There is absolutely no indication that Celtic themselves have identified and agreed upon the permanent successor for Neil Lennon. There may not have been much revelatory about the update on the process last week from the club’s major shareholder Dermot Desmond who will be the kingmaker in it. Yet his tacit admission that the search for a suitable candidate is very much at the on-going stage shouldn’t be taken as merely the flannel offered up in such forums.
Moreover, how many new managers pitch up in the dying embers of a charring season for a club … when any bounce from doing so would evaporate well before swinging into the campaign on which they will be judged? Long-term managerial appointments by other than relegation-threatened teams are rare in April and May, for good reason. There is growing restlessness and impatience from the Celtic support, amid exasperation that a summer appointment will not give the next manager time to overhaul the squad. Yet, Brendan Rodgers, Martin O’Neill, Gordon Strachan and Wim Jansen all pitched up in the close season and effected the turnaround demanded of them the following season.
A summer time-frame might not appeal to the club’s followers, but why make any hard and fast decisions on a manager now when unexpectedly interesting candidates could emerge once the dust has settled on this campaign? All of which feeds into thoughts on four men who have proved to be the names in the frame of late:
It is precisely the sort of celebrity culture that the Irishman will instinctively abhor that explains why he continues to be linked to the Celtic role. People want to read about the Manchester United playing icon because his fame, and infamy, precedes him. Sources close to the club have indicated to The Scotsman that Keane isn’t among the front runners. The 48-year-old patently wants the job, and it is right and proper that Celtic hold discussions with all viable options. However, although his management and coaching abilities are unfairly traduced in some quarters, it is a decade since he worked genuine wonders to drag Sunderland from the depths of the Championship to respectability in the English top flight. Celtic don’t need told just what sort of circus would be created by Keane’s presence in Glasgow, and how divisive his appointment would be among fans. They need a calm – maybe even low-key – figure capable of proving a unifier. As much as there are many fascinating aspects to Keane, that is far from a natural role for him.
The link with the Arsenal and France striker legend can be boiled down this: high-profile, out-of-work man gets a little spike in the news cycle from giving a dutiful reply to being asked about his interest in the Celtic post. There really was little more to the 43-year-old “sensationally opening the door to becoming Neil Lennon’s replacement” than that. He was asked on Robbie Fowler’s podcast if he had applied and said: “"I’m sure they’re going to work on what they’re going to work on. I don’t know what’s happening there, this is a club I respect a lot I'm sure like a lot of people in the world, but that I don’t know about.”
Henry hasn’t exactly captivated since moving into the coaching domain. After a spell on Roberto Martinez’s backroom team with Belgium, he lasted only three months and 20 games when handed the reins with first senior team Monaco – then admittedly in desperate trouble – in October 2018. A season with Montreal Impact was more productive, with the club reaching the play-offs for the first time in four seasons. But having left there for family reasons last month, Celtic Park isn’t his next port of call. It just isn’t. And this has nothing to do with his handball against the Republic Of Ireland in a World Cup play-off in 2009, for goodness sake.
The latest name to enter the potential list for next Celtic manager is certainly an intriguing one. There is no question that the 63-year-old Swiss, said to be interested in the Parkhead post, has the coaching chops – his most recent stint a two-and-a-half year spell at Borussia Dortmund that ended with his dismissal in December. As with the Westfalenstadion club, for spells his brand of intricate, high-energy football proved potent with Borussia Moenchengladbach, Nice, Hertha Berlin and Zurich.
However, his understated personality might not fit with the figurehead role demanded of the man driving Celtic – and is said to have counted against him at Dortmund, where his points average outstripped that of Jurgen Klopp. It has been reported that he wants his next job to be closer to his homeland, with Lyon mentioned in dispatches. There is also one other, not inconsiderable, issue that may prove insurmountable .. .he was on a cool £4.3m basic yearly salary at Dortmund. After Salzburg’s Jesse Marsch recently used Celtic chat to remind his current, and any prospective employers, of his weighty standing, it may be that Favre has indulged in the same tactic.
The possibility of the Scotland manager being seriously considered by Celtic, and being a serious candidate, may have been unduly dismissed. The coachaholic is known to be desperately missing his fix in the international sphere. Moreover, as the start to the World Cup qualifying campaign has demonstrated, merely improving the national team isn’t a precursor for them reaching finals beyond this summer’s Euros with which he led the country from the tournament wilderness. It wouldn’t be ideal for Clarke to be otherwise engaged till the end of June, but that needn’t be a deal breaker when the 57-year-old knows Celtic and the Scottish scene inside out.