The Celtic board have said that manager Neil Lennon continues to enjoy their support despite the team’s poor run of results in recent games, and that progress will be reviewed “in the new year”.
The Parkhead side drew 1-1 at home to St Johnstone on Sunday, slipping 13 points behind rivals Rangers in the race for the Premiership title. Though Celtic have two games in hand, Lennon conceded that it would be “very difficult” for his team to go on to win a tenth consecutive league title.
The draw continued a run that has seen Lennon’s side win only two games of their last fourteen ,being knocked out of Europe and the League Cup along the way.
That form has seen Celtic fans call for his removal, and there have been angry protests at the club’s stadium, but Lennon says he can improve the team’s results.
Following a statement from Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell last week that called for unity while the team faced challenges, the club’s board have now made an announcement that explicitly backs the under-fire manager and his coaching staff.
It read: “In light of the ongoing speculation regarding the position of our football manager, Neil Lennon, the board of Celtic Football Club wishes to make clear its continuing support for Neil and his backroom team.
“The board recognises and understands the importance of winning the league championship this season and that, as Neil himself has made clear, recent performances and results have been disappointing. The board is committed to delivering success for Celtic supporters.
“The board has carefully considered the current circumstances and the challenges that we are faced with, not least the pressure on the management and players to deliver the tenth championship in a row that is so important to us all. Equally important is to continue to operate according to our Club’s values. The board has come to the conclusion that our collective objective is best served by continuing to support Neil and his team as they seek solutions for those challenges.”
Celtic face a number of crucial matches in the next few weeks, including the rescheduled Scottish Cup final against Hearts that could complete a clean sweep of last season’s domestic trophies, making for a record fourth consecutive treble. The reigning champions also place Rangers in the league in early January.
The board say that Lennon is the best person to see the team improve during the weeks to come and that progress will be reviewed at some point after the Rangers game.
The statement continued: “Neil has the support of the players and staff at the club. He understands the pressure and the environment. As his outstanding record as a manager, captain and player demonstrates, he knows what it takes to be successful at Celtic and he has delivered success with many of the current squad of players, who understand his method and approach.
“Whilst it has been suggested that it is time for a change, at this stage in the season the board believes that Neil and his management team are best placed to turn the team’s performances around and lead us on to success. The board continues to work closely with Neil and his team to support them as they seek to do so and progress will be reviewed in the new year.
“The board wishes to take this opportunity to thank all Celtic supporters for their support during this challenging year. The response of the support to the challenges that we all face together has been magnificent. It is therefore important to make clear that the board has never, as it has been inaccurately reported, referred to any Celtic supporter as ‘entitled’.
“The board recognises the range of views expressed by our supporters and the strength of those opinions. Whilst there may not always be agreement, there is certainly a common goal – the success of Celtic Football Club – and we will continue to work together to seek to achieve that success.”