Nobody was shocked to hear the news when Neil Lennon and Celtic parted ways.
Lennon has been under serious pressure for most of the season. The reigning champions sit second in the SPL, 15 points behind leaders and bitter rivals, Rangers.
With their quest for ten consecutive titles dead in the water, the writing was on the wall for Lennon.
This was his second stint as manager at Celtic. It’s a club where Lennon won five league titles, four Scottish Cups and two league cups as a player. Plus, a further five league and cup winners’ medals as a manager.
A recent 1-0 defeat to Ross County sealed the faith of Lennon and his assistant John Kennedy has taking the managerial reigns, likely until the end of the season.
We have already seen plenty of viable contenders emerge as the next possible permanent manager at Celtic.
Due to the poor performances and results, Lennon could have realistically been out the door at the very start of the year. This has led to the football world throwing out potential replacements for quite a while now.
So, let’s add to that speculation and throw out five possible names we here at the Big Kick Off could see as Celtic manager ahead of the 2021/22 SPL campaign.
5. Henrik Larsson
Bit of an outsider to start us off today.
Celtic find themselves at somewhat of a crossroads.
For the first time in almost a decade, Rangers are back as serious contenders, and the SPL isn’t a one horse race anymore. That isn’t to discredit their fantastic nine consecutive titles from 2011 until 2020.
Besides the manager, Celtic fans should expect to see plenty of incoming and outgoing players during the summer months.
It’s a strange time for Celtic to be in, you could even call it a time for transition.
Of course, they’ll be fully expected to strongly challenge for the title next season. However, they must go on a major recruitment drive during the off-season. Nobody is sure how that Celtic team will look come next season.
They need a complete re-shuffle at the back and lot of the recent recruits just haven’t been up to scratch.
So, it could be time to go for a complete revamp on the touchline too and not just bring in another recycled manager that’s been doing the rounds in England and Scotland.
That brings us to Henrik Larsson. The Swedish international is adored by the green half of Glasgow.
He’s currently Ronald Koeman’s assistant at Barcelona, but an offer from Celtic could be just thing to pique his interest.
While he is still relatively new in his managerial journey, he could be the man to instil confidence back into Celtic after a horrid season.
4. Steve Clarke
Steve Clarke is finding some real success as the manager of the Scottish national team.
He has guided the Scots to their first major tournament since 1998 after qualifying for the delayed Euro 2020 tournament this summer.
This momentum could be carried over if Clarke is interested in returning to club management.
While it may not be the most exciting name for Celtic fans, his recent record with Scotland surely makes him a strong front-runner.
His style of play isn’t the most entertaining to watch. Clarke’s teams are usually set up to be organised and hard to break down. Something that won’t be to the liking of some Celtic fans.
Saying that, this is a man that knows the league and has found success in it.
Clarke was manager at Kilmarnock for two years.
During that time, he was named SFWA Manger of the Year twice and SPFL Manger of the Year after his last season of 2018/19. A season that Kilmarnock finished third.
Perhaps, not the most exciting, but sensible.
3. John Kennedy
If you want to be sensible, giving John Kennedy to job on a permanent basis could be the way to go.
He has been at the club for most of his professional career. Kennedy is a product of Celtic’s youth system and made his debut for the club during the 1999/00 season.
Ultimately, it was a career riddled with injury and Kennedy was forced to retire at the tender age of 26.
He has been with the club ever since. Acting as first team scout and working with the U19’s and reserve squad after earning his coaching qualifications.
John Kennedy is a man that knows the club, knows what’s expected of them and the standard they need to be reaching.
The experience isn’t there, but you could say the same about Steven Gerrard before he took over at Rangers.
This could all depend on how Kennedy gets on during his caretaker manager spell. He won his first outing and if he can bag himself some big wins, it might be difficult to not offer him the permanent role.
2. Paul Lambert
This man is currently the favourite to take over at Celtic according to most bookmakers.
Paul Lambert recently left his post at Ipswich Town after some disagreements with the club’s chairman.
The timing of this was very peculiar. Ipswich were seemingly turning their form around.
Many fans are speculating that he did this to intis his former club Celtic to make an approach for him.
While Lambert is experienced, he wouldn’t be overly successful as a manager in terms of silverware.
Celtic fans have taken to social media to express their displeasure with Lambert as a possible contender for the job. Somewhat understandable.
The appointment of Lambert may be somewhat of a step back. Like Steve Clarke, his approach to the game isn’t the most glamorous.
While Celtic fans may have to lower their expectations when it comes to a new manager. After all, they’re facing another season without Champions League money and an empty stadium for the next while. Getting in Paul Lambert just won’t be enough to excite the masses.
1. Eddie Howe
Now, here’s somebody that could get Celtic fans feeling positive for the future.
He proved at Bournemouth he can play an exciting brand of football at the highest level. While he did see his side get relegated at the end of the 2019/20 Premier League season, things just seemed to become stale at the club.
Howe is also still very young with plenty of managerial years ahead of him. Don’t let the youth fool you, he has well over ten years’ experience under his belt.
While big names like Rafa Benitez are being linked with the role, someone like Eddie Howe would be far more realistic.
However, he would have enough of a wow factor about him to capture the attention of disillusion fans before the start of the 2021/22 SPL season.
Some big decisions will have to be made at Celtic throughout the off season, on and off the field.
This campaign is all but over for Celtic. Now is the time to be appropriately planning for next season.
Appointing Eddie Howe as the permanent manager would be one massive step in the right direction.