Whoever replaces Neil Lennon as Celtic’s new manager will have a seismic job on their hands.
Given how terribly this campaign has gone, they will need to rip things up and almost start again. Certainly, with Peter Lawwell also departing in the summer, lots of change will be needed in order to take Celtic back to the top.
A plethora of renowned coaches from within the football world have been linked with the vacancy. Whether it’s Frank Lampard or Roberto Martinez, some eye-catching names are regularly being branded about.
Though, one manager who hasn’t been in the discussion too much is Stoke boss Michael O’Neill. On paper, this might not look like an attractive proposition for Hoops supporters but they’d be foolish to ignore him.
Trevor Sinclair recently spoke about his chances of moving to Glasgow and how a man with his CV could be game-changing in Glasgow. He told talkSPORT (24/02 – 10:30am): “I would look at Michael O’Neill. He’s done a fantastic job with the Northern Ireland national team, he’s done a superb job with Stoke City,” he began.
Sinclair concluded: “(O’Neill) is a David Moyes kind of manager. He knows the game inside out, how to run clubs from top to bottom. You need a manager like that to come in and give the club a shake – and I think that’s what is needed.”
Indeed, despite O’Neill’s win rate of just 39% with Stoke, he has revived them, replicating a similar sort of job that he did with the Northern Irish national side.
When he walked into that job, they were in a desperate place. Northern Ireland were very quickly slipping towards their lowest FIFA ranking and in September 2012, were placed 129th. O’Neill, however, used supreme professionalism and tactical acumen to breathe fresh life into not only the team but also the country as a whole.
Just four years later, they were competing at the European Championships in France. They weren’t just there to make up the numbers either. O’Neill had guided his team from being one of the worst in Europe based on FIFA rankings to reaching the last 16 at the Euros.
Wales knocked them out, but despite that, O’Neill had brought a country and its fan base together with his pragmatic approach.
In the words of BBC reporter Richard Petrie; “O’Neill’s philosophy of the sum of the parts being more effective than individual star performers built a sense of togetherness and collective team spirit which served a squad with a paucity of Premier League players at its disposal well.”
Petrie continued: “Tactically, his style was pragmatic – always a bespoke game plan in place depending on the opposition – difficult to break down, with pressing and exploiting opportunities to score from set-pieces or on the counter-attack in mind. It was a formation that his squad grew comfortable and familiar with and yielded positive results.”
For a side like Celtic, so in need of being revived, this could be ideal. You only need to look at what he’s done for Stoke too.
The Potters were sitting rock bottom of the English Championship when the 51-year-old took over in September 2019. He subsequently guided them to a finish of 15th last term. This season, meanwhile, they are now sitting in 11th position with an outside chance of reaching the playoffs.
He has engineered successful revivals in two successive jobs now. With that in mind, O’Neill seems like the ideal man for a crisis. Celtic could benefit ten-fold from his arrival at Parkhead.