Neil Lennon has emphatically ruled himself out of the running to become the new Scotland manager.
The Hibernian boss has been listed among the bookies’ favourites for the post after it was revealed that Gordon Strachan would not continue, following his latest failure to lead the country to a major tournament.
“Forget it,” said the man who served as captain under Strachan during their time at Celtic and has remained good friends with his former gaffer. “I’m too young and too handsome for all that! Wait ’til I’m old. But it doesn’t appeal to me down the line, even.
“I’m still trying to forge a career in club management, enjoying what I’m doing here. So it doesn’t float my boat. I would miss the day-to-day stuff. I have enough of a job trying to fill my time here so a job with three-month sabbaticals? I might go missing!”
Lacking a passion for the position, Lennon insisted the same could not have been said for the man who took Scotland to within one game of the play-offs for the World Cup in Russia, in 2018.
“That job meant more to Gordon than any other job he’s been in. Every win was magnified ten times bigger than any other win he had in club football,” said Lennon, who had hoped that the Scottish FA would see the advances he believes have been made and stick with Strachan for the next Euro campaign.
“Has there been progress? Yes. But it wasn’t enough for Gordon to keep his job and it is very harsh for him to lose it,” said the former Northern Ireland international. “You know Wales haven’t qualified, Austria, Holland … I know you’ll say ‘what about Northern Ireland, but Northern Ireland haven’t qualified yet either.
“Michael [O’Neill] has done brilliantly, worked wonders, but it’s a cyclical thing as well and they’re still not guaranteed to be there, nor are the Republic with Martin [O’Neill], even though they got a hell of a win on Monday night.”
Lennon does understand the frustrations of the Scotland fans but does not see the merit in ousting Strachan.
“There is a lot of analysis afterwards and it’s feast or famine, at times. After the Slovakia game he’s a tactical genius then after Slovenia, which is a decent result and Scotland were the only team to score there, people want him out.
“It is too simplistic just to say we start again.
“You have to look at the campaign over every game. They didn’t start the group well but they’re undefeated in a year now. And there has been significant progress – in results and in certain individuals.
“As the group went on, he had a settled team. [Scott] Brown and [Stuart] Armstrong were a loss, especially in Slovenia, and he can’t help that. But they lost fewer games than Slovakia, who lost four. Scotland lost three.”
Insisting he knows Strachan well enough to know how upset he will have been at the failure to lead the team to Russia, he also maintained he was the best option to try to make amends and to ensure stalwarts like Brown don’t hang up their boots prematurely.
“There has been a lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth – and it’s because it’s been 20 years now since Scotland qualified for a major tournament. There have been a lot of good managers in that period; Berti Vogts won the Euros and we’ve had Walter Smith, Alex McLeish, George Burley, Craig Levein – and it hasn’t worked out for any of them. So the chopping and changing, I’m not sure it’s a great idea. But that’s just my crappy opinion!”