Neil Lennon wants Aberdeen job as former Celtic and Hibs boss reveals reason behind Ireland snub

Lennon eyes Pittodrie hotseat after being overlooked for international role

The bookmakers might have made him a heavy favourite to secure the Republic of Ireland job but Neil Lennon is undeterred by the Irish Football Association's decision to overlook him.

Now 52, he has declared his best years as manager are ahead of him – and they may need to be if his next stop is stricken Aberdeen, one of his preferred destinations. It’s already known that the Pittodrie club will be looking for a new manager this summer – and maybe before then. Neil Warnock’s temporary tenure has not been a success so far. Whether he even stays as long as the end of this season might hinge on the result of this weekend’s Scottish Cup last eight tie at home to Kilmarnock.

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In his role as a football pundit, and one of the best out there, Lennon will have an eye on this result in any case, but he has some special personal interest in the outcome. He can't be any clearer – he would like the Pittodrie job. "Timing is important," he said. "The Aberdeen job is something I would be very interested in, no question."

Ex-Celtic and Hibs manager Neil Lennon wants the Aberdeen job. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)Ex-Celtic and Hibs manager Neil Lennon wants the Aberdeen job. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
Ex-Celtic and Hibs manager Neil Lennon wants the Aberdeen job. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

Those who argue that this is a non-starter given the strength of his ties to Celtic choose to overlook Lennon's spell at Hibs, who he steered to promotion and then to fourth in the Premiership – they were in contention for second in the final weeks – in 2017/18. Supporters of the Easter Road club would like some of that just now, as would Aberdeen fans. "I think there is great potential at Aberdeen," said Lennon.

When informed about a vox pop news clip filmed outside Pittodrie after Barry Robson’s year-long spell in charge was terminated in February, with nearly every fan interviewed in favour of Lennon’s recruitment, he sounded encouraged, as well as slightly surprised. "Really? That's nice to know," he said. "I didn't think I was as popular up there..."

He would certainly enjoy acclaim were he to stimulate the improvement in fortunes that has eluded every manager brought in since Derek McInnes' departure three years ago. Aberdeen have opted for a former player and friend of the chairman in Stephen Glass, an up-and-coming manager in Jim Goodwin, an appointment from within (and former player) in Robson and now Warnock, whose inveiglement out of retirement at the age of 75 is still causing many heads in and around the Pittodrie club to shake in disbelief.

Lennon undoubtedly seems a more prudent choice. Asked whether a reputation for hot-headedness goes before him, with the events surrounding his departure from Hibs still not fully understood, he agreed there might be something in that.

"I do think there is a perception of me that is wrong," said Lennon. "I have achieved a lot – titles, trebles, Champions League – and I even went abroad and won a trophy and got that team (Omonia in Cyprus) into the Europa League. I have won the Scottish Cup four times as a player and manager. I have got real experience.

"I got the Celtic job when I was very young,” he added. “That was, like, 15 years ago. People think I am getting on a bit but I still have plenty of energy. I am looking forward to getting back in but the managerial business is so competitive and there are so many candidates out there. With some clubs, you might suit the definition of what they want and other people might not perceive you as the kind of coach they want. I can manage and I can coach. I can do both."

What, then, was the deal-breaker in terms of the Republic of Ireland job, with Lennon seemingly heading the queue of candidates to replace Stephen Kenny? He was odds-on favourite at one point. A statement from the FAI recently confirmed that 42-year-old John O'Shea will lead the team on an interim basis for the forthcoming friendlies against Belgium and Switzerland. A permanent appointment will be announced next month, with the successful candidate apparently bound by current contractual complications. Whoever it is, it isn’t Lennon, who sounds slightly perplexed by the explanation he was given after he was removed from the frame.

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“The feedback was positive but they said they wanted someone with international (managerial) experience, so take from that what you will,” he said. His bemusement is easy to understand – did they not know this before they started the process of interviewing him?

“I was close,” he added. “I was disappointed to miss out on that. They have made a decision and that will be announced next month. I am just looking to get back in. I have had a bit of time out. I got offered a couple of jobs in the summer. The timing wasn’t right and they didn’t appeal to me. I will have to see the season out, talking crap on the punditry!”

“I am very grateful for the work but it is not what I want to do,” he continued. “I feel like I've got plenty left in me as a coach. I have done a lot in my career as a coach. I have achieved a lot but there is still more to do and more that I want to do.”

As he points out, 52 is still no age at all for a football manager, even if the current vogue might be for freshly qualified coaches. Aberdeen, for one, could do with a well-experienced, perhaps just not septuagenarian, manager, with deep knowledge of the Scottish game earned over 25 years' involvement. Lennon isn’t hard to track down. “I feel, at 52, my best years are in front of me as a football manager and a coach," he said.

Neil Lennon was promoting Viaplay’s live and exclusive coverage of the Scottish Cup clash between Hibernian and Rangers on Sunday. Viaplay is available to stream from or via your TV provider on Sky, Virgin TV and Amazon Prime as an add-on subscription.



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