Neil Lennon won’t be reunited with mentor who turned around Celtic’s fortunes for good

Neil Lennon has dismissed suggestions that he could be reunited with Martin O’Neill in a Director of Football role.

Lennon was, of course, brought to Celtic by O’Neill in 2000, having played under him at Leicester City.

The Celtic boss, though, says teaming up with his old mentor is ‘not on the horizon’.

Lennon said: “I hope he gets back [into football management].

“He’s only in his mid-60s and you know what I think of him as a manager. It’s whether he fancies it.

“Could he come back   here in some role? He is fed up telling me what to do. He’s been doing it for 25 years!

“That would be an interesting one, but it’s not on the horizon.”

Much has changed since the turn of the century, when O’Neill brought hope to a dispirited Celtic Park.

Back then, there would never be a worry that a club like Leicester would be able to take Celtic’s best, rather it would be the other way around.

At the time, though, it was still a coup to land O’Neill, a highly regarded young manager who had just won the League Cup with Leicester for a second time.

He was joining a club that had been dominated for a decade, winning just three trophies from a possible thirty in the 90s.

Celtic had finished 21 points behind Rangers after a disastrous season, albeit one where some pride had been salvaged when, under Kenny Dalglish, we won the League Cup.

Despite that winning margin, Rangers were like a doped up bully, once again flexing their fake financial muscle.

They had already spent around £20million on the likes of Kenny Miller, Fernando Ricksen, Bert Konterman, Peter Lovenkrands and Ronald De Boer when a £5.5million move for John Hartson fell through.

It was a ridiculous outlay, given they had no real income from the transfer market, and epitomised the ‘for every fiver Celtic spend I’ll spend a tenner’ bragging of David Murray.

If memory serves correctly, accountancy giants Deloitte and Touche said that, such was the financial gap between the clubs, it would take Celtic five years to win the title.

They didn’t count on Martin O’Neill, walking up to the monster that Rangers had become, looking it in the eye, before smashing it by the knees and bringing it to the ground.

By the time panic-stricken Rangers had splashed out £12million on flop Tore Andre Flo a few short months later, the football landscape in Scotland had changed forever.

A 6-2 win in the first derby of the season broke the ‘psychological armlock’, as Davie Provan put it, that Rangers had held Celtic in.

Even a 5-1 reverse at Ibrox in the next clash between the two in November couldn’t stop the Celtic juggernaut.

Neil Lennon joined his old Leicester boss in December and Celtic would go on to win a stunning treble.

Rangers survival was predicated on winning and, in one fell swoop, that was gone. Former Rangers director Hugh Adam punted his shares not long after, in 2002, having warned that the club was heading for administration.

Without omitting their large part in their own destruction, O’Neill was the real architect of their downfall.

With the likes of Sutton, Larsson, Lambert and Lennon, who had said that he had watched Rangers ‘bully’ Celtic on TV and vowed it would not happen on his watch, he had dragged Celtic up by the scruff of their necks and laid the foundation for everything that followed.

He gave us glory, he gave us pride, he lived up to his promise on 1 June 2000 when he told the fans gathered for his unveiling:

” I will do everything I possibly can to bring some success to this football club.”

He had an incredible aura about him, and you could hear a pin drop in Celtic pubs when he spoke after matches.

Today, Lennon, stands on the shoulders of the Celtic managerial giant that Martin O’Neill was, just as Brendan Rodgers did before him.

O’Neill, a touchline jack-in-the-box, never looked as enthusiastic about football after leaving Celtic, and it may be that his time in the game is coming to an end. But, in his day, he was the best Celtic manager since Stein at the time and arguably still is.

Rodgers may have elevated Celtic to unprecedented domestic domination, but in those circumstances at the time, could he have done what Martin O’Neill did?

They’re different eras and we’ll never know for sure, but O’Neill was the right man at the right time and they had no honest answer to him.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *