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The story of a difficult season for Neil Lennon

The former Celtic midfielder has had a rough ride this season.

Neil Lennon’s second spell in charge of Celtic is over after a tumultuous campaign.

Lennon led Celtic to five consecutive domestic trophies after succeeding Brendan Rodgers but the quest for a record 10th title in a row fell apart in dramatic circumstances.

Here is the story of a season of setbacks.

Leigh Griffiths let-down

Leigh Griffiths struggled for fitness early in the season
Leigh Griffiths struggled for fitness early in the season (Jane Barlow/PA)

The striker was left behind as Celtic went to France on a pre-season trip in July after returning “out of condition and overweight” following the lockdown, according to Lennon. Griffiths subsequently suffered a calf injury and did not play until October, and has still only started eight matches. With summer signing Albian Ajeti only scoring once since September, Lennon has lacked support for main goal threat Odsonne Edouard.

Fraser Forster rejection

Celtic were hopeful of getting the goalkeeper back on loan for another season but Forster decided to stay with Southampton. The Hoops instead signed Vasilis Barkas but the Greece international has struggled to live up to the £4.5million fee and has been displaced at different times by Scott Bain and Conor Hazard.

Boli Bolingoli jolly

Boli Bolingoli
Boli Bolingoli arrives at Kilmarnock with his Spanish trip still a secret (Jeff Holmes/PA)

The left-back sparked the postponement of two games and put Scottish football at risk of a suspension after playing in a 1-1 draw with Kilmarnock on August 9 while failing to quarantine following a secret flying visit to Spain. The decision left Celtic playing catch-up on Rangers from early August.

Champions League exit

Celtic suffered their third consecutive exit in the Champions League qualifiers when Ferencvaros won 2-1 in the one-off tie at Parkhead. Although Celtic were on an 11-trophy domestic run, Lennon expressed concerns over a “malaise” and claimed some players were hankering after a move and were not committed to the cause.

James Forrest injury

A pre-season ankle injury undermined James Forrest's season
A pre-season ankle injury undermined James Forrest’s season (Jeff Holmes/PA)

The key winger aggravated an ankle injury during Celtic’s Europa League qualifying win over Riga on September 24 and has not played since after undergoing surgery. With Mikey Johnston also out long term, Lennon would lack width and options in the following months.

Covid-19 strikes

Celtic responded to Lennon’s post-Ferencvaros comments by winning eight games on the trot but their season nosedived after their next taste of coronavirus disruption when Edouard, Nir Bitton, Hatem Abd Elhamed and Ryan Christie were all ruled out of the visit of Rangers after issues while on international duty. Celtic failed to get a shot on target as Rangers won 2-0 at Parkhead on October 17.

Defensive fragility

Shane Duffy
Shane Duffy’s dream move turned sour (Andy Newport/PA)

The loan signing of Republic of Ireland centre-back Shane Duffy was lauded as a major coup as the boyhood Celtic fan rejected Premier League interest. But Duffy’s dream move soon turned into a nightmare. The defeat by Rangers, which came after Connor Goldson scored from two balls into the box, was followed by a string of setbacks including a 3-3 draw at Aberdeen and a 2-2 draw with Hibernian, where Celtic’s defensive problems were laid bare. Duffy in particular seemed to suffer from a crisis of confidence but even the return of Christopher Jullien from injury failed to stem the problem initially before the Frenchman suffered a fresh major injury.

European embarrassment

Celtic’s defensive problems were all too evident in the Europa League, where they conceded 19 goals, including eight against Sparta Prague, and finished bottom of their group.

Cup run ends

Neil Lennon
Lennon suffered cup anguish (PA)

Celtic saw their 35-game winning run in domestic cups end with a 2-0 home defeat against a Ross County side that had lost to 10-man Kilmarnock the previous weekend.

Dissent boils over

The cup loss was followed by angry and violent scenes outside Celtic Park as fans called for Lennon’s exit. Barriers were thrown at officers after more than a dozen police vans rushed to Parkhead to deal with the lockdown-breaking protests. Celtic said some players were “shaken” after being targeted by missiles on leaving the ground. There were more protests after a 1-1 league draw against St Johnstone the following weekend with fans chasing the team buses as the players departed.

More derby despair

Celtic were fighting a losing battle after Ibrox defeat
Celtic were fighting a losing battle after Ibrox defeat (Andrew Milligan/PA)

With David Turnbull and Ismaila Soro freshening up the midfield, Celtic went on a six-game winning run, including a shoot-out win over Hearts in last season’s delayed Scottish Cup final. They took confidence into the New Year clash at Ibrox and dominated for an hour. But the form of Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor, Nir Bitton’s red card and Callum McGregor’s own goal consigned them to a 1-0 defeat as the hosts triumphed despite not getting a shot on target.

Dubai debacle

Celtic immediately embarked on a controversial trip to a training camp in the Middle East as Scotland prepared to go into a strict lockdown. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon questioned Celtic’s motives and social-distancing efforts after photos emerged of Lennon and Scott Brown chatting over beers on sun loungers and a group of players watching football on TV in a bar area. The trip backfired when Christopher Jullien tested positive for Covid and 13 more players plus Lennon and his assistant John Kennedy were confined to their homes. An under-strength team subsequently drew against both Hibernian and Livingston.

Lennon hits back

The manager claimed many of the self-isolation orders had been political rather than health-driven decisions as he rounded on his and the club’s critics during an explosive media conference on his return from self-isolation. Chief executive Peter Lawwell had previously apologised for the trip and Celtic carried no mention of Lennon’s comments on their official channels.

More dropped points

Lennon got most of his players back for another game against Livingston but his team were held to a 2-2 draw in the snow and club captain Scott Brown was sent off for swinging an arm at Jaze Kabia five minutes after coming off the bench. The setback left Celtic 20 points adrift of Rangers with two games in hand.

Peter Lawwell departure announced

Peter Lawwell
Peter Lawwell is in his final season (PA)

The club announced on January 29 that their long-serving chief executive would step down in the summer and be replaced by Dominic McKay of the Scottish Rugby Union. Celtic lost at home to St Mirren the following day.

Defeat in Dingwall

The team embarked on a five-match winning run after the Saints defeat but chairman Ian Bankier told fans that the club’s review of Lennon’s performance remained ongoing. And the 1-0 loss against bottom club Ross County on Sunday heralded an end to the review after heightening the prospect of Rangers winning the title at Celtic Park on March 21.

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Olympic medal table header
CountryGold medalSilver MedalBronze MedalT
United StatesUnited States19201352
Olympics flagOlympic Athletes from Russia11151238
Great BritainGreat Britain9101231
Today's Olympic highlights header

Sunday's key events

· The men's golf reaches its conclusion, with plenty of players still in medal contention. Home favourite Hideki Matsuyama is one shot off Xander Schauffele's lead, while Great Britain's Paul Casey is another shot further back and Tommy Fleetwood is also in the mix (11.30pm-8am)

· Great Britain have already made history in the BMX events in Tokyo, something Charlotte Worthington and Declan Brooks will be looking to add to in the women's (2.10am) and men's (3.10am) freestyle finals

· The final day of swimming action begins with the men's 50m freestyle final. Ben Proud could add to a medal-laden Games in the pool for Team GB so far, although he is up against USA's Caeleb Dressel, who is going for his fourth gold in Tokyo (2.30am)
· From sprint to endurance, Great Britain's second medal hope of the day comes through Daniel Jervis in the men's 1500m freestyle final (2.44am)
· Team GB will again be among the heavy favourites for gold in the last swimming event of the Games - the men's 4x100m medley relay final - having won the mixed event in a world record time on Saturday (3.36am)

· Already guaranteed at least a bronze, Pat McCormack takes part in the men's welterweight semi-final against Ireland's Aidan Walsh with a spot in the gold medal final at stake (4.03am)
· Ben Whittaker is also in the semi-finals of the men's light heavyweight and will be looking to continue Team GB's success in the ring (4.51am)

· There will be a surprise on the top of the men's tennis podium after Novak Djokovic missed out on a medal altogether. Alexander Zverev takes on Karen Khachanov in the second match on Centre Court at the Ariake Tennis Park (7am-2pm)

· Alison Young will be going for gold in the women's laser radial medal race (7.33am)

· Team GB's Max Whitlock will look to defend his 2016 Olympic title in the men's pommel horse final (10.41am)

· The men's high jump final includes GB's Tom Gale, although his chances of a medal look bleak (11.10am)
· So often the blue-riband event of the Olympics, the men's 100m final takes place as the world's fastest bid to be crowned Usain Bolt's successor. Three Brits have made it into the semi-finals (11.15am-11.32am), and the final looks wide open after an underwhelming display by favourite Trayvon Bromell on Saturday (1.50pm)

· Great Britain face India in the men's quarter-final (1pm)

> Today's schedule in full
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Scottish Premiership
Pre-Season Friendlies
Trophee des Champions
Taca da Liga
Belgian Pro League
Swiss Super League
Russian Premier League
Ukrainian Premier League
Swedish Allsvenskan
Danish Superliga
Belarusian Premier League
Major League Soccer
Copa Diego Maradona
Uruguayan Primera Division
Liga MX
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