Neil Lennon leaves Celtic: Rangers boss Steven Gerrard says exit not a surprise to him

Neil Lennon resigned from Celtic on Wednesday morning with club 18 points behind Rangers; Lennon returned to club in February 2019 after Brendan Rodgers left for Leicester; former player and pundit Andy Walker believes the board should never have made the re-appointment.

File photo dated 30-01-2021 of Celtic manager Neil Lennon. Issue date: Wednesday February 24, 2021. 0:24
Steven Gerrard admits he is not surprised to hear Neil Lennon has resigned as Celtic manager and says he takes 'no personal satisfaction' from hearing the news.

Rangers boss Steven Gerrard says he is not surprised by Neil Lennon's departure from Celtic but says he takes "no personal satisfaction" from it.

Celtic confirmed Lennon's resignation on Wednesday morning in an announcement to the Stock Exchange, with assistant boss John Kennedy to take interim charge of the first team.

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

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.

Speaking ahead of his side's Europa League clash with Royal Antwerp, Gerrard said: "I can't say I'm surprised because of obviously what's been going on over there.

"But I take no personal satisfaction from seeing that news [happen] to Neil or any other fellow manager that happens to. So I wish him well for the future.

"I only really found out about it this morning but obviously the focus for me is on the game tomorrow."

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Gerrard: I'd like to share a pint with Lennon

Gerrard also hopes to share a pint with Lennon some day to commiserate with one of the few men who truly knows what life is like as an Old Firm manager.

"Without a doubt, I can certainly understand the pressure and the sacrifice you have to make to be in this position as an Old Firm manager," added Gerrard.

"Obviously I can only talk from the blue side. I've been in the job for nearly three years and it's a very demanding environment.

SNS - Steven Gerrard and Neil Lennon
Image: Steven Gerrard would like to share a pint with Neil Lennon in the future

"There is a lot of pressure involved and it's part of the job you sign up for. You understand that if things are going well, it's fantastic and you get a lot of praise for that. You have an opportunity to be a success.

"But on the other side, when things are not going well, it can be a lonely place. Of course it can. I've experienced that in my short stint here.

"I'm sure once the dust settles in time, we can share a pint together again.

"But the reality in Scotland is that if the pressure's not on you, it's on your rival. If the pressure's on you, it means that your rival is doing well.

"That's the game that me and Neil have both been in for the last couple of years. I wish him well in the future and we move forward here at Rangers."

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Former Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers believes John Kennedy has all the attributes to 'stabilise' the club following Neil Lennon's departure.

Rodgers: Kennedy can stabilise Celtic

Former Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers believes John Kennedy has all the attributes to "stabilise" the club following Lennon's departure.

"First in terms of Neil, I am obviously saddened when any manager loses his job or moves on, in particular someone I can call a friend, so it's a tough day for him," said Rodgers.

"But when it all settles down, Neil is an incredible legend of the club, he has given so much service to the club, won so many titles and like I say, his legacy there will be intact forever.

"In terms of John, when myself and my staff went in there, John was someone I didn't know but I heard good things about him.

"He knows the temperature of Celtic which is important. He has been through all the levels as a scout, a coach, progressed through to the first team and in my time there he was an absolutely brilliant first-team coach for me.

"He has great knowledge of the game, very loyal, very supportive, very hard working.

"He knows the demands of the club and obviously with Neil moving on he is a great pair of hands to go in there and just stabilise the players, the club and I am pretty sure he will do a fantastic job in the period he is in there."

Neil Lennon leaves Celtic 1:52
Andy Walker says he saw no improvement in the level of performance from any Celtic player under former manager Neil Lennon.

Walker: Lennon should never have been reappointed

Despite leading Celtic to two titles, two Scottish Cups and a League Cup in his second spell in charge of the club, Sky Sports pundit Andy Walker, believes Lennon should never have been re-appointed as manager.

Walker, who played for the club in two different spells, feels the departure was inevitable after the board failed to look any further for Rodgers' successor.

"When the dust has settled Neil Lennon will be remembered as a terrific Celtic player and successful manager," Walker told Sky Sports News.

"I wasn't surprised when Neil Lennon returned to take charge of Celtic until the end of the season, it made sense.

"But when they had someone like Brendan Rodgers with a proven track record of improving players, playing good football and enjoying a bit of success, I think the least Celtic supporters expect is to identify someone in that category to continue that good level of performance.

"The biggest criticism you can level at Neil Lennon is just show me one player that has improved in the last 12 months."

He added: "I didn't see an improvement in any of the players. I do wonder what the process was at the time in identifying a potential new manager.

"I don't think it is good enough for the Celtic board to have ignored anyone that was interested in taking the job. They didn't even consider anyone else and that has come back to haunt them."

December 3, 2020, Milan, United Kingdom: Neil Lennon Head coach of Celtic rubs his head during the UEFA Europa League match at Giuseppe Meazza, Milan 1:23
Sky Sports News' Luke Shanley assesses the factors that led to Neil Lennon's decision to resign as Celtic manager.

'Players weren't with Lennon anymore'

This season had the potential to be a historic one for Celtic as the club chased down an unprecedented 10 Scottish league titles.

However, an early Champions League defeat to Ferencvaros was quickly followed by the side being dumped out of Europe completely by Sparta Prague in the Europa League.

Walker believes the squad was going backwards with Lennon in charge.

"I don't think a number of the players were with Neil Lennon entirely this season and I think it's been reflected in the results," Walker said.

"It's been clear that it hasn't been working for Neil Lennon for whatever reason this season and the defeat at Ross County was clearly the last straw.

"But I do wonder about the timing and think the decision should have been taken earlier in the season, the writing was on the wall."

Celtic manager Neil Lennon 0:28
Former Celtic defender Mark Wilson believes the 'calamitous' manner in which Neil Lennon's side tried to win an historic 10th title in a row is what angered the club's supporters.

How can Celtic rebuild after Lennon?

By Charles Paterson

In football, as in life, there is a sense of inevitably about most endings. Celtic's decline and fall from the summit of Scottish football was always likely to happen, but this season's collapse has taken place at an astonishing speed, in a way that would not have been scripted by most plot writers.

A few months ago, Celtic were on the brink of a unique opportunity: to cap an extraordinary period of success by winning a record 10th successive Scottish league title, and in so doing, establish everlasting bragging rights over Rangers.

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Former Celtic defender Mark Wilson says Neil Lennon should be remembered for his successes once this season 'has calmed down'.

It seemed a sizeable, but manageable task. Despite the gradual improvements of Rangers under Steven Gerrard, over the last four years, Celtic had been utterly dominant in domestic competition. Yet when cracks began to appear in the champions' seemingly unbreachable dam, it burst in spectacular fashion.

While Rangers have serenely glided their way, swan-like, through a - thus far - undefeated campaign on their way towards a first title in a decade, Celtic have floundered in their wake, at times thrashing around embarrassingly in a desperate attempt to salvage respectability from the season. While at times events conspired against them, ultimately it has been a self-inflicted sinking on the ill-fated voyage towards "The Ten".

Internal strife, poor decision-making, misfortune and basic errors have combined to signal the end of Celtic's league hegemony, and now the departure of manager Neil Lennon - so what lies ahead and what needs to be done differently to re-establish the club's position at the top of the Scottish game?

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