PRESSURE makes diamonds, they claim. That’s a maxim that Neil Lennon seems to cling to in these competitive times for a Celtic manager.
The problem with following that analogy, however, is that at this point in the process, it will simply make him carbon, something many people hope they will be rid of soon.
Lennon’s place is once again under pressure after another heavy and frankly humiliating loss to Sparta Prague last night. Vasilis Barkas, his £ 5m goalkeeper, remains on the bench while targets pass left, right and center past Scott Bain. The outcomes are tragic and border on the comical, no matter what staff he uses in defense. In the midfield, his captain Scott Brown’s legs seem to have finally given way, and while Odsonne Edouard put Celtic ahead last night in Prague with a moment of magic, it took the Frenchman until late November to even hint that he would finally appear for the club in what was, let’s not forget, a historic season.
If, like the men who blew the ten, the players and their coach don’t want to go down in history, then they need to find a way to avoid the disturbing slide. And they need to get it finished promptly. That’s nowhere more apparent than on defense. The team has conceded twenty-one goals and won just two of their last nine games, with almost all of them coming from one goal or another.
Even, I’d be shocked if Lennon was being pressed by the Celtic board right now. That may not be what a section of Celtic fans want to hear, and maybe even a wide section after the disgusting display last night, but I’m going to show my job.
With fans not allowed inside the stadium these days, the predominant mood of fans is difficult to reliably assess outside social media (where much too much credence is always given to the ideas of the loud minority) or from banners like the one unveiled outside Celtic Park the other day by the Green Brigade.
Like several other Celtic supporters, the Green Brigade had a very complicated late relationship with a man any of them would possibly consider a hero of the club. They showed up at Celtic’s Lennoxtown training ground as recently as October to show their support for Lennon and his staff. It should also be remembered, as many Celtic fans over 30 have reminded me in recent years, that the biggest and loudest fan community is not the de facto mouthpiece of the entire Celtic fan base.
That said, after the draw at Easter Lane, which was only exacerbated tenfold by last night’s defeat, there seems to have been a change in tone towards Lennon.
The points difference for Rangers, as well as the impressive shape of Steven Gerrard’s hand, seems to me to have sharpened the emphasis on the significance of the games between the two sides when it comes to awarding the title.
The manner in which Rangers defeated Celtic on their own turf has led many to call for the head of Lennon, and little has been achieved by the manner of the results in between to restore confidence that on January 2 this Celtic side under Lennon will go to Ibrox and collect the extremely necessary three points.
It is probable, however, that we will have the opportunity to see if those fears come to fruition, especially considering what lies between Celtic on the home stage and the trip to the other side of the city.
Celtic also have league games against St. Johnstone, Kilmarnock, City, Hamilton and Dundee United, all at home after Sunday’s Betfred Cup home game against Ross County, with the exception of the Accies’ Boxing Day game.
In addition, a few days before Christmas, the Scottish Cup final against Hearts last season, and the atmosphere at the club and at Lennon itself could be very different in early January. As impossible at the moment as it might be.
The board, loyal to Lennon, might argue that it is difficult to sack a man who, since Brendan Rodgers left, has won every trophy and is on the brink of another treble.
I might end up making a quick breakfast with more eggs on my face than Kirk Broadfoot, but I have a feeling that Celtic will stand by their manager and give him the chance to get his team back to the title match.
All of this is not to suggest that when it comes to the alarming concerns, there are not any alarming problems that need to be tackled.