GORDON STRACHAN insists Neil Lennon realised he was FINISHED if he failed on his return to Celtic.
The Irishman stepped in only hours after Brendan Rodgers’ swift departure for Leicester City in February last year.
It was a crucial time for the Hoops as they faced two crucial games in Edinburgh that could have had heavy consequences in their bid for the historic treble treble.
Lennon, who picked up the Scottish Football Writers’ Manager of the Year award at the weekend, as CQN reported, had to hit the ground running or take the flak that would inevitably come his way.
Celtic won both encounters – 2-1 in the Premiership against Hearts at Tynecastle and 2-0 in the Scottish Cup quarter-final against Hibs at Easter Road – as he steered the team through choppy waters to their eighth successive title and also a Scottish Cup triumph that sealed the club’s third consecutive season of domestic dominance.
Strachan, of course, know all about the pressures and ptifalls of being a manager at Parkhead after occupying the hot seat in the east end of Glasgow for four years after replacing Martin O’Neill in 2005.
Lennon returned to the role in an interim capacity which was made permanent following the Hampden victory over Craig Levein’s Edinburgh outfit on May 25 when Odsonne Edouard netted both goals.
Strachan, speaking to BBC Sportsound, said: “When Neil first came back, it wasn’t unanimous – there were a few doubters there.
“Obviously, it was a lot better than what I got, but it wasn’t that great. It wasn’t unanimous.
“He’s obviously thinking to himself: ‘If I take this job and fail, that’s me finished’.
“What he’s done – we all know he had that drive as a player – but to have it as a manager is a completely different thing.
“He had to deal with: ‘Am I going to lose this nine in a row?’
“When it got that edgy time around New Year, he’s dusted himself down with his players and blew the opposition away.
“That shows that he’s got mental strength, intelligence and can deal with anything coming.
“You’re on your own at times and you have to get through things on your own.”
Lennon left the Hoops for the first time in 2014, having delivered three titles in a row.Within months, he was back in the game at troubled Bolton, but that didn’t work out mainly due to financial meltdown at the Championship outfit.
He returned to Scotland to mastermind Hibs’ return to the top flight and was the man to whom chief executive Peter Lawwell turned when it was obvious Rodgers was on the brink of quitting the club.
Strachan, now the director of football at Dundee, added: “The fact that Neil left Celtic and went: ‘Woah, what have I done?’ has been good for him.
“He’s had to deal with that at Bolton and I know where he’s coming from when you go to a club like Bolton after Celtic, you just don’t get the mentality.
“Then he went to Hibs and he’s come away with formations that suit the players he had there. It’s fantastic what he did there.
“He’s reinvented himself as a manager and I think that period at Hibs has allowed him to express himself without fear.
“He’s done that, come back to Celtic and went: ‘Well done, Brendan, that’s fantastic, but I need to watch football that I really want to watch’.
“I’m not saying what Brendan did wasn’t good to watch, it was fantastic.
“But Neil had to do his own wee thing and just tweak it without anybody really noticing.
“They’re made for each other. I think it’s only right that he gets the award for a magnitude of things.”