Scottish Daily Mail

Re­fus­ing to bow to the lynch mob is ad­mirable... but heaven help Celtic if Len­non can’t re­pay debt

- Fol­low on Twit­ter @mc­gowan_stephen

CELTIC’S Green Brigade ul­tras have al­ways harboured a mis­placed sense of their own im­por­tance. And when eight of their finest pitched up in hoods and face masks at Park­head the other day, they might have been do­ing their bit for the fight against coro­n­avirus.

How­ever, they were do­ing noth­ing to hurry along the exit of Neil Len­non as man­ager.

More por­ous de­fend­ing as seen in Prague on Thurs­day will leave the Celtic board with no choice.

But kow­tow­ing to a posse of pyg­mies with a spray can and a bed­sheet would make them look as weak as the back four at cor­ners.

No one dis­putes the right of sup­port­ers to be bloody fu­ri­ous. An 8-2 ag­gre­gate de­feat to a bang aver­age Sparta Prague team was an em­bar­rass­ment for a club of Celtic’s size and bud­get.

To ship four goals to a team with a frac­tion of their wage bill was bad enough once. To do so twice will strike many as more stark ev­i­dence of a season un­rav­el­ling fast — and grounds for in­stant dis­missal.

Len­non has tried ev­ery­thing in the man­ager’s hand­book and looks like a man run­ning out of ideas. He has gone with dif­fer­ent play­ers and for­ma­tions. He has utilised the car­rot in the dress­ing room and the stick in the me­dia. What­ever he tries, the out­come never changes.

Ev­ery game brings more calami­tous de­fend­ing from meatand- drink crosses. And even Shane Duffy can’t cop the flak for what tran­spired the other night.

Fans have no doubt over who to blame. But the is­sues ail­ing Celtic run deeper than the oc­cu­pant of the man­ager’s of­fice. The club look stale, tired, and in need of fresh ideas from top to bot­tom.

The ob­ses­sion with ten in a row has be­come a ru­inous af­fair. The sooner this mean­ing­less parochial fix­a­tion ends, the sooner they can aban­don the short-term think­ing which bro­kered Len­non’s re­turn in the first place — and start think­ing like a club with Euro­pean hori­zons.

This season, they’ve barely passed muster as Europa League can­non fod­der.

Why this should be poses a prob­lem for the club hi­er­ar­chy.

Twelve months ago, eight of the start­ing line-up in Prague topped their group af­ter con­quer­ing

Lazio in Rome. Goal­keeper Fraser Forster was out­stand­ing that night and his loss has wounded the man­ager so badly that fans now want him thrown to the lions.

Ban­ner-wav­ing stunts from the Green Brigade won’t cut much mus­tard in the board­room.

But the Celtic board can’t ig­nore the grow­ing dis­con­tent of a de­cent, re­spect­ful ma­jor­ity for ever.

For many, keep­ing the faith be­comes a lit­tle harder with ev­ery pass­ing week.

In the midst of a world pandemic, foot­ball clubs need the loy­alty and money of fans. Now, more than ever, alien­at­ing season-ticket hold­ers is a risky busi­ness model.

A s hel l - s hocked Len­non emerged f rom a post- match Prague in­quest to ad­mit he is scratch­ing his head over how to steady the ship.

And, for the pun­ters, that might be the most wor­ry­ing as­pect of all. It feels like they’re watch­ing the same X-rated movie on Celtic TV ev­ery week. If the man­ager doesn’t know how to fix things, they’re doomed to spend the com­ing weeks watch­ing Night­mare Be­foreChrist­mas on a loop.

With home games against Ross County, St John­stone and Kil­marnock ap­proach­ing, di­rec­tors hope Len­non can use the com­ing weeks to find the answers. With top-class, out-of-work man­agers hardly form­ing an or­derly queue down Celtic Way, they’re stuck with the devil they know.

The trou­ble i s, the Europa League isn’t done yet. An away trip to Mi­lan fol­lowed by a dead rub­ber against Lille holds all the ap­peal of a train trip to Lon­don in the com­pany of Mar­garet Fer­rier.

In a sur­real para­dox, an era of un­par­al­leled do­mes­tic dom­i­nance could still be pro­longed by a 12th suc­ces­sive tro­phy in the Scot­tish Cup fi­nal with Hearts on De­cem­ber 20.

A quadru­ple Tre­ble re­ally should be re­garded as a rare and trea­sured achieve­ment. And the cur­rent man­ager has earned the right to fin­ish what he started.

But the only his­tory Celtic sup­port­ers covet now is the tenth straight ti­tle they have come to r egard as t heir r i ght­ful in­her­i­tance. And, with Rangers surg­ing 11 points clear in the Pre­mier­ship, it’s slip­ping through their fingers.

On one hand, the dogged re­fusal of Der­mot Des­mond and Peter Lawwell to sack a club leg­end on the whim of an acne- scarred a nony­mous l y nch mob is ad­mirable. On the other, it rep­re­sents a high-stakes gam­ble. And heaven help them if Neil Len­non can’t re­pay the debt.

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 ??  ?? Protest: Green Brigade left a ban­ner call­ing for Len­non to go
Protest: Green Brigade left a ban­ner call­ing for Len­non to go

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