BOBBY PETTA has urged the Celtic board to give manager Neil Lennon an improved contract and back him in the transfer market this summer in order to head off any potential move to English football.
Lennon is scheduled to meet Celtic’s major shareholder Dermot Desmond before the end of the month to discuss both his personal situation and the size of budget he will have to reshape his squad for next season.
As Lennon continues to be linked with a move south of the border, his former Celtic team-mate Petta believes the Scottish champions should be proactive in making sure the Northern Irishman sticks around to build on what he has achieved over the past three years.
“I think they should give him a new contract,” said Petta. “You always review things at the end of the season and look at how things went. You look at how you can strengthen, better the club and the team and how Lenny can be helped.
“There have been situations at other clubs where people want different things, but Lenny gets on well with the board at Celtic. In Lenny’s short career as a manager, he has done really well and handled the pressure. There aren’t many people who can handle this type of managerial role, but Neil can.
“I’m not surprised there is interest in him from England because Neil has done extremely well in his three years as a manager. He didn’t have much experience before this job and it’s a tough job.
“He has had to deal with a lot of things inside the pitch and outside the pitch. But he has coped with it all and won trophies. He has shown character. Neil is still learning, but I am not surprised that other clubs are taking note of his managerial skills.
“Neil is a big Celtic fan. He knows the situation here and I think he wants to stay for as long as possible. People say there is not much to play for in Scotland but I think that is wrong. I think his focus is here, but then you don’t know what is happening behind closed doors. If a club really wants someone – whether it is a player or a manager – then they will do everything they can to get their man.
“It would have to be a very good offer to make Lenny leave Celtic. His heart is here. But that’s football. If you are made a very good offer, you have to consider it. However, at this moment in time I don’t think there is any reason for him to go.”
At just 41, Lennon has time on his side to fulfil his publicly stated ambition of managing in the top flight in one of Europe’s major leagues. But Petta sees no reason for him to jump at the first opportunity which comes his way.
“The question of whether it is good timing or not would only be answered by whether he had success at a new club,” added the Dutchman, now a personal trainer based in Glasgow. “But with Neil’s managerial skills and what he has achieved so far, I think he can only get better. If he doesn’t go this summer, I think there will always be something there for him.
“I personally don’t think he should go but that is a decision he will have to make if his situation changes. As a player and a manager, you have ambitions and goals. Lenny is at a massive club in Celtic and has been very successful. He will want to continue that but you never know if there’s an attraction of the English Premier League. However, it never crossed my mind Lenny would go, because I think there is still work to be done at Celtic.
“The Premier League is better and it’s where the money is. The cameras are focused on Spain, Germany and England. It’s a different situation in Scotland, especially with the current circumstances, and that’s tough.
“It’s harder to attract players to the Scottish league and Celtic. You don’t have the Old Firm any more and that’s a big attraction. Celtic have done really well with their run in the Champions League, but this year they have three qualifiers and it’s going to be very tough, but Lenny likes a challenge.
“He has also done well with signings at Celtic. The scouting system is very good and they have made players better. You see clubs down south spending a lot of money on players and they haven’t produced. It would be great to have bigger names at the club but that’s going to be difficult, as you don’t have the Old Firm as an attraction anymore.”