Neil Lennon is set to leave his post as Celtic manager with immediate effect, with assistant boss John Kennedy taking over as interim manager, STV understands.
Celtic are expected to confirm Lennon’s exit on Wednesday after talk following another shock result in what has been a difficult campaign for both manager and club.
Lennon’s departure comes after a 1-0 away defeat to Ross County that saw the manager exasperated by the champions’ defeat to the side at the bottom of the table.
The Northern Irishman leaves with the team 18 points behind Rangers in the Premiership.
The 49-year-old has been a player, coach and manager (over two spells) for the vast majority of the past two decades but has been under pressure for months as a season full of promise became a struggle.
After nine successive league titles, Celtic were chasing a Scottish record ten in a row but instead a resurgent Rangers are closing in on the trophy. Lennon has also seen his side crash out of Europe and end a long run of domestic cup dominance, with the team showing a sharp drop in form after winning four consecutive trebles.
Lennon, a successful player with the club from 2000 to 2007, first managed Celtic in 2010, winning the first three league titles of their current run, as well as two Scottish Cup victories.
Following the abrupt departure of Brendan Rodgers from Celtic Park in February 2019, he returned to the club to take charge until the end of the season. He guided the team to the title and, after winning the Scottish Cup for the team to complete a third domestic treble he was offered the job on a permanent basis.
Last season the Northern Irishman continued the run of silverware, sealing a record-equalling ninth consecutive league title and winning the League Cup. He also lead his side out at the delayed Scottish Cup final in December, where they beat Hearts to complete a historic ‘quadruple treble’.
Though successful domestically before this season, Lennon’s record in Europe in his second spell was more troubled. A 5-4 aggregate defeat to CFR Cluj ended Champions League involvement in the third qualifying round last season. The consolation place of a Europa League place was taken and Celtic topped their group but were defeated by Copenhagen in the last 32.
This season, Champions League qualification saw the club knocked out by Ferencvaros in the second round. The Europa League brought more misery with a home defeat to Milan and an away draw with Lille followed by humiliating back-to-back 4-1 defeats to Sparta Prague.
Following the second of those losses, Lennon had insisted that he enjoyed the backing of the Celtic hierarchy and was determined to fight on.
A League Cup exit to Ross County brought demonstrations at Celtic Park from angry fans and a 4-1 defeat to Milan worsened the situation.
The manager continued to argue that he should be given the chance to turn results around but conceded that his trophy-laden past record may not count for much given recent setbacks.
However, Lennon did receive clear and public backing from the club’s board in early December when they said they were supportive. However, the statement acknowledged results and said that a review would take place “in the new year”.
A run of positive results came to an end with defeat to Rangers at Ibrox on January 2, though Celtic’s performance was much improved on previous encounters.
However, following the defeat the club left for Dubai for a training camp.
Lennon, his assistant John Kennedy, another member of staff and 13 players at the club had to isolate following the trip after defender Christopher Jullien tested positive for coronavirus.
A second Celtic player was confirmed as having the virus during a media conference where Lennon had claimed critics of the trip were “hypocrites”, had claimed other clubs were not following covid protocols, and claimed some in the media had misrepresented the trip.
While Lennon and key players isolated, Celtic drew two games, ceding further ground in the Premiership.
On his return to the dugout, he saw the team draw 2-2 at Livingston and afterwards insisted that he would not quit, saying he had “put too much into it” and that “It’s my life”.
Results continued to be mixed. A 0-0 draw at Almondvale followed, and the team then beat Hamilton 2-0 before defeat to St Mirren.
Five wins in a row then saw Lennon optimistic that the team had found their stride but the defeat in Dingwall in Sunday left him unable to explain another defensive lapse but insisting he was the man to solve the problems and could mastermind a summer rebuild.
Instead, the club will now look at their long-term options with Lennon leaving Celtic Park for the third time.