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Neil Lennon will be in demand despite Bolton nightmare

By Steven Beacom

Neil Lennon's departure from Bolton Wanderers had just been announced. Within minutes the odds on him becoming the new manager of Celtic were cut to 2/1 in some quarters.

He was also linked with taking charge of another of his old clubs, Nottingham Forest.

It was an early indication that Lennon's Bolton nightmare would not have a negative impact on his future employment prospects. Nor should it.

Even Pep Guardiola would have struggled to deliver at Bolton, given the dire financial situation at the club.

Ex-Northern Ireland midfielder Lennon was at the Etihad Stadium last night to watch Manchester City progress to the last eight of the Champions League.

Come the summer he will be in France working as a pundit for the BBC, commenting on his country's fortunes at the Euro 2016 finals.

The articulate Lurgan native will always be handed jobs in the media, but his aim will be to return to management. His exit yesterday from the Macron Stadium by 'mutual consent' with Bolton bottom of the Championship table has certainly got many Celtic fans talking.

The Bhoys still have a boss of course in Ronny Deila, but after a stuttering season at Parkhead, the Norwegian is expected to leave the club in the summer.

There will be many Hoops supporters who would welcome Lennon making a 'prodigal son' type return. Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill, a close friend and old international team-mate of Lennon's, is also on Celtic's radar with one-time Everton and Manchester United boss David Moyes another in the frame.

Lennon left the Celtic manager's hotseat in 2014 after bringing domestic success and thunderous European nights to the club, including a stunning 2-1 triumph at home to Barcelona in the Champions League.

The 44-year-old had had enough of the Glasgow goldfish bowl which comes with being attached to an Old Firm club and fancied a crack in England with the ultimate goal to manage in the Premier League.

Championship outfit Bolton gave Lennon his chance.

Wanderers had only won one league game in 11 and were relegation candidates when Lennon took over last season.

He had the desired impact, steering the Trotters away from trouble, eventually consolidating their position in the division and finishing 18th in the table.

Approaching this season Lennon was hopeful that he could inspire the team to be in the mix for promotion, but behind the scenes the financial woes at the club crippled that ambition.

The season started poorly and did not improve. If results on the pitch were awful, what was happening off the pitch was even worse with details emerging that Bolton were a staggering £172.9m in debt.

Players weren't getting paid, staff lost their jobs and at one stage Lennon even organised a whip-round to help those inside the club with severe money problems.

On Monday, Bolton are back in the High Court over a winding-up petition brought by Revenue and Customs over an unpaid tax bill.

Lennon left five days after the Sports Shield consortium, headed by ex-Bolton forward Dean Holdsworth, completed their takeover of the club. Bolton are 11 points adrift of safety with nine league games remaining. Academy boss Jimmy Phillips has been named interim manager.

Lennon will have learnt from this experience and be a better boss for it next time around.

Belfast Telegraph

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