Belfast Telegraph

Neil Lennon eyes new test after ending Celtic love affair

By David Whelan

Celtic fans across Northern Ireland are coming to terms with the resignation of manager Neil Lennon.

The former Northern Ireland captain announced yesterday that he would be leaving the club after four successful years in charge.

Lennon won 40 caps for Northern Ireland before controversially retiring from international football in 2002 following death threats. Former Northern Ireland international Gerry Armstrong said that Lennon will be a huge loss to the club.

"He's done everything he can at Celtic and I think he's chosen this as the time to challenge himself as a manager in a bigger and better league," said Armstrong.

Lennon began his international career under the eye of Armstrong during his stint in charge of the Northern Ireland under-21s.

"I brought him into the Northern Ireland under-21s after watching him at Crewe as a young full-back," said Armstrong.

"He was always a very competitive player who took his job very seriously and was always well grounded. He took these qualities into management and I think that's why he has done so well.

"He'll be a big loss to Celtic."

A good friend of Lennon, Belfast businessman and player agent Gerry Carlile said that the Lurgan man had hinted at his decision over the past weeks.

"He is a marvellous manager and the fans will undoubtedly be disappointed at losing him but I don't think it will have come as a shock to many," he said.

When asked whether he felt that personal attacks on Lennon and his family contributed to the decision, Carlile added: "I have no doubt about it. The treatment Neil and his family have received from some elements of Scottish football has been appaling."

Last year, Lennon brought his Celtic side to Northern Ireland to play Cliftonville in the qualifying rounds of the Champions League.

Former Celtic player and Cliftonville first team coach Gerard Lyttle said that it had been fantastic for both sets of fans.

"As a fan I'm very sad to see him go, he'll be hard to replace but until his successor is announced, me and Tommy (Breslin) will be keeping our phones on," he joked.

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