UNDER-FIRE Neil Lennon has revealed he is already planning for NEXT season.
The Celtic boss has been the target for some fierce criticism in recent weeks as the team have lurched through a maze of mistakes that leave them 23 points adrift of Steven Gerrard’s Ibrox side this morning.
The quest for the historic tenth successive title lies buried under a rubble of mediocrity as the champions’ fall from grace has been as spectacular as it has been stupefying.
Lennon has led his players from awesome to awful at breakneck speed in a calamitous campaign that has sees them with one paltry league win from six games in 2021, losing two and drawing three while squandering 12 points in the process.
It’s a dossier of disaster and Peter Lawwell has already announced his retirement from the chief executive role when he will leave in June after 18 years in control in which the club have reached phenomenal heights, capped off by the phenomenal quadruple treble delivered on December 20 with the dramatic penalty-kick shoot-out triumph over Hearts in the delayed Scottish Cup Final.
However, a dark shadow has engulfed past feats following the team’s abject capitulation on the domestic and European fronts this term.
There are ear-splitting calls for Lennon to quit or be sacked and those appeals have intensified following the miserable showing in the 2-1 loss to St Mirren at Parkhead yesterday. The Paisley side were worthy winners over their tame and insipid opponents as they notched up their first league victory in the east end of Glasgow in 31 years.
However, Lennon, clearly, has no thoughts about walking away from the challenges that lie ahead to restore the reputation, status and image of his fallen title kings.
The Irishman, speaking to the Sunday Mail, said: “There will be a rebuild of some capacity here. Players coming to the end of their contracts may be looking to move on and the club may be looking to move them on.
“Obviously, loan players will be going back. Whether we investigate loaning them again is a discussion for the summer.
“But there will be changes in the squad, there’s no question about that. We’re forward planning now, absolutely.
“The work is ongoing and it will be prominent again in the summer when we’re looking to bring players in.
“We have already sold a player for a lot of money in Jeremie Frimpong because we felt it was a good deal for the club. We have to replace him now.
“The only thing that concerns me is how the market is in the summer.
“January has been very quiet and you’re worried it might be the same because we don’t know how financially strong clubs are going to be – or even how our own position is going to look then.
“In terms of rebuilding the squad, that’s always an exciting project for me, to bring in new blood and give the squad that extra impetus and freshness which is always good for everyone.”
Lennon admitted he doesn’t know for certain which players will still be around for next season, but at least has a newly-formed midfield that gives him hope for the future.
Old warrior Scott Brown will be 36 in June and is out of contract in the summer. The smart money is on the player who has won an incredible 22 trophies at Celtic before offered a 12-month extension, at least, but it is clear Callum McGregor will be the possessor of the armband in the new term.
Ismaila Soro, who arrived a year ago in a £2million switch from Israel, and David Turnbull, a £2.25million summer recruit from Motherwell, took centre stage in the 3-2 Europa League win over Lille on December 10, the side’s solitary victory in six group games. There are early indications the trio have the qualities to gel, but it’s obvious they need time for the jigsaw to click into place.
They could become dependable rocks in the team’s engine room during a summer of comings and goings as the Parkhead men regroup and press the restart button.
Lennon added: “McGregor, Turnbull and Soro are all on long-term contracts. Two of them have made a real impact in the last few months while McGregor’s been a mainstay.
“I’ve also been pleased with Greg Taylor’s performances of late. It’s not a bad thing to build around quality players in the midfield and we’ll have James Forrest fit and firing again next season, as well.
“Hopefully, he’ll be back in training in a few weeks and be fresh for the run-in.”