Neil Francis Lennon was signed by Celtic as a defending midfielder from Leicester city for £5.75m by Martin O’Neill on the 8th of December 2000. He made his debut against Dundee 1 – 2 Celtic, SPL, 10th December 2000. He later went on to Captain the club from 2005. After making 214 appearances for the club he left as a player in June 2007. However he was not away too long. He was brought back as a coach by Gordon Strachan in 2008 and had a hand in driving Celtic on to haul back a 7pt SPL lead held by the deceased Rangers FC to win the league on the last day of the season.
Strachan moved on after winning his 3rd title and was replaced by the hapless Tony Mowbray. Lennon was retained and was put in charge of the reserve side. As Mowbray’s reign as manager disintegrated he was eventually sacked on March 25th after the humiliation at St Mirren.
On March 26th Neil Lennon was appointed caretaker Manager. He went on to take Mowbray’s underperforming team on an unbeaten run in the SPL to reduce the now deceased Rangers FC deficit to 6 points by the end of the season.
Lennon was given the Job full time during the summer of 2010 and brought in Johan Mjalby, Gary Parker and Alan Thompson as his back room team.
Since taking over Lennon through promoting youth and canny transfers has replaced Mowbray’s squad with Fraser Forster, Adam Matthews, Emilio Izaguirre, Efe Ambrose, Kelvin Wilson, Miku, Anthony Stokes ,Lassad Nouioui, Kris Commons, Joe Ledley, Charlie Mulgrew, Mikael Lustig, Thomas Rogne, Ľuboš Kamenár, Tony Watt, Beram Kayal, Jackson Irvine, Rabiu Ibrahim, Joe Chalmers, Marcus Fraser, Dylan McGeouch, James Forrest, Patrik Twardzik, Filip Twardzik, Victor Wanyama and Gary Hooper. The only survivors of the previous squad are Paddy McCourt, Georgios Samaras, Łukasz Załuska and Scott Brown.
Along the way Lennon has won the Scottish Cup and the SPL championship and improved the clubs standing in Europe while under serious threats of death.
So the combination of Lennon, his backroom staff and the bulk of the above players have taken us from one of the poorest Celtic sides in living memory to being just over 24 hours away from a Champions League in Camp Nou against arguably the greatest club side ever and good friends of Celtic FC Barcelona.
So for in this year’s Champions league we are unbeaten winning 5 and drawing one with a remarkable win in Moscow on the way. So what do we do against Barcelona?
In my humble opinion you don’t go to Camp Nou and stick 10 men behind the ball and hope for a draw. In that scenario all you do is invite them to pin you into the last 3rd of the park and they have players with the skills to play right through you and they will score.
We can’t go on all out attack because any mistakes in midfield or a stray pass in a forward area and again we will be punished. I think Neil will approach the game in much the same way as Moscow cautious but ready to counter attack with Samaras and Hooper being our out balls.
Barca are masters of keeping the ball either when using the full width of the pitch or playing tight through the middle so our midfielders will need to put in the hardest shift of their lives. Fortunately our current crop of midfielders are strong hard workers who are also blessed with a decent skill level.
This will be our hardest game since Lennon took over, we have nothing to lose but even if we get beat it will help our young team grow. Personally I’ll be happy if we lose less goals than anyone else against them however I have faith that our team can score against anyone so there is some hope.
So on behalf of everyone on TCN I wish Neil and our Bhoys all the best.