Lead­er­ship posted missing

Len­non says he can’t de­fend the in­de­fen­si­ble af­ter hu­mil­i­a­tion

The Scotsman - - Sport -

put in a cheap shot and Brown was en­raged that he was get­ting away with it. In that moment, he lost the plot. Couldn’t see straight for all the red mist. As he walked away from the in­ci­dent, Brown shouted over at Mertens: “I’m go­ing to f****** kill you.” It is en­tirely plau­si­ble that the ref­eree heard what he had to say. It was a near-cer­tainty that Len­non did, for shortly af­ter, he re­moved him from the field for the sake of the team.

Celtic were 3-0 down in the early min­utes of the sec­ond half. Their goal­keeper and both their cen­tre-halves had been cul­pa­ble in the con­ces­sion of two penal­ties. Their right-back, Cha, was look­ing anx­ious. Their en­tire mid­field was be­ing pul­verised. One of their cen­tre-for­wards, Ge­or­gios Sa­ma­ras, looked dis­in­ter­ested. The other, Marc-An­toine For­tune, was run­ning about like a man who knew he was head­ing for a new club, West Brom, first thing the fol­low­ing morn­ing. In short, Celtic needed a com­mand­ing pres­ence to pull this dis­jointed side to­gether in a time of cri­sis. And they didn’t have one.

Yes­ter­day, at Len­nox­town,

Neil Len­non

Len­non

“It’s as sore as I’ve ever felt. I’m fed up com­ing back from Europe and my­back­side spanked”

we’ve looked at and tried to change for away games, but it’s man­i­fested it­self again in all de­part­ments.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a curse or a hoodoo or any­thing like that. It’s a new man­age­ment team and new play­ers, but the same re­sults and the same level of per­for­mance. I would have thought they’ve got a good men­tal­ity and I still think they do. It’s prob­a­bly too early to judge them as a unit. It was very im­por­tant to the club that we had a Euro­pean run but I am not go­ing to make any knee-jerk re­ac­tions, even though the per­for­mance was poor. They have to get used to the cul­ture of the Bri­tish game and adapt to the en­vi­ron­ment but from what I’ve seen do­mes­ti­cally so far, they’ve done okay.

“But it’s a dif­fer­ent qual­ity of op­po­si­tion in Europe and that’s what we need to reach. We didn’t look like a team last night. We looked like a team of in­di­vid­u­als.”

Of course, that is pre­cisely what they are. Len­non has changed the team dra­mat­i­cally and is now into dou­ble fig­ures in terms of new play­ers since the end of last sea­son. His pur­chas­ing has a touch of the in­dis­crim­i­nate about it at this stage. A Hon­duran fetched-up on Fri­day and some­thing was made of the fact he had played for his coun­try at the World Cup. Yes, well, so did a lot of peo­ple and plenty of them were rub­bish. Ed­son Braafheid played in the World Cup fi­nal and yet couldn’t hack it in the SPL.

Len­non has added masses of play­ers, but has he added char­ac­ter? Where are the lead­ers? The go-to men when Brown’s run­ning around like his hair is on fire? Daniel Ma­js­torovic looks a pos­si­bil­ity, but who else? Beram Kayal? Efrain Juarez? Led­ley? Cha?

Celtic are a li­a­bil­ity away from home in Europe. That’s not Len­non’s do­ing. It’s a prob­lem that stretches back years and cov­ers 29 games on the road, only one of which they have won. Twenty-four losses out of 29 and 58 goals con­ceded at an av­er­age of two a game on for­eign soil. It was with a barely-con­cealed smile that an of­fi­cial from Utrecht said on Thurs­day: “We knew about Celtic’s record away from home. It’s not good.”

It wasn’t good when the team was set­tled and it wasn’t likely to be good now that the team is up in the air, in the early stages of a ma­jor re­build. That’s the only crumb for Len­non. That the hor­rors of Thurs­day were down to the un­fa­mil­iar­ity in the side.

Len­non will cling to that thought and hope the or­di­nary chal­lenges that await him and his play­ers in the SPL will help re­deem his rep­u­ta­tion as a man­ager. Af­ter all, there is a prece­dent here. When Celtic lost 5-0 to Art­media Bratislava in Gor­don Stra­chan’s first game in charge, the re­ac­tion went ther­monu­clear. Stra­chan was pre­sented as a chump who didn’t know what he was do­ing, yet he won the SPL that sea­son and Art­media didn’t seem to mat­ter so much af­ter that.

Same story with Wal­ter Smith. Two sea­sons ago, Rangers got dumped from Europe by Kau­nas and yet Smith ended the sea­son as a hero of Ibrox on ac­count of the SPL ti­tle re­turn­ing there af­ter three sea­sons at Park­head. Last year, there was calamity in the shape of Unirea and Sevilla, yet he was li­onised af­ter an­other SPL ti­tle came his way.

Len­non got a kick­ing on Thurs­day. As his­tory has shown, he can make the me­mory go away by win­ning the SPL. Europe is be­yond them, but do­mes­tic suc­cess may be within their grasp. But his cap­tain? There are is­sues there. Many, many is­sues.

James For­rest, Cha du-ri and Shaun Maloney trudge off af­ter Celtic sur­ren­dered

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