Belfast Telegraph

Beat Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool and Neil Lennon's Cup will runneth over

By Steven Beacom

Neil Lennon vowed to bring the 'thunder' back to Parkhead after being named the Celtic boss in June 2010.

That he did, most memorably on Champions League nights such as when the mighty Barcelona came to town and left wondering what had hit them.

The problem for Lennon in Glasgow though was when the football stopped, the noise didn't. It went on and on and on and the volume always seemed to be switched to high.

In Scotland he was front and back page news. More discussed and debated about than anyone else in the country.

Had the 43-year-old still been in charge of Celtic when the Scottish referendum was on, Alex Salmond would not have had a look in!

The pressure and scrutiny that Lennon was under was intense. Sure, that's to be expected when you are managing a massive club like Celtic, but it was the issues beyond Lennon's control like death threats and bullets in the post that caused the Lurgan man and his family such anguish, worry and concern.

There comes a time when all that becomes too much and you simply can't take any more.

Lennon was right to step away when he did. The bloke knew he needed to get out of the goldfish bowl and swim in fresh water.

He was also shrewd enough to realise that from a footballing point of view the team he had put together was on the wane and with Rangers in such a financial mess and no longer in a position to challenge the Hoops for trophies, there would be no push from the boardroom to recruit expensive players to take the side to the next level.

Lennon left the noise and Celtic last May. Eight months later he is enjoying a much more quiet life at Bolton.

Appointed manager in October, he's guided Wanderers from the bottom of the Championship to mid-table and in with an outside chance of the play-offs.

Bolton fans obviously think he's great, but because there is such an obsession in England with the Premier League, Lennon's impressive management has largely slipped under the radar in the country where he currently works.

Until now that is, because the build up has just begun in earnest to Bolton's FA Cup tie against Liverpool, Lennon's compatriot Brendan Rodgers and LA bound Steven Gerrard, continuing his farewell tour.

The fourth round tie is live on television on Saturday night and today the Bolton FC media team were expecting major interest in Lennon's weekly press conference as opposed to the handful of local reporters who normally turn up.

This week Neil will feel the noise again... and he'll revel in it because unlike at Celtic he knows once the trip to Anfield is over, things should go relatively quiet again, unless of course Lennon inspires his side to victory, which is not beyond the realms of possibility despite Liverpool's upturn in form.

Then he'll be headline news in England, not least for being the man to end Gerrard's dream of finishing his Liverpool career on his birthday at Wembley in the FA Cup final.

Suddenly Lennon will be the next big thing in management in England, even though some of us here and in Scotland have suspected that for a while.

When a top flight boss is under pressure, Lenny's name will be thrown into the mix quicker than you can say Ally McCoist. In modern day football that's what one high profile win can do that for you.

Lennon's ideal scenario would be to be promoted with Bolton this season or next, but should he shock Liverpool, don't be surprised if club owners and chairmen start thinking about offering him a quicker route into the Premier League.

Belfast Telegraph


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