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Bolton Wanderers Manager Search: Neil Lennon

Wanderers are reportedly on the verge of appointing a new manager - so what do we know about him?

Richard Heathcote

Bolton Wanderers are believed to be on the brink of appointing a new manager, with Neil Lennon installed the new favourite to land the Bolton job after jumping to the top of chairman Phil Gartside's shortlist.

The former Celtic manager has been in talks with Wanderers and looks set to beat off (hehe) a number of candidates, including Chris Hughton, Malky Mackay and Tony Mowbray to the biggest job in world football.

So what do we know about Lennon?

He has been out of work since leaving Celtic in May after a successful four-year spell which brought about three successive league titles, two Scottish Cups and qualification for the last 16 of the Champions League including a famous 2-1 victory against Barcelona.

Papers have reported that Lennon was due to travel to Saudi Arabia this week for talks on the vacant Al-Ittihad post but visa/sunburn problems meant he and his backroom staff were unable to travel to Jeddah. Whilst a remuneration package of over £2million per year was attractive, Lennon had reservations at moving to the Middle East in any event in terms of his career development.

The challenge of firstly securing the Trotters' place in the Championship before building for promotion is far more appealing and there's every chance he could take the team for the first time at Birmingham City next week.

43 year old Lennon was born in born in Lurgan, County Armagh, and joined Manchester City as a trainee in 1987. He made one first team appearance during his time in Manchester before signing for Dario Gradi and Crewe Alexandra on in August 1990 where he soon became an established member of the side. His form over the coming seasons saw him make his debut for Northern Ireland in 1994 becoming the first Crewe Alexandra player in 60 years to win a full international cap.

He left Crewe in 1996, joining Leicester City for £750,000, winning promotion to the Premier League at the end of his first season. Success followed a year after when Leicester defeated Middlesbrough in a replayed League Cup Final.

After Leicester boss Martin O'Neill became the new manager of Celtic in 2000, he made several attempts to sign Lennon. Finally after months of negotiations with Leicester City, the player joined Celtic for £5.75m. His first season in Scotland saw Celtic sweep a domestic treble, winning the Scottish Premier League, Scottish Cup and Scottish League Cup. The next four seasons at Celtic saw Lennon win a further two league championships and two Scottish Cups. He was also an integral part of the Celtic side that reached the UEFA Cup Final in 2003, losing 2-3 to Porto after extra time.

The midfielder did leave Celtic to joined Nottingham Forest in 2007, although only made 18 appearances before signing for Wycombe Wanderers. He would leave that club three months later in order to take up a coaching role with Celtic.

Whilst coaching, he was linked with the vacant manager's job at Hibernian after the resignation of John Collins, but missed out when the job was given to ex-Wanderers striker Mixu Paatelainen.

Following Tony Mowbray's departure from Celtic in March 2010, Lennon was immediately appointed caretaker manager for the remainder of the 2009-10 season. He brought him former Celtic team-mate Johan Mjällby as his assistant with another ex-Wanderer in Alan Thompson on staff. Celtic won all of their remaining league games under Lennon, including wins over Kilmarnock, Hibernian, and rivals Rangers.

This success meant that he was appointed manager of Celtic on a full-time basis in June 2010.

Lennon led Celtic to the final of the League Cup in March 2011, but they lost 2-1 to Rangers after extra time. They remained in contention for the SPL title until the final day of the 2010-11 season, when they won 4-0 at home to Motherwell, but finished a point behind Rangers. He won his first silverware as a manager when Celtic beat Motherwell 3-0 in the Scottish Cup Final a week later showing great leadership and engendering a fantastic spirit in the squad and club.

Under his charge, the club went on to win the 2011-12 Scottish Premier League and Lennon was made SFWA Manager of the Year. Lennon then guided Celtic through two qualification rounds to reach the group stage of the 2012-13 UEFA Champions League, where Celtic beat a full-strength Barcelona side including star names such as Neymar, Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta. That season also saw the club retain the Premier League title which they combined with a Scottish Cup Final win which displayed his abilities on a wider stage.

The following League campaign was a counter to a poor season in Europe. Celtic under Lennon went undefeated until February and losing only twice in all over the course of the season, in which they scored 102 goals on the way to their third successive League title. Despite this continued success, that May saw Lennon announce his departure from the club as he sought new challenges showing an ambition to succeed outside of his comfort zone.

He has led an eventful life both on and off the pitch, with notable events including being assaulted in the West End of Glasgow, though his attackers were subsequently charged, convicted and jailed for two years apiece. In January 2011, the Royal Mail intercepted packages containing bullets addressed to Lennon and Celtic and Northern Ireland players Niall McGinn and Paddy McCourt, whilst the following March saw a parcel bomb addressed to him being discovered in a mail depot.

Lennon has also been quite open in speaking about having suffered from depression.

Should he be appointed as the new Wanderers manager we would undoubtedly be employing a man of great ambition and one with fire in his belly. To remain in a job which brought him stresses including physical attacks for such a long period also shows his strength of character and ability to overcome obstacles.

His work in transforming unknowns such as Fraser Forster, Victor Wanyama and Gary Hooper into £10m players deserves acclaim. His transfer record in four years at Celtic is impressive. Bargains such as Kris Commons, Biram Kayal and Emilio Izaguirre have come from relative obscurity to being sought-after international footballers.

According to Wikipedia, during his time at Celtic,  Lennon spent £28.41m on players, whilst bringing in £50.04m in sales. The most he spent on a single player was £2.64m on Virgil van Dijk who himself has been linked with a big-money move to the Premier League - the most he sold a player for was £12.76m from Southampton for Wanyama who was brought in for a mere £900,000 move to Celtic from Beerschot AC.

Some point to a combustible character as a negative, indeed his first season as a manager showed a confrontational style which led to two four-match bans. What looked like a childish temper was clearly a plan to motivate his players in contrast to what Lennon saw as the overly passive demeanour of his predecessor and rival for the Bolton job, Tony Mowbray.

As his time as Celtic boss wore on, Lennon changed his approach and thought about the greater consequences of being unable to control matters from the pitch side.

Some people think he's more trouble than he's worth - I think he's exactly what we need.