Neil Lennon: I'm disappointed Roy Keane turned down Celtic
NEIL LENNON has admitted to being surprised and disappointed that Roy Keane passed over the opportunity to become his replacement at Celtic.
The Armagh man believed that Keane was the right fit for the SPL champions and was saddened last weekend when the Corkman opted out to stay on as Ireland assistant to Martin O'Neill.
"I was surprised and a little bit disappointed," said Lennon, speaking exclusively to the Irish Independent last night. "I think he's ready for it. He's had, what, three years since he was out of the game as a manager and he's been watching a lot of games, he's been at Champions League games, and he's got vast experience.
"He fits the identikit of a Celtic manager. I can totally understand his situation, that it's a personal decision, but I was hoping he would take it. He would have given the club a big lift."
Lennon opted to leave Celtic last month after four years in charge and said that he would speak to their hierarchy about his successor. He indicated that Keane came up in his discussions.
"He was talked about, right back from his time at Celtic. Dermot (Desmond) knew him very well. He would have been well up the list."
Keane has been floated as a potential No 2 for Paul Lambert at Aston Villa, a role that he could combine with his Irish duties.
It will be explored after the summer tour in America, with Ireland's first game against Costa Rica taking place in Philadelphia in the early hours of tomorrow, (1am Irish time).
Speaking ahead of the match, O'Neill said that he was unaware if Keane's contract with the FAI prevented him from working for another football operation at the same time.
"I wouldn't know about Roy's contract," said the Irish boss. "I only know about my own. I'm not interested in working for anybody else."
Lennon, who is on holidays in Portugal, thinks that the Villa arrangement could suit Keane time-wise if it came to pass.
Celtic have now turned their attention to Ronny Deila, a highly regarded coach working for Norwegian outfit Strømsgodset, and Lennon is very much aware of his capabilities. His appointment could be confirmed today.
"He was going to be brought in as No 2 when Johann Mjallby (his assistant) left," he revealed.
"He came highly recommended, he's highly thought of. I don't know if it's confirmed with Celtic yet, but I know from contacts in the game that he is well respected as a coach. We recruited Stefan Johansen from Strømsgodset, so we were aware of his work. It'll be interesting to see if Ronny gets the job."
* See tomorrow's Irish Independent for a full interview with Lennon about his decision to step away from Celtic and what the future might hold. The 42-year-old has been confirmed as part of RTE's punditry team for the World Cup in Brazil.