenty as far as I can judge, he’ll have reached the conclusion some time ago that he has very likely achieved just about as much as he can at Celtic Park and that it’s time for a fresh challenge.

In fact, Lennon may even be regretting not having made a move a year ago when his stock was trading higher following the team’s Champions League successes.

There hasn’t been a queue of club chairmen from England battering down the doors to entice Scottish managers south in recent years, which is a sad indictment of what they think about the general state of our game, and Lennon is clearly aware that he will have to sell himself to an extent.

So it didn’t surprise me to see him appear on Match if the Day 11 the other week, when he gave a polished performance talking purely about the playing side rather than about all  the other aspects that come with being an Old Firm manager.

He managed to sound astute and appeared more at ease discussing tactics, formations and playing styles, so if Lennon’s ploy was to try and advance his case, it worked a treat.

The timing was spot on and those chairmen and owners contemplating managerial change over the course of the next few weeks cannot help but have been impressed at the way Lennon came over.

I imagine there is going to be a bit of movement in the Premiership before the World Cup kicks-off.

The dogs in the street are already barking out that there has been at least a degree of contact between Norwich and Lennon, but the Canaries won’t be the only club in the market for a new manager.

Newcastle cannot possibly be happy with Alan Pardew after everything that has gone off on Tyneside and all is clearly far from well in the Aston Villa camp.

Not only have you got the situation with two members of the senior coaching staff under investigation for alleged bullying, results under Paul Lambert haven’t been great either.

The most attractive option is a Premiership club where Lennon’s personal terms would be far more lucrative than if he was managing a Championship side, so much may depend on which teams are relegated.

But I believe that whatever is eventually on offer to him, Lennon has reached the stage where he feels he’s done enough at Celtic Park and that the grass is greener on the other side.

And I’m prepared to stick my neck out and predict that Neil Lennon will no longer be the Celtic manager come August.
But I believe Griffiths will still be with my old club when Celtic begin their defence of the SPFL title.

Contrary to the apparently widely held belief that Griffiths is facing the axe, I don’t think he is even close to being sacked - at least for the time being.

Yes, Griffiths is an idiot. No, chanting racist abuse is not acceptable.

But he is clearly not the sharpest cookie. He also appears easily led when drink is involved.

But a Hibee having a pop at the Jambos and vice-versa is nothing new, and calling someone a refugee hardly constitutes a hanging offence.

I’ve had 50,000 calling me a lazy, fat bastard, so does that mean if I am able to identify the guilt I am free to sue them? I’ll better put in a call to Donald Findlay, just in case.

The SFA has done its best to inflate the situation while Celtic have thrown a fire blanket over what was a drink-fuelled outburst deserving of a heavy slap on the wrist, a club fine, and a warning to Griffiths as to his future conduct.

But if there is a next time that might turn out to be a very different matter as he would be judged to have thumbed his nose at those who are trying to help save him from himself.

Others, players and managers, have committed worse acts and escaped relatively unscathed, but the SFA looks to have turned the Griffiths affair into something of a crusade.

They should have left it up to his club to deal with Griffiths and Celtic, in turn, should order him to find suitable accommodation in the west away from the temptations of life in the capital and the influence of his mates.

If Griffiths can screw the nut, he’s good enough at domestic level to score 25 goals a season. But the real testing ground is Europe and whether he’s good enough to do it at the next level.

Meanwhile, I wasn’t one of those surprised by St Johnstone’s achievement in reaching their first ever Scottish Cup final.

I had a sneaking feeling beforehand that they would dump the Dons due to Aberdeen’s a lack of youth and energy in the middle of the park.

St Johnstone is a team who keep snapping away at the opposition and in Steve May they have some who is always liable to score.

Barry Robson and Willo Flood were running on empty after an hour and as soon as Saints equalised there was only one team going to win, in my mind.

It’s good that we have two teams from the Tayside region in the final for a change and it should turn out to be a decent enough spectacle.

Dundee United beating Rangers in the other semi-final was no surprise either. Even playing at only 50 per cent capacity, United were able to turn over the opposition with relative ease.

And I am sure that didn’t come as a shock to anyone who had watched Rangers the week before in the Ramsdens Cup final.