Over

So, following an abject display against Ross County (worthy winners btw) in the first Scottish Cup semi-final, Celtic’s season is over. There will be no silverware at Parkhead this year and at this rate it may even be too early to say that second place in the SPL is assured.

Like every other Celtic supporter, I’m pretty bummed out by this – Celtic are much better than this train-wreck of a season suggests. So why has it all gone so badly? As Neil Lennon points out it’s all about a lack of “hunger and desire”.

We were nowhere near it today.

There are things you can give players – information, tactics – but there are two things you can’t give them – hunger and desire, and we were found wanting.

County wanted it more. It has been endemic all season. We have gone out of every competition with a whimper.

All too true.

Those wearing the hoops yesterday were just not up to the job. They did the jersey, their fans and their manager a disservice. They have quite possibly cost Neil Lennon his shot at securing the manager’s spot for next season. He was already up against it having inherited an under-performing squad from Tony Mowbray and grabbing the Cup would have lifted that monkey from his back.

This calls to mind a comment left by Pat on my recent post about the St. Mirren horror show that led to Mowbray’s departure.

So Mowbray is gone.

But how much of it is down to him and how much blame do the guys on the pitch get?

Not being a footie follower it’s always puzzled me that the manager is first out the door after a few bad performances and the players get less stick.

Do you think if there was an all-season transfer window then there’d be much more punting of players?

In the case of Celtic’s current season, the answer is that the players are as much to blame as the manager. But the manager get’s shown the door because he’s ultimately responsible – he decides which players to buy, he picks the team, and he should be kicking their arses when they screw up. The players that don’t perform get stuck on the bench or dumped into the reserves and may eventually be sold come the next transfer window (provided there’s someone willing to buy – otherwise you’re stuck until their contract expires). If Neil Lennon is around to get his way there will be a lot of “punting” at Celtic Park this summer.

The manager’s position can also be made precarious by the level of expectation that surrounds a club. At Celtic, the expectations are very high and getting stuffed by St. Mirren, trailing Rangers by double figures and getting dumped out of the cup by a team from a lower league (no matter how well that team played or how convincingly they stuffed you) will get you sacked.

At this point, all we can hope for is a much better showing next season. I’d like to see Neil Lennon given the time to try achieving that given his commitment to and love for the club. He may lack experience as a manager but he has the tenacity and fire in his gut that Celtic currently have not. If he can keep hold of second place and squeeze a good run of performances out of his squad in the remaining games maybe he’ll get that opportunity.

But if it’s not to be Neil Lennon then who on earth will it be? It’ll need to be a top notch manager with none of this he-must-be-a-Celtic-man crap. The last “Celtic man” (Mowbray) to hold the post failed miserably and the other “Celtic men” who have been mentioned such as Mark McGhee (of 9th placed Aberdeen – really? REALLY??) don’t even come close. Neither of Mowbray’s predecessors (Martin O’Neill and Gordon Strachan) were “Celtic men” and they both did a brilliant job. We need someone of that calibre again.

With that in mind, there’s a growing list of candidates being profiled over at Celtic Quick News: Stale Solbakken, Avram Grant, Steve McClaren, Eric Gerets and Manolo Jiménez. A pedigreed and varied bunch but whether or not they’re realistic options remains to be seen.

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