Lennon ready for fresh challenge at Bolton

New Bolton boss Neil Lennon
New Bolton boss Neil Lennon

Neil Lennon won three top-flight titles in four hugely successful years with Celtic, but acknowledges the perceptions of Scottish football may have prevented him from getting a bigger job south of the border.

The Northern Irishman walked away from the Glasgow giants in May after clinching three league championships in a row, citing the need for a fresh challenge, and he ended his mini hiatus when he was appointed Bolton’s new boss on Sunday.

Although a string of Barclays Premier League positions have become available in the intervening period, Lennon remained unemployed despite his decorated spell in Scotland, where he also guided Celtic to the last 16 of the Champions League in 2013 on the back of a memorable triumph over Barcelona.

The 43-year-old now takes over a team bottom of the Sky Bet Championship and follows both Gordon Strachan and Tony Mowbray in joining a club in the second tier of English football immediately after managing Celtic.

“Gordon Strachan did the same thing - he went to Middlesbrough, that was his next job,” Lennon stated.

“You look at the Premier League now - you have got Brendan (Rodgers), Roberto (Martinez), Paul Lambert, Steve Bruce, the list is endless really of managers who have managed in the Championship.

“You probably have to earn your spurs to get into the Premier League. Sometimes it’s not as easy as walking straight into a Premier League job; it’s a pretty exclusive band.

“Maybe it’s (Scottish football) looked down upon a little bit but we did do some great things in the Champions League - as did Gordon as well.

“I’m very happy with the decision I’ve made; I think they’re good football people here.”

Lennon certainly had a baptism of fire in his maiden managerial job at Celtic, where he experienced a series of controversial incidents.

During an eventful 2011, he was given a four-match touchline ban following a altercation with Rangers’ then assistant Ally McCoist, was attacked on the touchline by a Hearts supporter and had a parcel bomb addressed to him intercepted by Royal Mail staff.

Lennon is expecting a much quieter life in Bolton but knows that his time learning the ropes in Scotland will have prepared him for almost anything which comes his way.

“You never know what’s around the corner but it was a very intense environment in Glasgow, whether it be Celtic or the manager of Rangers, the Glasgow derbies, the rivalry and you miss the edge a wee bit,” he added.

“There are plenty of rivalries here, Blackburn and Wigan are up the road. The north west is a hot bed of football, maybe not as intense as Glasgow, but I feel as though four years can prepare you for most things lying ahead.”

Lennon has no regrets over vacating the reigns at Celtic, who have struggled to continue his success under Ronny Deila and currently lie in sixth, six points off the summit.

“I made the decision and I’m comfortable with it,” Lennon said.

“I wish the club every success. I had a great four years with Peter (Lawwell, Celtic chief executive). It was a great education for me as a young manager to work with Peter; it went really well.

“Going into the job, if you had told me how the four years would have ended up I would never have believed you.

“I just felt for my own peace of mind and career going forward that I needed to do something else.”