Neil Lennon’s resignation as Celtic manager has opened the door for a new man to step in to the hotseat at Celtic Park and the bookies have installed interim manager John Kennedy as the early favourite to take over the reigns.
Lennon resigned after a disasterous season that has seen Celtic fall 18 points behind rivals Rangers, exit the Champions League to Ferencvaros, be humbled in the Europa League and dumped out of the Betfred Cup to Ross County, not to mention other on and off-field embarrassments. The biggest surprise is why it has taken so long for Lennon to depart?
Any new permanent managerial appointment may be delayed until the summer when new CEO Dominic McKay assumes his role, following the announcement of Peter Lawwell’s departure after 17 years at the helm.
With several players out of contract at the end of the season there’s a massive rebuilding job required in the east end of Glasgow and that might shape who the Celtic board opt for.
John Kennedy (11/10 William Hill) will ensure some continutity at the club, at least for the time-being, but given how tainted Lennon’s time in charge at the club has become that may not be a good thing and his permanent appointment doesn’t appear to be what the fans want.
Rumours of Scotland manager Steve Clarke (10/1 Skybet) stepping in to the breach have been circling Glasgow for several weeks. He’s led Scotland to their first tournament since 1990 and there’s no chance he’ll be giving up the opportunity to lead his nation out at Hampden against the Czech Republic on June 14.
Therefore his appointment would require a fair degree of patience from the board and fans at Celtic but with European qualifiers kikcing off in July it wouldn’t leave much time for him to get his feet under the table.
The man at the top of many Celtic’s fans’ list is former Bournemouth gaffer Eddie Howe. At 3/1 he’s currently second favourite to move north of the border.
He’s been in around the top of the betting for months and has been supported since Lennon’s departure was announced this morning.
Next in the betting is Belgian manager Roberto Martinez who is as short as 4/1 with Paddy Power, but can also be backed at 12/1.
It would be a huge coup for Celtic to bring in the highly-rated Martinez who has been linked with several of Europe’s top jobs but he does have a link back to the club in the shape of his assistant manager Shaun Maloney who played over 200 games for the Hoops. Martinez’s wife is also from the West of Scotland so perhaps she could persuade her husband toreturn ‘home’?
Another name that won’t go away is Rafa Benitez (10/1). The Spaniard was among the bookies favourites when Neil Lennon was appointed on a permanent basis two years ago.
He was an unhappy gaffer at Newcastle at the time but since then he’s completed a stint in China and is currently out of work, but in-the-know Spanish football expert Guilleme Balague reckons he’s not interested in the Parkhead role, nor a return to the North East.
A Return to Former Glories?
As you’d expect there’s a whole host of former players and managers priced up by the bookies and it’s Manchester United legend Roy Keane who is the shortest price at 16/1. The Irishman has had a chequered managerial career and looks far more comfy in the Sky sports studios these days.
The much-loved Martin O’Neill is 28/1 to make a dramatic return to Paradise. O’Neill enjoyed incredible success at the club at the start of the century and many feel there is a role for him to play in the rebuild at Celtic Park but whether that is as the main man remains to be seen.
Another former manager, Gordon Strachan is 33/1. “Wee Gordon” has been seen around the ground a lot lately, making regular appearances on Celtic TV so is still close to the club. It would be a strange turn of events that could see his son depart (Gavin is part of the back room team) and him appointed.
Celtic legend Henrik Larsson is available at 40/1 and there are few other men that could unite the club than this modern-day great. Larsson is currently assistant to Ronald Koeman at Barcelona but his patchy record in management to date counts against him as does the thought of tarnishing his reputation among the Celtic faithful should a managerial stint go belly-up.
Larsson’s former teammates Paul Lambert and Johan Mjallby are also around the 40/1 mark alongside Paul Hartley.
Another Ronny Deila?
Or could Celtic go left-field with their new boss? They did so in 2014 when they appointed the relatively unknown Ronny Deila from Strømsgodset.
Former assistant to Manuel Pellegrini, Enzo Maresca is a surprise listing at just 10/1 with Paddy Power (22/1 Skybet). The Italian is in charge of Manchester City’s elite development squad and his name has been mentioned in a few Celtic blogs as a potential candidate.
Another name that might be unfamiliar to Celtic fans is Leonardo Jardim. The Portuguese coach is currently out of work after spells at Sporting Lisbon, Olympiacos and AS Monaco. He has an impressive CV, winning trophies in Portugal, Greece and most notably Ligue 1 in France with Monaco in 2017 against big-spending PSG. He’s a 20/1 shot at Paddy Power.
Whichever route Celtic choose to go down it’ll be a fascinating market to watch but don’t expect any permanent appointment any time soon, with the CEO out-going and some potential candidates tied up in their current roles it could be a while before we see white smoke rising from Paradise.