Neil Lennon risked managerial career with return to Celtic says Gordon Strachan

Many doubted his appointment but club’s nine-in-a-row boss ‘can deal with anything’

Neil Lennon has 'blown the opposition away' says former Celtic and Scotland manager Gordon Strachan. Picture: SNS.

Gordon Strachan claims new Scottish Football Writers’ Association manager of the year Neil Lennon risked inviting the end of his managerial career when returning to Celtic last year.

Strachan, now technical director at Dundee, said Lennon had it all to prove when replacing Brendan Rodgers with Celtic’s eighth successive league title in sight. He has since gone on to secure a ninth title which helped him land his latest SFWA award at the weekend.

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Strachan joked that when Lennon returned to take charge for a second time, after a short period out of the game following his departure from Hibs, the decision was nearly as unpopular as when he was first appointed Celtic manager.

“When he first came back it wasn’t unanimous,” said Strachan. “There were a lot of doubters. He would also have been thinking, ‘If I take this job and fail, that’s me finished’.

“He then had to deal with this problem of, ‘Am I going to lose nine in a row?’ It was an edgy time at new year. He’s dusted himself down with his players and come back and blown the opposition away.

“So that shows he has mental strength, intelligence, he can deal with anything.”

Strachan suggested Lennon has already regretted leaving Celtic once before.

He succeeded in “reinventing” himself after an ill-fated spell in charge at financially imperilled Bolton Wanderers. He has also managed to add something to Rodgers’ all-conquering team.

“The fact he’s left Celtic and went, ‘Oops, what have I done?’” said Strachan, speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Sportsound programme. “He’s had to deal with that, go to Bolton. And I know when you go to teams like Bolton after being at Celtic, you just don’t get the mentality.

“Then he went to Hibs and has come away with formations that suited the players he had. It was fantastic what he did there.

“He’s reinvented himself as a manager,” he added. “And that period at Hibs allowed him 
to express himself more
freely.

“He’s come back to Celtic and said, ‘Well done, Brendan, that’s fantastic. But I need to watch football that I really want to watch’. Neil had to do his own thing, and tweak what Brendan was doing without anyone really noticing.

“Neil and Celtic are made for each other. It’s only right he gets it [manager of the year], for a multitude of reasons.”

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