Is this what is in store for Bolton Wanderers and former boss Neil Lennon?
Neil Lennon is gone, and now Bolton could be in an even bigger mess on the pitch than they were before. When taking the job on back in October 2014, there was a huge element of doubt from around the country as to whether he could be a success, given his only previous job in management was Celtic, a team who more often than not, will win the league and/or domestic cup, with little or no difficulty. So, now he has vacated his position, maybe instead of assessing just how well or poor of a job he’s done, the questions should be, should he have got the job in the first place?
Neil Lennon took over at Celtic on a temporary basis in March 2010 following Tony Mowbray’s dismissal and immediately came out and openly criticised the squad, claiming a lack of hunger and desire was to blame for their very average season. He did however lead them to a 100% winning streak in the league, but saw the side knocked out by Ross County in the cup.
Despite two manager of the month awards, Lennon’s Celtic could only lift one trophy in his first full season, the Scottish Cup. The squad had seen a complete overhaul of players in the summer, with £15.9 million worth of players departing, and in for them came players of little or no fame, such as Gary Hooper from Scunthorpe, costing a rather high £2.4 million. However, Lennon; who would have been disappointed to lose the league by just a point, had started a new era for the club. The club legend knew he had to rebuild, if Celtic were to become a force not just in Scotland, but in the European competitions too.
The following season wasn’t much better though. Lennon succeeded in winning his first SPL title, by a clear 20 points (although Rangers who were second, fell into administration and had 10 points deducted), but again failed to lift any other silverware. They reached the Europa League group stages, but only because their qualifying opponents; FC Sion, were disqualified for fielding an ineligible player (Sion won the original tie 3-1 on aggregate). They could not capitalise on their good fortune, and after a 1-1 draw at Udinese, Celtic were out of Europe again.
However, the 2012/13 season was a big year. Not only did Celtic regain the league title as well as winning the Scottish cup, but Lennon masterminded an incredible 2-1 win against Barcelona at Celtic Park, which led to the club reaching the knock-out stages of the Champions League. They were well beaten by Juventus home and away, but Lennon had shown that he could maybe achieve great things with the club if given the time.
However, despite walking the league again in 2013/14, the club failed in the cup competitions, and finished bottom of their group in the Champions League. So, had he done enough there to be a realistic success at Bolton Wanderers?
Well, most would probably compare the size of the two clubs and argue that there is no reason he shouldn’t do well, but; bar one good season in the Champions League, he’s barely managed to lift the minimum of trophies. It’s no secret that the competition for the SPL is very small, with only Celtic and Rangers ever reigning victorious. So when Rangers fell into administration and dropped out of the league, nobody but Celtic were realistically going to challenge for the top honours.
Therefore, Lennon should have focused his time on knock-out competitions. It was an opportunity to make a real statement and become a truly dominating side. They have everything there to do it. They fantastic facilities, an incredible stadium, and consistently attract nearly 60,000 fans every week. Yet still, they continue to be the whipping boys in Europe, and lose arguably because of complacency against lesser teams in the Scottish cups.
Now after a miserable period in the Championship, which admittedly he shouldn’t be held fully accountable for, given all the off field drama at Bolton, he’s out of work again, and looking back at his short managerial career so far, there is nothing to suggest he will walk into a decent job any time soon. So what now for Lennon, and Bolton Wanderers?
There are early reports Lennon could return to Celtic to replace current boss Ronny Deila. If this materialises, then surely he will be laughing to have a second chance at such a big club. Bolton on the other hand; who will almost certainly be playing in League 1 in 2016/17, must resist looking for a quick but expensive option. They need to take their time about who they appoint, forget the rest of this season, and start planning for next year. The club have been on a huge decline, but they have to look forward in a positive manner.
Ironically, I believe they should look at Neil Lennon’s time at Celtic as an example. He took his time to get his team to be competitive on all fronts, and although it didn’t quite end the way he would have liked, he set a very good example on how to rebuild. The pressure will be high on whoever takes over first team duties next season, but the board must put trust in their man, or else risk stagnation in the lower leagues of English football.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Dave Taylor