Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 26 October 2014

Neil Lennon will quit Celtic, but not yet

Celtic manager Neil Lennon parades the SPL trophy on the pitch after the Clydesdale Bank Premier League match at Celtic Park, Glasgow.

It was no great surprise to me when Neil Lennon distanced himself from the Everton manager's job.

Celtic are at a crucial stage of their domestic season with a potential double on the horizon and all the focus from Lennon and his players needs to be on that target.

After David Moyes' appointment as Sir Alex Ferguson's successor, speculation has been rife that Lennon along with Wigan Athletic's Roberto Martinez and Cardiff City's Malky Mackay are the front runners for the Goodison Park hot-seat.

Lennon's reputation has escalated since his side's impressive results in the Champions League and worryingly for Celtic and their fans other clubs have, unsurprisingly, taken notice.

Everton, like a lot of other clubs over the last 10 years, have had to work within a stringent playing budget yet remain competitive.

Lennon's ability to progress to the last 16 of the Champions League with limited funds would make him an attractive acquisition to Bill Kenwright and the Everton board.

The two questions are simple: Would Lennon be ready to step up to the most competitive league in the world? And would he want to at this stage of his career as he's still in his infancy as a manager?

In theory you can never tell if he's ready or not to step up because every managerial appointment carries its own risk and Everton will know that.

What Lennon has in his favour, however, is the experience of working at a huge club like Celtic and dealing with the expectation levels and the constant scrutiny that comes with it.

If he went to Everton there would still be expectations, but I'm not sure the media glare that suffocates him in Glasgow would be the same on Merseyside.

He might feel a bit freer to get on with managing his football team and actually get round to enjoying his role, if there's such a thing!

Whether Lennon would want to move at the moment is something only he can answer.

I suspect he would be on a more rewarding contract financially, but having played for Celtic and managed them he will have been well paid, so money won't be his motivation.

Winning trophies is the ultimate high for managers, players and supporters alike so Lennon's next job I feel will have to be one that gives him the opportunity to continue being successful. Winning and the buzz it brings is addictive, when you're used to it you want it again and again and Lennon will know that more than most.

Everton on the other hand have won two major trophies in the last 28 years and for that statistic to change dramatically in the next few seasons would be surprising to say the least.

Scottish football was always frowned upon because only two teams could win the SPL (Rangers and Celtic) but the Premier League is going the same way with realistically only Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City capable of being champions.

The gap financially between the top three or four is getting wider and I can't see it levelling out anytime soon.

As well, I'm not sure coming fifth or sixth would push Lennon's buttons after a glittering career in Glasgow with medals galore and the thrill of regular European football.

So all things being equal I expect Lennon to still be Celtic manager when they kick off their Champions League campaign in mid-July.

If he does, however, continue to impress in Europe's elite competition speculation surrounding his future will become a regular occurrence.

Then eventually, I'm afraid, his future will be somewhere else!

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