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After Celtic, where now for Neil Lennon?

By Graham Luney

Celtic and Neil Lennon are both considering their next big move after parting company yesterday. The former Northern Ireland international from Lurgan is ready for a fresh managerial challenge and it could be one in the Barclays Premier League.

West Bromwich Albion are seeking a new manager after the departure of Pepe Mel but relegated Norwich City filled their vacancy by appointing Neil Adams on a three-year deal.

Former midfielder Lennon, who started his senior career at Glenavon, has agreed to help Celtic find his successor after announcing he is moving on to a "new challenge."

Hoops old boy Henrik Larsson, currently in charge of Swedish outfit Falkenbergs, is the early bookies favourite to succeed Lennon but there is backing too for fellow Parkhead old boys Malky Mackay and Paul Lambert.

The 42-year-old former club captain steps down having led the club to three Scottish Premiership titles during his four-year spell in charge but he hasn't stopped serving the club just yet as Bhoys chief executive Peter Lawwell hunts for a replacement.

Lennon said: "Serving the club was always a privilege. I have always given my best and aimed to do all I can to ensure success for Celtic, as a supporter it was all I wanted.

"I will now assist the club in appointing my successor. As ever, we will need our fans' support and I am sure they will give the club and the new manager the same great backing which they gave to myself."

But while the bookies seem convinced Larsson will be the next man to take over at 'Paradise', the Swede played down the suggestions.

The retired striker said: "Of course I can see myself as manager of Celtic and to go there in the future. But my focus now is on Falkenberg. Nothing else."

Lennon replaced Tony Mowbray in March 2010 as caretaker after the Englishman's disastrous reign ended with a 4-0 thumping at St Mirren. He was given the job permanently despite losing a Scottish Cup semi-final to First Division Ross County just three games into his temporary stint in charge.

The Ulsterman's first full season also ended in disappointment as Rangers snatched the title but at the end of that campaign, he told the Parkhead crowd: "This is not the end, it's just the beginning."

Since then, Lennon's team has reigned supreme on the domestic front with three league wins in a row. There was success in Europe too as Lennon's team stormed to the knock-out stages of the Champions League last year – a run that included a famous Parkhead win over Barcelona.

But the former Leicester City midfielder now looks certain for a return to England after growing frustrated that his attempts turn the club into a European power were hampered by their lack of financial might in the transfer market.

His agent Martin Reilly, however, said: "He has nothing lined up. He just feels now is the time to move on to the next challenge."

As well as his three league wins as boss – which made him just the fourth Celtic manager to land three in a row after Willie Maley, Jock Stein and Gordon Strachan – there were also two Scottish Cup triumphs during his reign.

However, controversy has never strayed far from Lennon during his time in Scotland.

He was given a four-match touchline ban following a spat with then Ibrox assistant manager Ally McCoist back in March 2011.

That same month, a parcel bomb addressed to the Celtic boss was intercepted by Royal Mail staff. Two men were later jailed after being found guilty of conspiring to assault Lennon and two other victims.

Lennon was also attacked in the dug-out at Tynecastle in May of that year after a supporter leapt from the Hearts end and charged straight for him. Despite those ugly incidents, Lennon insisted he had enjoyed his time in Glasgow's east end.

"I have supported Celtic all my life and the club will always be part of me," he said.

"It was an absolute honour to play for this great club, to captain the team and of course to become Celtic manager, a position which I cherished dearly. However, I feel the time is now right to move on to a new challenge.

"Of course, I am very pleased that I will be leaving Celtic as Scottish Champions and with the club in such good health. I wish the club nothing but good fortune.

"I would like to send my sincere thanks and best wishes to Johan Mjallby and Garry Parker who have supported me magnificently, to all the players and staff at the club who I have worked with over so many years and, of course, to our magnificent supporters who have been with me through everything.

"I would also like to thank the club's Board of Directors for their support."

 

Lennon Factfile

1971: Born Lurgan, Northern Ireland, June 25.

1987: Starts career with Manchester City, making just one appearance after back problems.

1990: Joins Crewe on a free transfer.

1994: Wins first Northern Ireland cap.

1996: February — Joins Leicester for £750,000.

May — Leicester promoted to Premier League.

1997: Wins League Cup after victory over Middlesbrough.

2000: February — Wins second League Cup after Leicester beat Tranmere.

December 8 — Completes £5.75million switch to Celtic.

2001: March 1 — Reveals he is considering international retirement after being booed by a section of Northern Ireland fans during Windsor Park defeat by Norway.

May 26 — Celtic beat Hibernian 3-0 to complete the treble.

2002: August — Lennon pulls out of the Northern Ireland team on the evening of a match against Cyprus after receiving a death threat. Retires from international football after winning 40 caps.

2003: May — Plays in UEFA Cup final extra-time defeat by Porto.

2004: May — Celtic complete double with Scottish Cup final win over Dunfermline.

2007: April — Celtic clinch SPL title, the fifth during Lennon's time.

May — Lennon plays in his final Celtic match in a 1-0 Scottish Cup final success over |Dunfermline.

June — Joins Nottingham Forest.

2008: January — Joins Wycombe.

April — Takes up a first-team coaching role with Celtic.

2009: June — Under Tony Mowbray, Lennon is put in charge of the reserves.

2010: March — Appointed caretaker manager after Mowbray sacked.

June 9 — Confirmed as Celtic manager.

2011: May 21 — Celtic beat Motherwell 3-0 in the Scottish Cup final days after losing out to Rangers in the title race.

2012: April — Celtic clinch the SPL title with a 6-0 win over League Cup final conquerors Kilmarnock.

November 7 — Celtic beat Barcelona 2-1 in the Champions League.

2013: April 21 — Celtic clinch title with 4-1 win over Inverness.

May 26 — Lennon wins first double as manager after Scottish Cup victory over Hibs.

2014: March 26 — Lennon's side clinch a third consecutive title with a 5-1 win at Partick Thistle.

May 22 — Lennon announces his resignation.

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