Belfast Telegraph

Neil Lennon for Wigan? Don't be ridiculous he's so much bigger than that

Steven Beacom

I don't know about you, but when I think of Wigan in a sporting context, rugby league springs to mind.

And this despite the success of the town's football club in recent times.

The story of Wigan Athletic is rather remarkable. Formed in 1932 they only entered the Football League in 1978, rising impressively through the ranks to gain promotion to the Premier League in 2005 .

They stayed there until May this year, the same month incidentally when they created one of the biggest shocks in FA Cup final history, beating moneybags Manchester City 1-0 at Wembley.

That result effectively got City boss Roberto Mancini the sack and landed Wigan manager Roberto Martinez the Everton job, replacing David Moyes who took over at Manchester United.

Over the past 35 years there's no doubt Wigan Athletic Football Club has achieved a lot.

Wigan Rugby League club, though, achieved far more.

Martin Offiah, Ellery Hanley, Shaun Edwards, Jason Robinson, Andy Farrell and to those with a few more years under their belt, Billy Boston, are among the household names that played for the side before they became Wigan Warriors.

Wigan remains a rugby league town even though a Premier League side played in it for almost a decade.

Relegated to the Championship last season, it's going to be extremely tough for Wigan's footballers to get back in with the big boys.

Owen Coyle, who took over from Martinez in the summer, left earlier this week. Hampered by playing in the Europa League, Wigan, considered favourites with QPR for promotion, are in mid-table.

Since Coyle's departure names such as Ian Holloway and Mike Phelan have been bandied about to step into the hotseat.

Celtic boss Neil Lennon's name has also cropped up.

I've said before that I believe the former Northern Ireland midfielder will become a manager in English football... but it shouldn't be at Wigan or a club of similar standing.

Frankly, Lennon is bigger than that.

You could say Martinez didn't do too badly joining the revolution started by owner Dave Whelan, but Wigan were in the top flight then and in a different place to where they are now.

Lennon knows better than anyone how big Celtic are.... it's a world renowned sporting institution with a mighty fan base, so to leave the club would be a huge wrench, but it's in his make-up to improve as a coach and there is definite potential to do so.

Stagnation is possible at Parkhead.

He was in 'Utopia' watching his team hammer Hearts 7-0 in the Scottish Cup last weekend and says he'd love to build a team that can qualify for the Champions League knockout stages, but that will only come with significant investment.

Without quality new players, Celtic will find it tricky making it through the qualifying rounds, let alone reaching the last 16, placing the Lurgan man under pressure even when he's collecting titles with the ease of shelling peas while Rangers sort themselves out.

I believe Lennon, of his own accord, will leave the Bhoys within two years. He'll have to choose his next destination carefully. He should be going to a Premier League club with the same promise to progress as him, not a Championship outfit.

Belfast Telegraph


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