CELTIC defender Efe Ambrose believes Neil Lennon should be recognised as Scotland’s Manager of the Year by his fellow professionals this season.
Lennon missed out on the PFA Scotland award last year, voted on by all 42 managers in Scottish league football, despite leading Celtic to the domestic double and into the last 16 of the Champions League.
The prize instead went to Allan Johnston, now in charge of Kilmarnock, who guided Queen of the South to the Second Division title and also won the Ramsdens Cup.
Voting for this year’s PFA Scotland award closes on 11 April and it will be presented at a dinner in Glasgow on 27 April.
Among the strongly-fancied candidates are Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes, who last month led the Pittodrie club to a first major trophy success in 19 years when they lifted the League Cup, and Motherwell boss Stuart McCall, who has overseen another admirable league campaign for the Fir Park men.
But despite Celtic’s pre-season status as overwhelming favourites to be Scottish champions once more, Ambrose insists that Lennon should receive due credit for the comprehensive nature of their third successive title triumph.
“I cannot speak for everyone but, for me, he deserves to be Manager of the Year,” said Ambrose. “He didn’t win the PFA award last year but, this season, we have only lost one game in the league and we have been the best team.
“Of course, the Manager and Player of the Year do not have to come from the champions – sometimes people from other teams can do something great and it’s all about opinion.
“But, although people may say Celtic are the biggest club with the biggest budget and should always win the title, it’s not that easy. Football is different, because anything can happen and you need to do everything possible to win.
“It is not easy to win games for Celtic. The other teams are good, but we have been better. If you are not strong mentally, then you cannot play for a big club like Celtic. For the manager, it is about picking the best players to have the best team and that’s what Neil Lennon has done.” Since becoming Celtic manager four years ago, the PFA Scotland award has always eluded Lennon. In the last three seasons, it has gone to managers outwith the top flight, with Johnston’s success last year preceded by Derek Adams for Ross County’s First Division title win in 2012 and John McGlynn at Raith Rovers in 2011.
But Lennon has received the longer-established Scottish Football Writers’ Association Manager of the Year prize in each of the last two years. The SFWA voting deadline is at the end of April this year, while the awards will be presented at their 50th anniversary dinner in Glasgow on 11 May.
Celtic have several strong candidates for this season’s Player of the Year awards, with Fraser Forster, Virgil van Dijk and Kris Commons all expected to feature in the shake-up for both the PFA Scotland and SFWA honours.
Players are not allowed to vote for one of their team-mates in the PFA Scotland ballot and Ambrose revealed he will be abstaining. “I won’t vote for my Player of the Year because I don’t know anybody else’s name in our league,” he said. “The only players I know are my team-mates. We play against other clubs and we have lost to Aberdeen this season, but I don’t know their names.”