Celtic

Top 5 Candidates to Replace Neil Lennon as Celtic Manager

Sean MartinContributor IMay 26, 2014

Top 5 Candidates to Replace Neil Lennon as Celtic Manager

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    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    On Thursday, Neil Lennon announced his decision to leave Celtic after four years in charge.

    Rumours of who would replace the 42-year-old started in earnest, with club legend Henrik Larsson the early front-runner.

    Historically, the Scottish champions tend to appoint a first-team manager who has previously played for the club. Eleven of the club's 17 full-time bosses (in addition to two caretaker managers) had donned the Hoops during their playing careers.

    Whoever replaces Lennon will likely have a much easier time of it off the field than the Irishman, who was subjected to bomb threats and attacked at pitchside during a match.

    However, his successor will be taking over from a man who won three league titles in a row, lifted two Scottish Cups and steered the team to the last 16 of the Champions League in 2012-13. 

    Here, we take a look at some of the figures being talked about for the Celtic job, including the top five most likely candidates.

Outsiders

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    Tony Marshall/Getty Images

    Outside the main five candidates, several big names have been linked with the Celtic job.

    Continuing the trend of former players, ex-Celts Paolo Di Canio, Paul Lambert and Roy Keane are considered to be in the running.

    Di Canio recently declared his interest in the role, while Lambert remains in the Aston Villa manager's chair despite recent speculation over a departure. Keane, meanwhile, has distanced himself from the job in favour of remaining as assistant to Martin O'Neill with the Republic of Ireland. 

    Rather surprisingly, O'Neill, who has said he would not stand in Keane's way should an offer come in, is also in the running.

    Other previous Celtic managers Tony Mowbray and Gordon Strachan, as well as recently departed assistant Johan Mjallby, have been mentioned by Paddy Power.

    It is unlikely any would consider a return, however, with O'Neill and Strachan already having achieved everything possible in Scotland. Both are currently performing well as national team managers of Ireland and Scotland, respectively.

    Mjallby, meanwhile, has only just left the club following a four-year spell as assistant to Lennon. As for Mowbray, the disaster of his previous appointment still rankles the majority of Celtic fans.

    The biggest names without any tangible connection to the club are ex-Barcelona youth team and Brighton manager Oscar GarciaChelsea legend Gianfranco Zola and former Croatia manager Slaven Bilic, who previously declared his interest before Lennon's appointment four years ago.

Henrik Larsson

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    Stu Forster/Getty Images

    Teams managed: Landskrona BoIS (2009-12), Falkenbergs FF (2014-present)

    The Celtic legend was the early favourite to replace Lennon, though odds on him have lengthened significantly since.

    At 42, the Swede is at an ideal age to move abroad. He would undoubtedly be given plenty of time and the overwhelming support of the fans, yet questions over his readiness still present themselves.

    That said, he has already taken control of two clubs in his homelandgiving him significantly more experience than Lennon had when he took the reins in 2010.

    Ever the classy operator, Larsson has not betrayed his current employers by declaring his interest in the job. In fact, his odds have continued to lengthen after he told the Daily Record that although he'd love to be Celtic boss one day, it may be too soon.

Jackie McNamara

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    Paul Thomas/Getty Images

    Team managed: Partick Thistle (2011-13), Dundee United (2013-present)

    Despite losing the Scottish Cup final, Jackie McNamara won plenty of plaudits for the offensive attitude of his Dundee United side this season.

    Were he to be Celtic's next manager, transferring that attacking philosophy to Parkheadwhere he plied his trade as a versatile defender for over a decadewould endear him even further to the fans.

    Joining his old club seems a logical progression after good work at Thistle and United, but bigger and more experienced names in the running may well count against him at this stage of his career.

David Moyes

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    Jan Kruger/Getty Images

    Teams managed: Preston North End (1998-2002), Everton (2002-13), Manchester United (2013-14)

    Taking the Celtic job could go one of two ways for David Moyes. 

    It could win him a return to the English Premier League, where he undoubtedly wants to be again; or it could stagnate his career further (no Celtic boss has ever left the job directly for an elite English club).

    Despite a disappointing season as Manchester United boss, Moyes enjoys a good reputation for his 11 years with Everton.

    However, he may prefer to bide his time for a job in the English Premier League than head back to Glasgow to manage the first senior club he played for.

Malky Mackay

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    Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

    Teams managed: Watford (2008-11), Cardiff (2011-13)

    At Cardiff, Malky Mackay was sacked despite enjoying the overwhelming support of the fans.

    He proved his credentials in the English Championship, and will no doubt still feel he has something to prove in the Premier League.

    The 42-year-old's former club Norwich City had looked a likely destination despite their relegation earlier this month.

    However, following the Canaries' decision to appoint Neil Adams on a full-time deal, the Celtic job could tempt the former Hoops defender back home to Scotland.

Owen Coyle

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    SCOTT HEPPELL/Associated Press

    Teams managed: Falkirk (2003), St Johnstone (2005-07), Burnley (2007-10), Bolton (2010-12), Wigan (2013)

    Of the top five candidates, Owen Coyle is the only one never to have played for Celtic.

    Perennially linked with the job over much of the last decade, Coyle turned the job down back in 2010 to concentrate on cracking the English Premier League. He has recently admitted his interest in taking the position this summer.

    Like McNamara, he has developed a reputation for allowing his teams to express themselves going forwardsomething the Parkhead faithful would support in their droves.

    Howevever, four years on from declining the job, his stock has fallen markedly after disappointing spells with Bolton and Wigan.

    Nevertheless, the former St Johnstone boss remains the odds-on favourite to take over Lennon's position.

    Twitter: @smarti51

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