Former Celtic manager Neil Lennon heads to Cyprus with our blessing and well-wishes.
However, we can’t help but compare and contrast the Irishman’s recent career trajectory with that of his former rival in Glasgow, Steven Gerrard.
Lennon, who this week signed a three-year contract to manage AC Omonia in the Cypriot capital, Nicosia, takes the reins of a team in the lower half of the country’s First Division, the top flight. Gerrard, meanwhile, has been at Aston Villa, which currently sits on the fringes of the top half of the English Premier League—arguably, the best competition in the world, mind—since November.
Gerrard won one trophy—of a possible nine domestically—in three years in charge at Rangers, taking the Premiership title last term.
Lennon secured two Premiership titles, two Scottish Cups and one League Cup during his second tenure at Celtic. In an earlier stint at Parkhead, he won the league three times and the Scottish Cup once. In addition, there was, of course, Barcelona in the Champions’ League.
Those not familiar with Scottish football, and the expectations placed on manager and players at Celtic and Rangers, would probably see these two resumes and wonder, “And Lennon’s the one in Cyprus?”
Indeed, with due respect to Cyprus—a beautiful place, we’re told—and AC Omonia, which is one of the most successful clubs in the country (with a shamrock on their badge, to boot!), this feels like a banishment for Lennon, who has been out of management since stepping down at Celtic last February and working as a part-time pundit for the past year.
Yes, Gerrard is nearly a decade younger, and a more well-known figure in the game than his counterpart, but to say that his time in Glasgow showed him to be an up-and-coming tactical genius would be a stretch. Rangers played some nice stuff in 2020-21, but the performances this term before his departure were hardly convincing.
His first two seasons at the helm at Ibrox are best left unmentioned.
So why is one—Gerrard—in Birmingham and the other—Lennon—headed to Nicosia? (To be fair, Lennon had been linked with openings at Aberdeen, Salford and Sunderland, but in the media only.)
We can’t help but wonder how much of a role a video that emerged on social media, less than two weeks after Lennon’s departure from Celtic, has played in the minds of potential suitors for the Irishman’s services. Said video depicted a drunken and disorderly Lennon at a party in England that was allegedly found to be in violation of the country’s COVID-19 protocols at the time.
Lennon would hardly be the first and only manager to be on the lash on his own time. But the wide dissemination of the video, which included verbal abuse directed at him, could have been enough to scare off some.
We hope we’re wrong about that, and that Lennon’s managerial career gets back on track in Cyprus. His track record at Celtic speaks for itself.
The Full Scottish with Brian P. Dunleavy –