CHRIS SUTTON believes Neil Lennon’s job as Celtic manager is safe.
The former Hoops striker insists his one-time team-mate will escape the chop, despite the season from hell.
A campaign that promised so much back in August has disintegrated in disastrous fashion with the nine-in-a-row champions requiring a miracle to claw back a 19-point gap to make history with a tenth successive title.
Two days into 2021 saw Lennon’s side lose 1-0 in testing and controversial circumstances to Steven Gerrard’s Ibrox side to fail in a must-win encounter.
Europe was already a bitter memory after the early Champions League exit and then the doomed Europa League Group H excursion that saw the team walloped home and away by AC Milan and Sparta Prague while winning only one of the six games and conceding an unacceptable 19 goals in the process.
A defeat from lowly Ross County at Parkhead in November sent the holders tumbling out of the Betfred League Cup, suffering their first domestic Cup reverse in 36 outings.
The rot was halted in the Scottish Cup penalty-kick shoot-out against Hearts in the delayed Final last month that brought the club their phenomenal quadruple treble. Amazingly, holding onto that particular trophy now looks like Celtic’s only realistic hope of celebrating a silverware success this time around.
Managers have been handed their P45s at Parkhead for less – but Lennon WILL survive, according to Sutton.
The ex-England international frontman, speaking to the Daily Record, said: “Neil Lennon’s got the board’s full backing at the club’s AGM.
“If they were to now sack him on the back of the Old Firm defeat at Ibrox, I would find it extremely odd.
“Neil’s hopes of winning Ten in a Row are gone. He can’t publicly give up and no-one would seriously expect him to do so, but deep down, we all know it’s over.
“Rangers have dropped four points all season. The thought of them dropping 10 in the remaining games, even allowing for the fact Celtic win every match left, which is a long shot, is far fetched.
“Celtic have gone out of both the Champions League and Europa League this season, they have gone out of the Betfred Cup and the title race is now over within two days of January.
“It’s not a good look. And I fully accept that’s a situation which should really mean it’s the end of the road for any manager at Parkhead.
“My reasoning behind saying it would be odd is all about timing.
“I made no secret of the fact that I thought Neil was fortunate to keep his job on the back of the Ross County loss in the Betfred which added to the two Euro exits with the title already looking like it was lost.
“I said so publicly. I didn’t think he would survive and I wouldn’t have had any qualms had the board pulled the trigger at that point.
“The fact they did not is what makes the dynamic of the situation right at this moment in time very interesting.
“Since Peter Lawwell came out and made his speech at the AGM saying Neil was the right man for the job, they completed a quadruple treble by winning against Hearts and won three straight league games without losing a goal before going to Ibrox.
“Across the city, Celtic were dominant. In the three previous Old Firm matches, Rangers had wiped the floor with them. Steven Gerrard’s team had played them off the park and that counts the one at Hampden 13 months ago when Neil ended up holding the Betfred Cup afterwards.
“Saturday? That was different. Celtic were dominant. They controlled the game from the start until the red card. The tactics were spot on and gave the visitors the upper hand.
“The team selection was pretty much perfect in the eyes of the supporters pre-match and, were it not for the heroics of Allan McGregor, Neil’s team would have been a couple of goals ahead at the interval.”
“Now I’m not naive. I know none of that really matters in the cold light of day. Celtic lost and that is the bottom line.
“But my point is that, if the board thought Neil was still the right man for the job after the County debacle with supporters protesting outside of the stadium, how can that really have changed in the light of the performance at Ibrox?
“Fair enough, you can say that if that’s the case, you have to take into account the fact Rangers were far better than Celtic on the day when Neil got the first trophy of his treble.
“But you get my point about them being in a pickle now.”
Sutton added: “Nir Bitton was so naive to let Alfredo Morelos do what he did. The Colombian offered little beforehand, but you know that run is a trait of his and to fall into the trap was inexcusable by the Israeli.
“Whether you think it’s a red or not, it was a dreadful error to get into that position in the first place.
“Neil had no luck as Christopher Jullien would have been there and not Bitton had the Frenchman not whacked his knee against a post four days earlier and been ruled out for four months.
“But you can’t hide from the fact that a defender was needed since the summer and, when Neil got to choose one, his pick was Shane Duffy and he couldn’t even trust him to start at Ibrox. That’s on Neil Lennon.
“David Turnbull and Ismaila Soro have been shining lights in the past few weeks, but the striking positions have been a disappointment. Where is Albian Ajeti? Where was Leigh Griffiths after lockdown? And where has Odsonne Edouard been all season?
“Those all fall onto Neil and he’s not daft enough to think he doesn’t carry the can for the failings all across the pitch at various stages throughout this campaign.
“I felt those failings were enough to warrant a managerial change last month and I said so.
“But, crucially, the board of directors didn’t. They disagreed. They said they’d review it in the New Year.
“So, if they didn’t think then that Neil’s time was up then, I don’t genuinely see how they can think so this morning. If they did, it’d be odd.”