John Kennedy: Everything Celtic fans need to know about the interim manager

John Kennedy: Everything Celtic fans need to know about the interim manager

In news that should come as a surprise to no-one, Neil Lennon is no longer Celtic manager.

After a season that has sprawled from one disaster to another, the Irish boss has officially resigned. And as the hunt for a new permanent boss commences, the rest of the season has been left to long-term assistant and former player John Kennedy.

The former Scotland cap will state his case to make the job his own, so it may be time to get familiar with the man Celtic fans will be seeing a lot of between now and the summer.

Kennedy challenges Barry Ferguson Kennedy challenges Barry Ferguson
Kennedy challenges Barry Ferguson | Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Not to be confused with the Northern Irish winger of the same name who played for Celtic in the 1960s, Kennedy’s short-lived playing career came at centre-back.

He promised much after his debut in 1999, aged just 16, but he soon suffered from a succession of knee injuries that limited him to less than 50 senior appearances.

At the height of his powers he was capped for Scotland in 2004, but he eventually retired after a loan spell at Norwich in 2009, aged just 26.

He is also the grandson of ex-Celtic and Man Utd forward Jimmy Delaney. So that’s nice.

Unless anyone with an intimate knowledge of the Celtic backroom team is prepared to correct me, it’s hard to find anyone who has served the club longer than Kennedy.

While it’s difficult to find a consensus on exactly when he joined Celtic as a player, he signed his first professional deal in 1999, aged just 16.

There were high hopes for him that weren’t realised due to a serious knee injury, and after he was forced to retire, he immediately joined the backroom team.

He served as a scout while he did his coaching badges, and has since worked under Lennon, Ronny Deila, Brendan Rodgers, and Lennon again.

It means he has been at Celtic for at least 22 years – far longer even than the ever-present Scott Brown.

The early discourse over the Celtic manager position suggests Kennedy is the clear favourite, but while he is very much one of the contenders to replace Lennon, it’s worth noting that he is only the bookies’ favourite because of a peculiar bookmakers’ rule.

A permanent manager is defined as any manager who is appointed on a permanent basis or takes charge of ten or more matches.

Kennedy has the Celtic job until at least the end of the season, meaning he will have at least eight Premiership games under his belt.

All he would need to do to technically qualify as a permanent boss, then, is get past Falkirk in the Scottish Cup round of 32. That explains why bookies are being cautious.

He might not be, actually, but that’s the rumour…and the nickname he goes by according to various Celtic fan sites.

Someone also said it in the replies to a Celtic tweet once, so it must be true.

When asked recently about his chances of landing the job permanently, Kennedy chose is words carefully, saying his focus is on the here and now.

He said earlier this week: “I can park my own ambition aside and do the right thing day to day to help the club move forward.”

What is that ambition, though, John?

Speaking back in 2019, though, he went into a little bit more detail.

“When I decide to become a manager, I’ll have to go and earn my stripes and prove that I can be my own man,” he said then. “But that [managing Celtic] is the ultimate goal.

“Ultimately, if I want to step up and be a manager myself then I’ll need to go and earn the right to manage a terrific club like this.”

When Brendan Rodgers left Celtic for Leicester in February 2019, he wanted to take his No.2 with him.

Rodgers convinced Chris Davies and Kolo Toure to swap Glasgow for the English Midlands, but Kennedy?

“There wasn’t a moment when I might have gone.

“I’d a great relationship with Brendan. The first I spoke with him about this was Monday morning. He said he was probably going to speak with Leicester and to get ready to take the team.

“Peter Lawwell (chairman) arrived at the training ground in the afternoon, discussed the possible plans and told me that I was wanted here, to prepare the team and if there was going to be an appointment that I’d be assistant manager.

“To leave would be very difficult for me. This is another great opportunity for me to move up and progress and hopefully finish the job that’s been started.”

It’s public record that it was left to him to break the news of Rodgers’ departure to the players, but to this day he maintains he has no bitterness towards the former boss. His focus, unsurprisingly, is on Celtic.

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