Saturday 25 October 2014

Neil Lennon leaves Celtic after almost four years in charge at Parkhead

Published 22/05/2014 | 12:07

NEIL LENNON has quit Celtic after four years in charge at the Scottish club - but insists he has no new job lined up even though he says he wants a fresh challenge.

Lennon's  agent Martin Reilly said that after three title wins, the former club captain had decided he wanted something new..

"Four years is a good spell to be manager of a club like Celtic but now Neil wants to look ahead to the next chapter of his career," Riley said.

Reilly insists his client has not agreed to any job offer yet while Lennon himself wouldn't rule out a return to Celtic at some in the future.

Reilly added: "He has nothing lined up. He just feels now is the time to move on to the next challenge."

In a statement, Lennon said: "I can't thank Peter Lawwell and the board enough for their backing and support during my time as manager.

Celtic manager Neil Lennon
Celtic manager Neil Lennon
Neil Lennon before the Champions League match against Barcelona last November
Neil Lennon can't bear to look as time runs out for Celtic against Ross County in the Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden Park in 2010. Photo: PA
Neil Lennon can't bear to look as time runs out for Celtic against Ross County in the Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden Park in 2010. Photo: PA

"The club are in a very strong position and I wish the fans and the club all the very best for the future."

The club has yet to confirm his departure but is expected to make a statement later today.

Lennon, a former Northern Ireland international, has been in charge at Parkhead for just under four years.

The 42-year-old has been heavily linked with a move to relegated English side Norwich City and top flight West Bromwich Albion, while his former Celtic team-mate Henrik Larsson emerged as the surprise bookies' favourite to succeed him at Parkhead and is now as short as 8/15 favourite.

Larrsson  is currently in charge of Swedish club Falkenbergs. STV quoted the retired striker - who struck 242 goals in 315 games during seven seasons in Glasgow - as saying: "I can see myself back at Celtic, whether it's now or in future, time will tell.''

"There may be a lot of rumours in Scotland but nobody is talking about it in Sweden. I talk to Henrik every day but we have not spoken about the Celtic job," Falkenbergs sporting director Hakan Nilsson told the Daily Record.

"There has been no contact from Celtic."

Lennon won five top flight titles, four Scottish Cups, two League Cups and reached a UEFA Cup Final during his playing days with the Bhoys.

During his tenure as manager, Lennon has led Celtic to three straight SPL titles, the knockout stages of the Champions League and a memorable win over European giants Barcelona.

He has also won the Scottish Cup on two occasions although the domestic cup competitions have remained a stumbling block.

This season Celtic were knocked out of the League Cup at home by relegated Championship side Morton and out of the Scottish Cup by Aberdeen.

Lennon originally signed as a player for the Glasgow giants in 2000 during Martin O'Neill's reign as Parkhead boss.

He won five titles in seven seasons and helped the club reach the 2003 UEFA Cup Final.

He left the club in 2007 to join Nottingham Forest but was later tempted back to Celtic Park a year later when Gordon Strachan offered him a role on the Hoops' coaching staff.

But after Mowbray's disastrous reign ended following a 4-0 humiliation away to St Mirren in March 2010, Lennon was given the top job.

He suffered an embarrassing Scottish Cup semi-final defeat to Ross County just three games into his stint in charge and was pipped to the Scottish title by Rangers a year later after his first full season in charge.

But at the end of that season, he told the Parkhead crowd: "This is not the end, it's just the beginning."

He stayed true to his word as he became only the fourth Celtic boss to lead the club to three titles in a row, joining Willie Maley, Jock Stein and Strachan in an exclusive club, as he made the most of Rangers' demotion to the bottom tier of the Scottish game.

However, controversy has never strayed far from Lennon during his time in Scotland.

He was given a four-match touchline ban following a spat with then Ibrox assistant manager Ally McCoist back in March 2011.

That same month, a parcel bomb addressed to the Celtic boss was intercepted by Royal Mail staff, while he was attacked in the dug-out at Tynecastle in May of that year after a supporter leapt from the Hearts end and charged straight for him.

Despite those ugly incidents, Reilly insisted Lennon had enjoyed his time in Glasgow's east end.

"It's been a fantastic journey for Neil since at Celtic," he said.

"He's enjoyed his time as a player, coach and now manager of the club and it's been fantastic for him.

"He has had good backing from the board and believes Celtic is a fantastic club, one of the biggest in the world. He wishes the club and the board all the very best for the future."

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