Neil Lennon leaves as Celtic manager as Scotland boss Steve Clarke emerges as contender

Neil Lennon has left his role as Celtic manager, with assistant manager John Kennedy to replace him until the end of the season.
Defeat at Ross County was the final act for Celtic and Neil Lennon.Defeat at Ross County was the final act for Celtic and Neil Lennon.
Defeat at Ross County was the final act for Celtic and Neil Lennon.

The Parkhead hierarchy and Lennon convened in the wake of Sunday’s 1-0 Premiership defeat by Ross County and have decided that the current situation cannot continue, with the all-but-deposed champions sitting 18 points behind rivals Rangers in the title race and their hopes of ten-in-a-row extinguished.

A statement from Celtic this morning read: “Celtic Football Club today announced that Neil Lennon has resigned from his position as football manager with immediate effect.

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“Neil has served the club with distinction as both player and manager, delivering numerous successes, most recently completing the Domestic Treble in December. In his second period as Celtic manager, he has achieved five trophy successes, to add to his three League titles and two Scottish Cup victories in his first period as manager.”

Kennedy will hold the fort until the end of the season, with Scotland manager Steve Clarke emerging as the new bookmakers’ contender for the job. Clarke is due to lead Scotland to the European Championships this summer.

Former Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe has also been linked with the role, as has ex-Liverpool and Newcastle coach Rafa Benitez.

Lennon, who joined the club for a second spell almost two years ago after Brendan Rodgers’ exit to Leicester, steered Celtic to two further top-flight titles and a quadruple treble, but has been unable to keep pace with a resurgent Rangers as they looked to secure the holy-grail ten Premiership titles in a row.

Lennon told the club’s official website: “We have experienced a difficult season due to so many factors and, of course, it is very frustrating and disappointing that we have not been able to hit the same heights as we did previously.

“I have worked as hard as ever to try and turn things around, but unfortunately we have not managed to get the kind of run going that we have needed.

"I have always given my best to the club and have been proud to deliver silverware to the Celtic supporters. The club will always be part of me. I will always be a Celtic supporter myself and I will always want the best for Celtic.

“I would like to thank so many people at the club who have given me so much and I would also like to thank my family for their love and support. I wish the Celtic supporters, players, staff and directors nothing but success for the future.”

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Incessant pressure has been on 49-year-old for months, with a surprise exit to Ross County in the Betfred Cup, two damaging defeats to Rangers, an early Champions League exit, a disappointing Europa League campaign and numerous slip-ups in the league damaging his cause.

Celtic’s summer transfer business has also been called in question after a near-£10million was spent on underperforming players such as striker Albian Ajeti and Vasilis Barkas.

A series of post-match vicious protests took place outside Celtic Park in November and December after poor results, with supporter groups not only calling for Lennon’s head but also the departure of Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell and majority shareholder Dermot Desmond.

Lawwell is to leave at the end of the season, to be replaced by Scottish Rugby’s Dominic McKay, and one of his first jobs will be to find a new manager capable of arresting a catastrophic slide at the club.

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