Alan Thompson was axed for ‘refusal’ to meet Neil Lennon, Celtic claim

ALAN Thompson’s failure to meet Neil Lennon at a pre-arranged meeting in his Newcastle home ultimately cost the Celtic first-team coach his job, the Parkhead club claimed on Monday.

ALAN Thompson’s failure to meet Neil Lennon at a pre-arranged meeting in his Newcastle home ultimately cost the Celtic first-team coach his job, the Parkhead club claimed on Monday.

• Thompson told by ex-Celtic team mate Lennon of his dismissal over the phone

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• Pre-arranged meeting was set up but Thompson refused to attend

• Celtic have yet to say if Thompson will be replaced

Thompson was relieved of the post he has occupied since 2010 by his close friend and boss Lennon in a telephone conversation after he “refused” to meet him in his home town south of the Border. The abrupt departure of 38-year-old Thompson has taken Scottish football by surprise, particularly as he was fiercely loyal to Lennon, with whom he has shared a close bond as a player and in management.

Thompson’s exit was confirmed late on Sunday night, and has now become the subject of legal action after the former Celtic midfielder instructed lawyers to act on his behalf.

The possibility of a court appearance restricted what Celtic felt able to state on their website, and it is unclear what caused the dispute between the two men. But the club did say: “We can confirm that a meeting was set up between Alan Thompson and Neil Lennon on Sunday in Newcastle. However, Alan refused to meet with Neil, hence the reason for the discussion being conducted by telephone. The matter is now in the hands of lawyers and, therefore, we are unable to go into any further details.”

One source close to Thompson offered a different explanation of events. “Alan had been trying to get Neil on the phone, but his calls weren’t being returned,” the source said yesterday. “And then this last night. It is thought this has something to do with Alan’s lifestyle, for whatever reasons there may have been concerns about that, but he shared a similar lifestyle to Neil, and with him.”

It has yet to be revealed whether Thompson went because his friendship with Lennon had broken down or because the club’s board of directors told the manager to dispense with the services of his erstwhile team-mate. There had been no outward sign of a row between the two during a season that ended with Celtic winning the SPL title for the first time since 2008.

Former Celtic striker Andy Walker said he was surprised by the move, and pointed out that Thompson had recently been a willing deputy for Lennon in some of his public duties.

“To be sacked over the phone is not ideal, but clearly something has boiled to the surface,” said Walker. “I think it comes as a shock to most people. I was under the impression that Alan and Neil Lennon got on very well. For the last number of weeks towards the end of the season when Neil Lennon was facing a number of SFA charges, Alan Thompson was the very public face of Celtic. He took on board all of the media duties, he was very accommodating, and he is a very popular guy with the players and supporters, who held him in a high regard. So it is just very surprising that, three weeks after the season has finished, Celtic have chosen to take this course of action.”

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It was Lennon who brought Thompson back to Celtic in June 2010, when he was confirmed as manager following a spell as caretaker. The full-time appointment of Johan Mjallby meant that three of the Celtic team that reached the Uefa Cup final in 2003 were reunited at the club. Lennon’s former Leicester City team-mate Garry Parker was also recruited as a first-team coach.

Thompson, who played for the Glasgow club between 2000 and 2007, winning four Scottish Premier League titles and three Scottish Cups, could seek legal redress.

His lawyer, Margaret Gribbon, of Glasgow-based Bridge Litigation, said in a statement yesterday: “I can confirm that I have been instructed to act on behalf of Alan Thompson following his dismissal by Celtic FC. Alan was informed of the decision to terminate his employment with immediate effect in a telephone conversation with the club manager Neil Lennon.”

Celtic have yet to say if they will replace Thompson.

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