Neil Lennon 'ready to return', says Celtic must cash in on big break
Last Updated: 10/08/14 2:09pm
Neil Lennon says he is ready to return to football management and would jump at the chance to join a Championship club.
Lennon stepped down as Bhoys boss in May after four successful years in which he guided the club to three league titles and two Scottish Cups.
The former Northern Ireland midfielder told Goals on Sunday that a lack of competition in Scotland convinced him it was time to move on and he is all set to take up a new challenge after a brief spell away from the game.
“I had a 14-year association with Celtic – with one year off when I came down to play for Forest – and I had four great years as manager but I just felt it was time,” he told presenters Chris Kamara and Ben Shephard.
“I was getting a bit tired and the competition wasn’t great domestically; I just felt like I needed a new challenge. It was a decision that I didn’t take lightly – it was sort of six months in the making.
“I still feel vindicated now that I’ve made it. Celtic is a magnificent club – to manage a club as prestigious as that in my first managerial role was a great privilege.
“But we are always swimming against the tide when it comes to competing against the English sides in terms of TV money and there is a bit of a surreal atmosphere in Scotland.
“You’ve got three massive clubs, for a Scottish level, in Rangers, Hibs and Hearts that are not even in the SPFL so the competition up there is diminished in terms of the domestic level.
“The [lack of competition] wasn’t Celtic’s fault and then you see Hibs going down at the end of the season – another big club leaving the top tier.
“You’re thinking to yourself ‘it’s not getting any better’; I felt that for me to progress as a manager, I needed to start competing in a different sort of environment.
“Celtic are way, way ahead of everyone else – not just on the field but off the field as well. They’ve got brilliant people running the club and I learnt so much in the four years not just about running a football team but running a club and trying to work within a strategy as well.
“I worked with some great players – another one has gone today – Fraser Forster has gone to Southampton for £10m – so we had great times in terms of putting young, dynamic players on the pitch and selling them on and in the meantime being successful at domestic and European level as well. It was so exciting.
“Having taken a bit of time out now and doing things I’m actually enjoying, I realise how claustrophobic I’d made the job. As we go forward, I’ll obviously be looking to get back into the game again.
“I’ve had a nice break and I feel I’ve got a lot to offer – I’ve been pretty successful at Celtic, so I’m looking for a new challenge now. Where that takes me I don’t know. I’d have no hesitation in working in the Championship.”
Earlier this week Celtic were reinstated to the Champions League after Legia Warsaw brought on Bartosz Bereszynski in the final minutes of their 2-0 victory at Murrayfield – even though Bereszynski was supposed to be banned.
Lennon said that the onus is now very much on Ronny Deila’s side to cash in on the reprieve.
“It’s an incredible story and it’s an incredible slice of luck for Celtic,” he said.