“Here we go, ten in a row!”
This chant has echoed around Celtic Park since 2012, when Celtic began their current run of league title successes. ‘Ten in a row’ is Scottish domestic football’s Holy Grail. Celtic came close to achieving the feat in the 60s and 70s, until a Rangers side under the management of Jock Wallace put an end to Celtic’s reign of dominance over Scottish football.
In the 1990s it was Rangers turn to chase the dream of ‘Ten in a Row’. Alas, it wasn’t to be for the Light Blues, falling just short as Wim Jansen returned Celtic to the top of Scottish football, winning the league on the last day of the season with a 2-0 victory over St Johnstone.
It cannot be overstated how important the prospect of winning ‘Ten in a Row’ is to Celtic fans, it without a doubt would be the clubs’ greatest domestic success.
And it’s too important to leave to Neil Lennon.
Neil Lennon is rightfully considered by many to be a Celtic legend: a die-hard fan of the club since he was a boy – Lennon led the Hoops to multiple successes as both a player and a manager during his first stint in charge at Parkhead.
Make no mistake; ‘Ten in a Row’ would not be possible without the work Lennon put into the club from 2010 to 2014. Lennon delivered three league titles and two Scottish Cups, as well as a stunning Champions League campaign in the 2012/13 season.
But if the performances since Lennon took over in late February of this year are anything to go by, his style has gone somewhat out of date. Turgid draws against Aberdeen and Livingston at Celtic Park, as well as the second half performance against Rangers highlighted some issues of Lennon’s Celtic: They struggle to break teams down, they have no plan B, and they can really only perform when their back is to the wall.
There have been positives, of course. The recent 3-0 triumph in the Scottish Cup semi-final against Aberdeen was solid, with some surprisingly good performances from Jonny Hayes and Jozo Simunovic, and the first half display against Rangers was utterly dominant.
Statistically, Celtic have been great under Lennon, having gone undefeated since he took over, but while the stats tell one story, the football tells another. The stats tell the story of a pragmatic team, a solid defensive unit that doesn’t score much, but rarely concedes.
If you’ve actually watched Celtic play, then you’ll see quite a different story unfold. You’ll see a team that don’t concede goals because they are too busy passing the ball around opposition. You’ll see a team that embodies confusion, and has no clear objective.
The case for Lennon grows weaker by the day; especially when you see the other names being linked with the job – Andre Villas Boas, Roberto Martinez and even Rafa Benitez.
It is the belief of many fans that any one of those men would have a better chance of sealing the ‘Ten’ than Lennon – and do it with a bit of style into the bargain.
As it stands, it does seem likely that Lennon will be handed the position full time, and there is every possibility that he could secure the coveted ‘Ten’, but by not going out of their way to secure a top level manager, the Celtic board are putting possibly Celtics greatest modern achievement at risk.