Neil Lennon should resign at the end of this season. Regardless of who wins the SPL, Lennon should end his time as Celtic manager and move on.
This is not a sentiment that will be shared by many Celtic fans, but what choice does he have? The sectarian abuse, the death threats and the attacks (both verbal and physical) Lennon has received during his time in Glasgow have been topped off with an explosive device sent through the post. Thankfully, the package was intercepted but given the lengths individuals are prepared to go to in order to do him harm, there is simply no prospect of Lennon and his family ever being able to live anything like a normal life in the West of Scotland.
Lennon’s battle with depression is well documented and the current situation must place an incredible strain on him. He also has a partner and young son to consider – it’s hard to imagine what Lennon must feel when he sees his 5 year old constantly surrounded by Police and bodyguards.
Naturally, Celtic fans will campaign for Lennon to remain in his post, and gestures such as the late-night vigil outside Celtic Park and the 18th minute applause emphasise the remarkable bond that exists between the club’s manager and it’s supporters. However, rather than cries of ‘Lennon must stay’, perhaps the attitude should be more along the lines of ‘We will support Neil Lennon, whatever he decides’. Only Lennon and his family can truly understand what they are going through at the moment, and they must consider the possibility that one or more of them could be hurt if they remain in Scotland.
The manager’s commitment to his club cannot be questioned. He has been subjected to the garbage mentioned above and even remained at Celtic Park after being demoted from First-Team coach to taking charge of the Reserves by Tony Mowbray. His life would undoubtedly be a lot easier had he left Glasgow many years ago…or never arrived in the first place. Despite publicly stating he has no regrets about moving to Celtic, Lennon would be forgiven for every now and then thinking about how different his day-to-day existence would be, had he joined a club other than Celtic when he left Leicester City.
There will be those who say that the game needs to take a stand against the bullies – they’re right, but that’s the responsibility of the SFA, Celtic, Rangers and the Police, not Neil Lennon and his family. It’s easy for third parties to offer such advice from the stands, the press box, a TV studio, or while sitting at a keyboard.
The vilification of Lennon is nothing new. Since he arrived in Scotland at the end of 2000, he has been on the end of an unprecedented level of abuse: two males received prison terms after assaulting him in the street, he had to call time on his international career after death threats, and as Lennon details in his autobiography Man and Bhoy, he was almost run off the road by another motorist. Yet in all that time, the authorities have done little in terms of support or action. It seems that following this latest incident, many people in Scotland have only now woken up to what he has had to contend with.
Most of Lennon’s detractors will claim that their dislike stems from his fiery, ‘in your face’ personality. Whilst in many cases that will be correct, for others it’s a shield behind which they peddle their sectarian bile. Booing or shouting at a player you don’t have time for is part of the game, but Lennon was a marked man before he even had the chance to offend or annoy anyone on the field of play – banter and criticism being replaced by poisonous hatred.
In his first full season in charge, Lennon has shown he has the potential to be a very capable manager and if he does move on, he will find work elsewhere. Celtic of course will find a replacement, but it would be natural that prospective new managers may be a tad concerned that the previous holder of the post left due to his life potentially being in danger.
Should Lennon be forced out, it could mark the beginning of the end of Scottish football as we know it. Those few outsiders who view the SPL as a credible competition may be forced to think again. There is the danger of a backlash from angry Celtic fans, leading to tit-for-tat threats and intimidation, aimed at Old Firm players and management. Sponsorship and TV deals could in turn suffer, and the Scottish game could find itself on its last legs.
From his recent comments in the media, it seems that Lennon is determined to stay at Celtic, in the short-term at least. However, nobody should be forced to endure what he has had to, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if, at some point in the near future, he decides he is better off out of it.