Lennon’s European dream – haven’t we heard it all before?

Celtic’s emphatic 5-1 victory at Partick Thistle on Wednesday night ensured an equally impressive 45th Scottish league title with seven games to spare.

Unrivalled in the league since Rangers’ dramatic decline three years ago, the green half of Glasgow has dominated the Scottish top flight and there seems little sign of that ending.

Yet not all is rosy north of the border. Neil Lennon’s job remains in doubt despite a third straight league title because of another disappointing UEFA Champions League outing that saw Celtic win just one of six group games.

Although Lennon insists his side is ready to compete on the continent, a strong feeling among fans remains that the manager is not up to the task – and with Celtic forced to make the group stages through two tricky qualifying rounds, there is a lot at stake this summer.

“Now we are really stamping our authority on the game in Scotland and want to take it further. We want to take it into Europe,” Lennon said after Wednesday’s game.

“We’ve got a very demanding support and aim to please. Certainly from the turn of the year, we have played a style of football that augurs well for the future.”

Indeed, the support that has floated Celtic so well in Europe before may eventually be the downfall of Lennon, who struggled as manager to match expectations this season after a memorable 2012/13 Champions League campaign.

Compare this season with last and some fans are starting to believe the club is sliding in the wrong direction. In 2012/13, Celtic scraped their first ever away win in the group stages with a 3-2 result in Moscow, lost agonisingly in the Nou Camp but got the ultimate revenge against Barcelona at Celtic Park when home-boy Tony Watt bagged a late winner.

The buoyancy that campaign gave the fans drove them into the pre-season but this campaign a disappointing transfer window and failure to handle European pressures have got the better of these players.

The influential Victor Wanyama and Gary Hooper departed for a combined £17.5m, while defender Kelvin Wilson’s sale to Nottingham Forest brought in an extra £2.5m. Granted, Virgil van Dijk’s £2.6m arrival from Groningen has worked out well, but Lennon’s other signings have proven disappointing.

He bought Ajax’s £3m flop Derk Boerrigter (one goal in 21 games), Portuguese freebie Amido Balde (three in 20 games), Finnish striker Teemu Pukki (five in 28) and Stefan Johansen (two in 10 since arriving in January).

Lee Griffiths’ arrival from Wolves, meanwhile, is a solid acquisition but he alone is not enough to solve Celtic’s European woes.

It was always going to be tough against three giants of the global game but had Lennon invested the profits of his summer sales more wisely he could have at least challenged Ajax for that third-place spot in Group H.

Celtic fans must ask themselves: with no saleable players and a squad far from its peak, has Lennon taken this club as far as he can? We’ve heard his desire to tackle Europe before with little to show for it, and it’s safe to say not even a Scottish title guarantees job security.

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5 thoughts on “Lennon’s European dream – haven’t we heard it all before?

  1. Negative drivel. What do you want? It’s time Uncle Dermot donated a £100M I suppose?

    Wanyama & Hooper could not be held back (despite our best efforts). Wilson was a personal issue. Ledley dithered too long. The money was mostly re-invested. Van Dijk was inspired…this guy alone gave the summer transfer activity a pass mark. Johansen is another fine buy. Griffiths was a bargain…he will score in Europe if he gets the service. Balde is just a kid…far too early to judge (and he was no freebie btw). Boerrigter is a decent player but the gamble on his fitness has failed. Pukki is the one obvious disappointment. Nice touches, decent movement, technically fine but no predator that’s for sure. We’ve lost big players and it showed in Europe but the squad is under re-development and coming along nicely. We are much better now than we were in October/November. Lennon has been a success. He has done little to merit your criticism. He is an intelligent young coach who is still learning his trade. He is gathering champions league experience year on year. I hope he sticks around for a very long time. Be careful what you wish for…the next Tony Mowbray is just one misjudged appointment away.

    • The great thing about football is everyone sees things differently. Our writer has been a Celtic fans for a number of years and I think makes some valid points. Sure, not all Celtic fans will agree. Personally, I think that Celtic have improved leaps and bounds in Europe over the past few years and hopefully that will make them a more attractive club for imports – both in terms of players but also commercial revenues.

  2. Stefan Johansen has only just arrived. I guess you haven’t watched Celtic recently because he has played very well and looks like a great signing. He has only played a handful of games and already looks stronger and faster than when he first arrived. He was never a goalscoring midfielder in Norway to begin with, however, he looks capable of chipping in with his fair share.

    On the other three you mentioned (Boerrigter, Balde & Pukki), I agree, they look like they are going to struggle. Blade has fallen out of the picture after Griffiths arrival and Pukki will surely not even get a place on the bench if we recruit another striker in the summer. Hólmbert Friðjónsson (another mid-season signing) will also be pushing for a striker spot, possibly along with Tony Watt after he returns from loan, so we won’t be short of forwards next season.

    Out of those three I think Boerrigter is more likely to come good next year. He has struggled with injuries this year. Besides, nobody is going to take him off Celtic’s hands after his injuries and poor form this year and we paid too much to just release him from his contract. Neil will want to give him a chance to prove his worth. With Samaras highly likely to leave in the summer it opens up a position on the left flank so Boerrigter’s favored position is up for grabs.

    You also failed to mention the signing of Nir Biton. He arrived a couple of months after van Dijk and at about a quarter of the transfer fee (£700,000). He took a while to settle into the Scottish game but has grown into it. He nailed down the central midfield spot alongside Scott Brown before picking up an injury last month.

    I am not sure that I agree that Celtic have no saleable assets or that our squad is past it’s peak. Forster(26), van Dijk(22), Ambrose(25), Lustig(27), Forrest(22), Brown(28), Izaguirre(27). There are a number who would fetch seven figures. Only 2 players in the first team squad are in their thirties – Commons(30) and Zaluska(30).

    • The piece was simply an opinion written by one of our guest writers who has followed Celtic for a number of years. I’ve been impressed by the way they have improved in the past few years both Domestically and in Europe. I thought we would see more of a challenge from the likes of Aberdeen but it hasn’t materialised in the marathon as well as the sprint.

  3. Nathan, well pointed out, I am disappointed with myself for forgetting to mention Biton. It was only because the daft columnist ignored him. This boy is a player. He will be a huge success in my opinion.

    I’m astonished that there are Celtic supporters out there who can be so wrong about practically everything!

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