30 Day Challenges… Day 23
“A Manager You Want As Your Best Man At Your Wedding”
Interesting timing for this one to come up since I’m getting married in less than two months, not to mention my choice is dealing with all sorts of nonsense. How could I not pick the man who has brought so much joy and passion back to the football I attend?
I have to admit, I was never Neil Lennon’s biggest fan as a player. In my mind, midfielders were more like the Stilian Petrov box-to-box kind. They’d be back helping out the defence one minutes, up supporting the attack the next. A tireless task for anyone. Lennon’s style was different. He was the defensive midfielder. Sitting in front of the defence, breaking up attacks before they came to anything and picking out passes. Quite a leisurely style compared to the box-to-box style.
I didn’t know much of him in his time in England, but obviously when he came to Celtic I got to know him. He came towards the end of 2000 but it wasn’t really until 2003 that I truly appreciated what he brought. In the blazing heat of the UEFA Cup final in Seville, deep into extra time and losing the game 3-2, here was Neil Lennon running 30, 40, 50 yards in an effort to close down the opposition in their own box. I was too knackered in the stand but here was Neil still bursting a gut after 120 minutes of scorching and heartbreaking football! Maybe I’d under-estimated him.
There was another time I was in a pub in Glasgow. We had just beaten Rangers at Celtic Park and Lennon had played in the game. So we were all in the pub celebrating. In walks Neil! He’s a Celtic fan just like the rest of us, but in this era it’s so unlikely to find yourself in the same pub as a player. It’s little things like that you appreciate.
The last few years for Celtic have been disappointing. A lack of league titles, boring football to watch, and a feeling that the fans and the club were drifting apart. That all changed in the summer. Lennon became Celtic manager, brought in some exciting young players and set about “bringing back the thunder” to Celtic as he put it in one press conference. With the league still to be decided but Rangers slightly ahead and us hoping for a slip, we may not get the title back this season. But the feeling is that, should Lennon stay on then we’ll be in a great position to get it next season and possibly for several more too. The crowd are enjoying the football and the atmosphere has been returning to Celtic. It’s a great place to go once again.
The trouble is, Neil has been putting up with stuff that no one should have to put up with. Death threats, bombs in the post, and some moron Hearts fan attacked him during the game last night. I wouldn’t be surprised if he walks away at the end of this season. If he did, I’d back him all the way. He has a family, he’s done nothing to deserve any of this nonsense. Anyone that thinks otherwise is a moron. I’m not saying he doesn’t upset the opposition, but there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s plenty at Rangers I hate – as previous blogs in this challenge will show – but there’s a level that it stops at. I wish El Hadji Diouf would clear off out of football, I certainly don’t wish him any real harm. Kyle Lafferty is a big lanky streak of pish, but in the end I suspect he plays up to it and he’s probably just a bit of a fanny. I can understand how Lennon rubs other the wrong way, but to the extent it has got to this season you have to question if it’s worth it and what is wrong psychologically and socially with these people.
Sad thing is, Lennon’s actually a nice guy. Away from the football he’s the kind of guy you would want to have a pint with. To still be in the job he’s in after all he’s had to put up with he’s clearly a very strong character. He’s always up for a laugh – as former Rangers captain Barry Ferguson would testify. During some ceremony for Barry there was a joke of a video shown to him of Neil sitting on his couch drinking tea! It was all good natured, and proof that the footballers at the team probably live on a different – much friendlier – planet from the fans of the teams.
I have plenty of time for Neil, I trust in him and he’d be a great laugh. Can you think of a better best man?
(Well, I can, I have one that knows me better than Neil would. He’s also a Rangers fan, but no one’s perfect!)