NEIL Lennon has admitted that choosing to leave his job as Celtic manager after three successive title wins and with no job already lined up qualifies as “a gamble”.
Speaking as he joined the club as a guest rather than as current manager for a trip to Lisbonwith members of the great European Cup winning side of 1967, Lennon said he now needed time to “think things over” as he prepares to make his next career move.
Celtic confirmed the news that Lennon had resigned on Thursday in a statement thanking him for his efforts since 2010, when he was named initially interim manager of the club. Rather than retreat from view, Lennon was happy to join the surviving members of the Lisbon Lions on their long-planned trip to the Portuguese capital, where tonight’s Champions League final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid is being played.
“I just need time now to think things over, I won’t rush anything,” said Lennon yesterday. “I don’t know if opportunities will come up and people say it is a bit of a gamble, but I just felt the time was right for me and my staff to take our careers in a different direction.”
Assistant manager Johan Mjallby left the club last week, while Garry Parker has departed along with Lennon, who informed the club’s majority shareholder Dermot Desmond of his decision to leave during a meeting in Dublin on Monday.
Henrik Larsson has been heavily touted as Lennon’s successor, but the legendary striker sounds reluctant to make any move from Falkenberg, where he is midway through the Swedish season. One club official yesterday confirmed that an unnamed side had been in touch about Larsson. “I can say Henrik is a very honest person, he is staying with Falkenberg this season.” added Hakan Nilsson, the Falkenberg sporting director.
Lennon, who has agreed to advise Celtic in their choice to succeed him, supported his team-mate’s case yesterday. “Why not?” he said, when the idea of Larsson following in his footsteps was put to him. “He’s had a fabulous career as a player, he’s a very intelligent guy and he knows the game very, very well.”
Meanwhile, Terry Butcher has expressed his admiration for Lennon, describing him as “different class” in the way he has endured off-field stresses with Celtic. “It’s taken a bit of pressure off me, it’s quite nice,” said the Hibs manager, whose own position had been the cause of some debate prior to Wednesday night’s first leg Premiership play-off win over Hamilton Academical.
“It’s sad. I would never class Neil as a friend but, as a colleague in the managerial stakes, he has been first class, tremendous. Whenever we’ve been through to Celtic Park, and whenever he’s come through to whatever clubs we’ve been at, he’s been different class, he really has.
“I wish him well, it will be interesting to see where he goes. I’ve always got on really well with him, we’ve had some good battles and he has kicked some water bottles, so have I. We certainly enjoy battling against each other.”