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Ranking the five favourites to be Celtic’s next manager

Neil Lennon’s position as Celtic manager appears increasingly precarious, the club’s disappointing performances this season raising the pressure on the under-fire Irishman.

Celtic headed into the campaign seeking a historic 10th league title in succession but have found themselves a huge way adrift of arch-rivals Rangers, the latter having opened up an 18-point advantage at the summit with a first title in a decade seemingly heading to Ibrox.

The Scottish champions responded to concerns from the club’s fanbase in a statement recently, insisting no ‘hasty decisions’ will be made despite the disappointment of their league campaign.

Celtic’s struggles indicate the end may be near for Lennon, however, and we’ve decided to look at the candidates to replace him should the axe fall.

Looking at how many betting exchanges exist is an area that continues to grow, with stakes on the
managerial merry-go-round always popular with punters. So for those of you who like to follow the
odds, here are the five favourites to become Celtic’s next permanent manager:

Eddie Howe – 15/2

Eddie Howe has been without a club since calling time on his Bournemouth reign following the club’s relegation from the Premier League last season, the end of a fairytale venture that saw him take the Cherries from English football’s fourth tier to the top flight over two spells in charge.

Howe’s feats are impressive and he kept Bournemouth in the Premier League for five seasons before last season’s relegation, with the club and manager in need of fresh impetus following 458 games in charge.

The 43-year-old has been routinely linked with Celtic in recent months and whilst he has no success in terms of winning major silverware, his brand of football and ability to transform Bournemouth’s fortunes have won him admirers.

After spending time away from the game this season Howe could be ready to return at Celtic Park, the Scottish side a club that can provide him with a platform to win silverware and compete in Europe.

Frank Lampard – 7/1

Frank Lampard’s dream return to Chelsea was ended by Roman Abramovich earlier this season, a failure to show tangible signs of progress – following last summer’s huge spending – leading to the sacking of the club legend.

Lampard was undoubtedly fast-tracked into the position given his status at Stamford Bridge and Chelsea’s transfer-ban at that time, the job too much too soon for a manager whose previous experience consisted of a single campaign at Derby County.

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The 42-year-old could take inspiration from the fortunes of Brendan Rodgers who similarly saw himself sacked after taking a position at one of the Premier League’s big six, rebuilding his reputation at Celtic before returning to English football to enjoy success with Leicester.

Lampard heading north of the border would also provide the intriguing sub-plot of the former Chelsea midfielder against ex-England teammate and Rangers manager Steven Gerrard, a chance to reignite a new debate between the two Premier League icons after years of tedious comparisons.

John Kennedy – 6/1

Celtic’s current assistant manager is the third favourite to replace Lennon, with the 37-year-old highly-rated at Parkhead after working his way through the club’s coaching ranks since retiring from the game aged just 26.

Kennedy has worked under a succession of managers including both Ronny Deila and Brendan Rodgers, the latter having reportedly been keen to take the young coach with him when leaving Celtic for Leicester in 2019.

Kennedy also turned down an opportunity at Hibernian to remain with the Scottish champions and his decision to remain with Celtic could be in the hope of receiving his first senior role in management.

His appointment would represent a risk, however, given his lack of senior experience and Celtic may choose a safer option given the gap to bridge to runaway leaders Rangers.

Steve Clarke – 11/10

Steve Clarke’s reputation has soared since returning to Scottish football, taking charge of boyhood side Kilmarnock and leading the club to both Europe and a record points total to be named as the SFWA Manager of the Year in back-to-back seasons in 2017 and 2018.

Clarke was appointed as manager of the Scotland national side in 2019 and has continued to enhance his status, leading the Tartan Army to a first major tournament in more than two decades with qualification for this summer’s European Championships.

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Clarke will take charge of Scotland during the summer but could be tempted by a return to club football following the conclusion of the tournament, Celtic having stated they are prepared to be patient before making any decisions on their direction.

The opportunity to compete for silverware and in Europe will appeal to a manager who has shown he can secure results both domestically and abroad in recent years.

Rafael Benitez – 11/10

Joint-favourite alongside Clarke is Rafael Benitez, the former Liverpool and Newcastle manager having abruptly left his position at Chinese Super League side Dalian Pro last month, citing the Covid-19 pandemic and family reasons were behind his decision.

There are few managers as high-calibre and available, Benitez amongst the most successful coaches of his era having won the Champions League, two Europa League trophies and two league titles amongst his collection of honours.

Benitez has retained a home on Merseyside and the prospect of a return to Britain could appeal, whilst Celtic would provide the 60-year-old with an opportunity to add to his burgeoning silverware cabinet.

Benitez formed strong relationships with the fans of both Liverpool and Newcastle and there are similarities between a passionate Glaswegian fanbase and those cities, whilst the luring of the Spaniard to Scotland would be a huge statement of intent.

Any potential arrival could also open up the fascinating narrative of Benitez pitting his wits against his former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard with the duo taking charge either side of an intense Glasgow rivalry.

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