The big story breaking in football today surrounds the future of Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers.
Rodgers, 46, has completely rebuilt his reputation at Celtic having been somewhat mocked in spells at Liverpool. With an unbeaten first season and two domestic trebles, Rodgers has dominated Scottish football.
Celtic are closing in on another league title this season, and potentially a third treble as Rodgers nears the now-famous 1o-in-a-row mark. As a boyhood Celtic fans, that’s pretty much a dream for the Northern Irishman.
However, he’s about to trade all that in for a move back to England. Celtic have today confirmed that Rodgers has been given permission to speak to Leicester City about succeeding Claude Puel, who was sacked on Sunday after a 4-1 home defeat to Crystal Palace.
Celtic have been left reeling by the news, as few would have expected Rodgers to bolt before the end of the season. Everything is set up for a third straight treble, and yet he’s leaving for a mid-table Premier League side.
BBC Sport report that Neil Lennon will return to Celtic as interim boss, giving the Bhoys time to find a long-term successor. Kilmarnock’s Steve Clarke and ex-Preston boss David Moyes are likely to be in the mix, but what about Alex Neil?
North End boss Alex Neil is undoubtedly one of the top Scottish managers around right now. He’s even previously told The Scottish Sun he thinks he’d succeed at an Old Firm club.
The 37-year-old’s approach at Preston does also bear similarities to Rodgers at Celtic. He has developed young players superbly in an attractive brand of football, predominantly playing a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3/4-1-4-1 system. It’s also easy to draw comparisons between the – admittedly aggressive – heartbeats of the two sides; Scott Brown and Ben Pearson.
Yet still, it would be a surprise to see Neil in the mix for the job. He’s a quality young manager, but it’s hard to see Celtic taking a gamble on a Preston manager to succeed Rodgers – especially with Rangers now making strides under Steven Gerrard.
The end to his time at Norwich would certainly count against him, even though he has done a miraculous job with North End. Some may also wonder whether he’s too young for such a huge job, with his best work arguably coming with Hamilton Academical and now Preston; much smaller clubs than Celtic.
If Celtic appoint Lennon until the summer, then the search for a permanent boss could drag on for months. The longer it takes Celtic to find a new boss, the more there will be lingering concerns that Neil enters the frame at Parkhead.
For now, we’re saying fans shouldn’t be too concerned about Neil leaving, especially having made it clear how much he’s loving life at Deepdale.
AN: “I am enjoying my work here as much as I have ever enjoyed working at any club. I couldn’t have handpicked a club better suited to me, I think we all push in the same direction and that’s very rare nowadays.” #pnefc
— Preston North End FC (@pnefc) February 7, 2019
Yet as a promising young Scottish manager whose style would fit as a succession to Rodgers, it’s something to keep in mind. It goes without saying that he all want Neil to stay at Deepdale for years to come, but his exploits are bound to attract interest soon, and Celtic – a club Neil grew up just nine miles from – are a club to keep an eye on.