CELTIC have backed Neil Lennon – and have promised to review progress “in the new year”.
The Hoops boss has been the target for some fierce criticism in recent weeks with the club in turmoil following a horrendous run of only two wins in 12 games.
The champions are bidding for an unprecedented tenth successive championship, but have slipped 13 points adrift of Steven Gerrard’s Ibrox side although they have two games in hand. Remarkably, Scotland’s title kings have been written off in some quarters – with TWENTY-FOUR league games still to play.
The doomsday merchants should remember Celtic do NOT require favours from anyone to achieve the 52nd flag in their history.
Everything is in their own hands. Simple equations tell you that if Lennon’s side recover something like the form of last season they can win their two matches in hand which will cut the gap at the top to seven points.
There are still three games against the Govan club to face after the turn of the year – with the first at Ibrox on January 2 – and a hat-trick of successes will bring in nine points. That is a two-point swing in favour of the Parkhead men.
And that is assuming Gerrard’s side are successful in all their outings.
It will be a difficult task, but no-one ever said it would be easy to gatecrash the history books yet again.
It’s a question of remaining positive. The team have offered little to be overly-optimistic in recent times, but the quality is there to turn things around. It has always been a mistake to write off Celtic. Opposition have done so in the past and suffered the consequences.
A MAN ALONE…Neil Lennon looks glum during the stalemate against St Johnstone.
A victory in the delayed Scottish Cup Final against Hearts at Hampden a week on Sunday will bring the club their TWELFTH successive domestic honour to seal the phenomenal quadruple treble.
Celtic fans are witnessing their favourites achieving success on an unparalleled scale which is never likely to be repeated.
It has been tough going in this campaign and it’s challenging to remain upbeat when you see the team topple out of three competitions – the Champions League, the Europa League and the Betfred League Cup – before December.
However, as CQN have consistently pointed out, the club’s fate is within their own scope. If the manager and the players perform at the expected and required levels, then the ship can be steadied in choppy waters.
The cries to sack the team boss and the board have been long and loud and the frustration of the fans is understandable. The loyalty of the supporters is unquestionable, especially in these dark days of uncertainty.
There are ways of voicing concerns, though. For the time being, beleagured boss Lennon will continue to be the man with his hand on the tiller.
Major shareholder Dermot Desmond has made a personal phone call to give the under-fire manager his full backing and the club have gone public with a statement which reads: “In light of the ongoing speculation regarding the position of our football manager, Neil Lennon, the Board of Celtic Football Club wishes to make clear its continuing support for Neil and his backroom team.
IT’S GOOD TO TALK…Neil Lennon and chief executive Peter Lawwell.
“The Board recognises and understands the importance of winning the league championship this season and that, as Neil himself has made clear, recent performances and results have been disappointing. The Board is committed to delivering success for Celtic supporters.
“The Board has carefully considered the current circumstances and the challenges that we are faced with, not least the pressure on the management and players to deliver the tenth championship in a row that is so important to us all. Equally important is to continue to operate according to our Club’s values. The Board has come to the conclusion that our collective objective is best served by continuing to support Neil and his team as they seek solutions for those challenges.
“Neil has the support of the players and staff at the Club. He understands the pressure and the environment. As his outstanding record as a manager, captain and player demonstrates, he knows what it takes to be successful at Celtic and he has delivered success with many of the current squad of players, who understand his method and approach.”
The statement continued: “Whilst it has been suggested that it is time for a change, at this stage in the season the Board believes that Neil and his management team are best placed to turn the team’s performances around and lead us on to success. The Board continues to work closely with Neil and his team to support them as they seek to do so and progress will be reviewed in the new year.
“The Board wishes to take this opportunity to thank all Celtic supporters for their support during this challenging year. The response of the support to the challenges that we all face together has been magnificent. It is therefore important to make clear that the Board has never, as it has been inaccurately reported, referred to any Celtic supporter as ‘entitled’.
“The Board recognises the range of views expressed by our supporters and the strength of those opinions. Whilst there may not always be agreement, there is certainly a common goal – the success of Celtic Football Club – and we will continue to work together to seek to achieve that success.”
POINT-SAVER…Mohamed Elyounoussi’s header drops beyond Saints keeper Zander Clark for Celtic’s equaliser. Leigh Griffiths, Greg Taylor and Odsonne Edouard get a close-up view.
With the pressure easing for the time being, Lennon can now concentrate fully on the Hampden silverware showdown with Championship outfit Hearts and the Premiership encounters against Kilmarnock on Sunday, Ross County on Wednesday December 23 – all three in Glasgow – Hamilton Accies on Boxing Day in Lanarkshire and then Dundee United at Parkhead to bring down the curtain on an eventful 2020 on December 30.
Lille are next up in a meaningless Europa League Group H match which could, at least, be worthwhile to give extended runs to the likes of Leigh Griffiths, David Turnbull, Patryk Klimala and Ismaila Soro.
The Premiership title is the priority and the objective is clear – 12 points from the remaining four league outings over the next 22 days – would certainly aid the focus of everyone with Celtic at heart, on and off the pitch.
A Scottish Cup triumph and an extraordinary twelfth domestic honour in succession would also be well received.