Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Rangers' problems played huge part in Neil Lennon leaving Celtic

Telegraph Sport: where the debate starts

Neil Lennon has waved goodbye to Celtic after four successful years in charge
Neil Lennon has waved goodbye to Celtic after four successful years in charge

It's surely the most striking irony of Neil Lennon's departure from Celtic that the financial calamities suffered by Rangers had a fundamental role to play.

With the Old Firm rivalry indefinitely decommissioned, Scotland's Premiership has shed even the illusion of authentic competition.

Celtic won this season's title by 29 points with a goal difference of plus 77, compared to second-placed Motherwell's plus four. In other words, the league was about as competitive as a crocodile attack on a puppy.

Without Rangers in their faces, Celtic's existence has never seemed less urgent, less relevant. Worse, the board clearly realise they can sell marketable players (like Gary Hooper and Victor Wanyama) without any significant impediment to their chances of stockpiling titles.

This, for Lennon, was wretchedly bad news. He has shown himself to be a bright, tactically astute manager, particularly in the environment of Champions League football.

Yet the Celtic board clearly believes it would be financially imprudent to the point of daftness to pursue anything beyond habitual qualification for that competition.

Lennon's natural ambition, thus, was always destined to become a point of conflict with his employers.

He wanted to strengthen a squad that the board recognised was already strong enough to be deemed certainties for next season's Premiership title and, quite probably, the one beyond.

Without Rangers, Celtic essentially lost the will to grow. Lennon came to understand that. He left because to stay would have been professional surrender.

Further Reading

O'Neill backs Keane as manager

Larsson would be success at Celtic: Lennon 

Keane: I'm so tired of being asked about other jobs 

Neil Lennon lived Celtic dream... but also endured a nightmare 

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