Scott Brown has insisted Celtic’s players must shoulder the blame for Neil Lennon’s downfall as Celtic manager.
Lennon finally departed Parkhead on Wednesday morning following a second spell as boss which saw him win two league titles, two Scottish Cups and a League Cup.
But this season has been a disaster, with hopes of a historic tenth straight title long since extinguished and last Sunday’s 1-0 defeat to Ross County the last straw for a team trailing arch rivals Rangers by 18 points.
Celtic’s players should shoulder the blame for Neil Lennon’s exit, says captain Scott Brown
The legendary boss, in his second spell, had seen the Hoops’ title defence crumble this season
The Parkhead side have drifted 18 points behind rivals Rangers, effectively conceding the title
Months of speculation and fan anger ended at 7am on Wednesday with a statement to the Stock Exchange confirming the 49-year-old’s resignation.
Assistant boss John Kennedy will take charge until the end of the season, with reserve coach Stephen McManus stepping up to join the first team set-up.
Scotland boss Steve Clarke, Roy Keane and Eddie Howe lead the early betting for the next manager, with fans praying for a Rafa Benitez, Roberto Martinez or Frank Lampard.
Former Schalke and Huddersfield boss David Wagner and ex-Chelsea star Dan Petrescu will also put their names forward for the post.
Lennon quit after a 1-0 defeat to Ross County, deepening their slump amid a miserable season
Admitting the players failed to perform for Lennon, club captain Brown said: ‘It’s been a difficult season in a lot of ways, so you’ve got to feel sorry for the manager. We’ve got to take responsibility.
‘It’s a sad day to see him leave but it’s because we’ve not been playing as well as we can on the park.
‘Even after he left Celtic as manager the first time, we kept in contact all the way through, and it was great to see him come back.
‘It’s obviously a hard decision for him as well to leave the club that he loves and that he wants to do well. He always wanted Celtic to win week in, week out, whether he was manager or not.
Rangers are cruising atop the Scottish Premiership, looking set to finally end Celtic dominance
‘Neil won another Treble for us – he won the quadruple Treble, which we picked up against Hearts, and he’s got great passion for the club.
‘He’s given 15 to 20 years to this club and he deserves respect, and also praise for what he’s done for the club and the success he brought us.
‘I probably wouldn’t still be captain at Celtic if it wasn’t for Neil Lennon. He kept me on after Tony Mowbray left, and he was a breath of fresh air when he came in.’
Lennon became the first man to win a domestic Treble as player and manager with victory over Hearts in the delayed Scottish Cup final in December.
A costly exit to Ferencvaros in the Champions League was followed by the Boli Bolingoli Covid fiasco, a dismal Europa League campaign, a Betfred Cup exit to Ross County and a string of bad results in the league which sunk hopes of ten-in-a-row.
Lennon will go down a Celtic legend, after his second spell was another highly successful run
A decision to fly to Dubai for a week of winter training in January backfired badly when two players tested positive for coronavirus and 13 were quarantined ahead of damaging league draws with Hibs and Livingston (twice).
‘We have experienced a difficult season due to so many factors and it is very frustrating and disappointing that we have not been able to hit the same heights as we did previously,’ said a dejected Lennon.
‘I have worked as hard as ever to try and turn things around, but unfortunately we have not managed to get the kind of run going that we have needed.
‘I have always given my best to the club and have been proud to deliver silverware to the Celtic supporters. The club will always be part of me. I will always be a Celtic supporter myself and I will always want the best for Celtic.’
The disaster season has seen several twists, including an ill-fated winter training trip in Dubai
Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell is retiring at the end of the season, with Dominic McKay coming in from the SRU to replace him. The search is also on for a sporting director to head up a revamped football department above the new head coach.
‘Neil has always been and will always be a true Celtic man and someone I will always hold in the highest regard,’ said Lawwell. ‘Personally, it is a sad day for me to see Neil leave.
‘Neil is a man of quality and decency, he is someone who will always be part of the fabric of Celtic and someone who will always be welcomed.’
Major shareholder Dermot Desmond added: ‘Neil is a Celtic legend both as a player and manager. He has given so much to the club, and with his success over the last number of years – including winning a Treble in his own right – he will be very difficult to replace.’