Football/Soccer

Neil Lennon resigns as Celtic manager after traumatic second stint in charge

 Neil Lennon apologised for “letting fans down again” after the loss to Ross County left Celtic’s bid to win a 10th consecutive title in disarray.
PA Sport Staff

Neil Lennon has resigned as Celtic manager, the Scottish Premiership club have announced.

Lennon, who returned to the club for a second stint in charge after Brendan Rodgers left to take over at Leicester in February 2019, has been under pressure all season but had previously maintained he would not quit.

The reigning champions are 18 points behind Rangers in the top flight and a defeat to Ross County on Sunday left their Glasgow rivals just seven points away from title.

Lennon apologised for “letting fans down again” after the loss to Ross County left Celtic’s bid to win a 10th consecutive title in disarray.

The defeat also heightened the prospect of Rangers clinching the title at Parkhead on March 21.

Since returning to the club, Lennon has led Celtic to two titles, two Scottish Cups and a League Cup.

A club statement said: “Celtic Football Club today announced that Neil Lennon has resigned from his position as football manager with immediate effect.

“Neil has served the club with distinction as both player and manager, delivering numerous successes, most recently completing the domestic treble in December.

“In his second period as Celtic manager, he has achieved five trophy successes, to add to his three League titles and two Scottish Cup victories in his first period as manager.”

Lennon said in a statement: “We have experienced a difficult season due to so many factors and, of course, it is very frustrating and disappointing that we have not been able to hit the same heights as we did previously.

“I have worked as hard as ever to try and turn things around, but unfortunately we have not managed to get the kind of run going that we have needed.

“I have always given my best to the club and have been proud to deliver silverware to the Celtic supporters. The club will always be part of me. I will always be a Celtic supporter myself and I will always want the best for Celtic.

“I would like to thank so many people at the club who have given me so much and I would also like to thank my family for their love and support. I wish the Celtic supporters, players, staff and directors nothing but success for the future.”

Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell said: “I would like to pay tribute to Neil for all he has done for the club in his second spell, delivering our eighth and ninth successive league titles, the quadruple treble and winning the last five available domestic trophies.

“Neil has always been and will always be a true Celtic man and someone I will always hold in the highest regard.

“I have watched Neil fight many battles over many years, on and off the field, with a courage and tenacity few could match. Even this season, he has fought so hard and worked tirelessly to turn things around.

“While this season has not progressed as we would have liked, it cannot diminish the character or integrity of a man who has given the club so much.

“Personally, it is a sad day for me to see Neil leave the club. Neil is a man of quality and decency, he is someone who will always be part of the fabric of Celtic and someone who will always be welcomed at Celtic Park.

“On behalf of everyone at the club, and personally, I would like to thank Neil for his work as our manager and I wish him and his family good health and continued success in everything they do.”

Celtic’s principal shareholder Dermot Desmond added: “Neil is a Celtic legend both as a player and manager. He has given so much to the club, and with his success over the last number of years – including winning a treble in his own right – he will be very difficult to replace.

“We thank Neil sincerely for all he has done for the club and we wish him every success going forward.”

Former Celtic striker John Hartson believes Lennon’s resignation is the “best outcome” for the club.

The 45-year-old, who played for the Hoops between 2001 and 2006, said on Twitter: “Neil Lennon can be proud of his achievements both as a player, coach and manager of Celtic.

“I’m not surprised he has resigned but feel it’s the best outcome for Celtic. The club now need to move quickly and get a new manager and his staff in for the challenges ahead.”

Former Rangers striker Ally McCoist is “not surprised” by Lennon’s departure after seeing Celtic endure “one disaster after another”.

The 58-year-old Ibrox favourite, who played for the club between 1983 and 1998 and became Rangers’ all-time record goalscorer before a spell as manager between 2011 and 2014, told talkSPORT: “The first thing I say is, hopefully he can get some sanity back in his life and go and enjoy himself and relax with his family for a period.

“That’s the one thing, looking at Neil, that he needs and wants – so that’s the most important thing. He needs to spend some time away from the pressure that is being an Old Firm manager.

“But in terms of the decision itself, I’m not overly surprised at all. I think the way the season has gone for Celtic this year has effectively been one disaster after another, and there are a lot of people responsible for that.”

McCoist continued: “Neil, being the manager, is obviously one of them but the people above him as well, and indeed the players have to shoulder a lot of the responsibility.

“It was a massive, massive year for them, and it looks like clearly the league has gone – and the league was the big one. Everybody at Celtic wanted the magical figure of 10, but for some time now it hasn’t looked like that is going to be the case.

“I’ve always felt there’s been, not from Neil, I may add, an element of arrogance coming from Celtic – they thought it was just a formality to win 10 in a row.

“And clearly that hasn’t been the case, and supporters are very, very angry – and it’s cost Neil his job.”

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Football/Soccer