During his playing career he represented English clubs Manchester City, Crewe Alexandra and Leicester City. Lennon moved to Scottish club Celtic in 2000, where he made over 200 appearances and was appointed captain in 2005. Before retiring as a player, he returned to England to represent Nottingham Forest and Wycombe Wanderers. Lennon made 40 appearances for Northern Ireland in nine years, scoring two goals.
Lennon was appointed manager of Celtic in March 2010, initially in a caretaker capacity after the departure of Tony Mowbray. Lennon enjoyed significant success as Celtic manager, winning three Scottish league championships, two Scottish Cups and qualifying for the group stage of the Champions League twice, before leaving the club in May 2014. After an unsuccessful spell with Bolton Wanderers, where the club suffered financial problems, Lennon returned to Scottish football in 2016 with Hibernian. He led them to a promotion in his first season as head coach.
Lennon was born in Lurgan, County Armagh and attended St Michael's Grammar School in the town. As a youngster he played gaelic football for the school and was also selected for the Armagh minor team. He grew up supporting Celtic.
He joined Manchester City as a trainee in 1987. He made one first team appearance during his time in Manchester, a league match on 30 April 1988 away against Birmingham City, before signing for Crewe Alexandra on a free transfer in August 1990. Lennon made his debut for Crewe on 18 September 1990 against Reading. Despite missing the whole of season 1991-92 due to a back injury, he became an established member of the side and impressed with his intelligent play and consistent performances. Lennon's form saw him make his debut for Northern Ireland in 1994, and thus became the first Crewe Alexandra player in 60 years to win a full international cap. In 5½ years at Crewe, Lennon made 187 appearances for the club and scored 18 goals.
In February 1996, Lennon signed for Leicester City for a fee of £750,000. In May 1996, Lennon played in the Leicester City side that defeated Crystal Palace 2-1 at Wembley in the Play-off Final to win promotion to the English Premiership. On 16 April 1997, Lennnon picked up his first major winner's medal when Leicester won 1-0 against Middlesbrough in a replayed League Cup Final. He played in a further two League Cup Finals during his time at Filbert Street, losing 0-1 to Tottenham Hotspur in March 1999 but winning 2-1 against Tranmere Rovers in February 2000.
An on-field incident during a league match in 1998 against Newcastle United between Lennon and Alan Shearer resulted in the England international being charged with misconduct by the FA, Television footage showed Shearer appearing to intentionally kick Lennon in the head following a challenge. The referee of the game took no action against Shearer. Shearer apologised afterwards, but denied that the contact with Lennon was deliberate, and Lennon later gave evidence in Shearer's defence at the FA hearing which subsequently cleared the Newcastle and England striker of all charges.
After Martin O'Neill became the new manager of Celtic in June 2000, he made several attempts to sign Lennon. Finally after months of protracted negotiations with Leicester City, on 6 December 2000 Lennon joined the club he supported as a boy for a fee of £5.75 million. That season saw Lennon pick-up three winner's medals as Celtic swept to 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.
When Gordon Strachan took over from Martin O'Neill as Celtic manager in the summer of 2005, he made Lennon Celtic captain. In January 2006 when his former club Leicester City sacked Craig Levein, Lennon was linked with a return to the Midlands side in a player-manager role. He went on record saying he was flattered but wanted to captain Celtic to the Scottish Premier League title.
Although he was also linked with a move to Crystal Palace in a player-manager role in the summer of 2006, on 23 June 2006, Celtic announced he had signed a new one-year contract. Sunderland manager Roy Keane made an attempt to sign Lennon prior to the closure of the August 2006 transfer window, but his approach for the player was rejected by Celtic. On 25 April 2007, Lennon announced he would be leaving Celtic, and in his last game for the club on 26 May 2007, he captained the team to victory in the Scottish Cup Final against Dunfermline Athletic. Celtic's 1–0 win clinched the League and Cup Double.
Lennon joined Nottingham Forest on a one-year contract with an option for a second year on 12 June 2007. He made his debut captaining the side in a 0–0 draw at home to Bournemouth. He missed a week's training with Forest in November 2007, because of family reasons in Scotland, and lost his place in the team as a consequence.
Lennon made his international debut for Northern Ireland on 11 June 1994 when he come on as a substitute in a friendly against Mexico in Miami. He had to wait nearly a year for his next cap when he played against Chile in another friendly. Lennon made his first competitive appearance three months later on 3 September 1995 in a European Championship qualifier away against Portugal. After that, Lennon became a fixture in the international side although Northern Ireland were unsuccessful in their attempts to qualify for the finals of major tournaments.
Lennon decided to retire from international football in August 2002 upon receiving a death threat before a Northern Ireland match against Cyprus. The threats came after his alleged claim that he wanted to play for a team representing a United Ireland. The threat was allegedly made by the Loyalist Volunteer Force, although the organisation later denied this.
Scores and results list Northern Ireland's goal tally first
|1||5 October 1996||Belfast, Northern Ireland||Armenia||1–0||1–1||1998 World Cup qualification|
|2||18 October 1998||Belfast, Northern Ireland||Moldova||2–2||2–2||Euro 2000 qualification|
Management and coaching
Lennon was linked with the vacant manager's job at Hibernian after the resignation of John Collins, but the job was given to Mixu Paatelainen. Lennon's first coaching appointment was as first team coach with Celtic in 2008. After the appointment of Tony Mowbray as Celtic manager, Lennon took charge of the Celtic reserve team.
Following Mowbray's departure from Celtic on 25 March 2010, Lennon was appointed caretaker manager for the remainder of the 2009–10 season. He appointed former teammate Johan Mjällby as his assistant. Celtic won all of their remaining league games under Lennon, including wins over Kilmarnock, Hibernian, and Rangers, but lost 2–0 to First Division side Ross County in the semi-final of the Scottish Cup. In the aftermath of that defeat, Lennon spoke frankly about the Celtic players and their performances over the course of the season. He said that they had lacked "hunger and desire" and that whether he was installed as manager or not, he would be recommending a significant clear-out of players to the board.
Lennon was appointed manager of Celtic on a full-time basis on 9 June 2010. He retained Mjällby as his assistant, as well as former Celtic teammate Alan Thompson and former Leicester City teammate Garry Parker as first-team coaches
He made considerable changes to the Celtic team for the 2010-11 season. He sold Aiden McGeady for a then Scottish record £9.5 million along with captain Stephen McManus and goalkeeper Artur Boruc. 13 other players also left the club, this gave Lennon enough funds to re-build for the new season. Lennon then went on to sign several talented, young, cheap, relatively unknown players, from smaller leagues around the world; striker Gary Hooper arrived from English side Scunthorpe, Israeli international Beram Kayal was signed, and Honduran left-back Emilio Izaguirre also signed on. Lennon also signed several experienced players on free transfers. Charlie Mulgrew, Joe Ledley, and Daniel Majstorović all went into the first team. In addition to these Lennon also signed five other players, including Fraser Forster on loan from Newcastle who became first choice 'keeper and helped set a new SPL record for most clean sheets.
On 28 July, in his first competitive game as full-time manager, Celtic lost 3–0 away to Braga in the UEFA Champions League. Celtic won their first eight league matches under Lennon, although controversy erupted in their 2–1 win away at Dundee United on 17 October 2010. Celtic were awarded a penalty kick in the second half, but the decision was then rescinded by referee Dougie McDonald. McDonald explained after the match that he over-ruled the penalty award on the advice of the assistant referee. Lennon reluctantly accepted McDonald's explanation, commenting "I suppose you have to put it down to another honest mistake by the referee." It was, however, later revealed that McDonald had lied in his explanation over the penalty award and the referee subsequently resigned several weeks later having received a warning from the Scottish Football Association after failing to properly explain his overturning of the penalty award. Further referring controversy ensued the following week when Celtic lost their unbeaten run in the league, losing 3–1 at home against Rangers. The Ibrox club's third goal came as a result of penalty awarded when Rangers' Kirk Broadfoot fell to the ground under a challenge from Celtic's Daniel Majstorović. Broadfoot appeared to have dived, and television footage showed that the referee had his back to the play when the challenge occurred, only turning in time to see Broadfoot fall to the ground. Lennon stated afterwards that he felt the referee "got a couple of decisions wrong", and added regarding the penalty, "I'm not sure that he saw it so I don't know why he's given it. He's got a lot of questions to answer". In November, Lennon led Celtic to a 9–0 win over Aberdeen, a record win in the Scottish Premier League and Aberdeen's heaviest ever defeat. Celtic lost their next game 2–0 away against Hearts, with Celtic's Joe Ledley sent off for the first time in his career for a "strong" challenge on Ian Black. Celtic were later denied a penalty award in the second half, and shortly afterwards Lennon was sent to the stand by the referee. Lennon defended Ledley after the match, describing referee Craig Thomson's decision as "ridiculous". Lennon was later given a six match touchline ban for excessive misconduct as a result of the incident in the Hearts' game, although it was later reduced to four matches after appeal. He was given another four match touchline ban by the SFA following an altercation with Rangers assistant manager Ally McCoist after a Scottish Cup match in March 2011.
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.
After rallying from a poor start to season 2011-12, Lennon won the SPL Manager of the Month award for November 2011. 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 Barcelona one day after the club's 125th birthday. Celtic qualified out of their group to the knock-out stages of the Champions League. Celtic were comfortably beaten on aggregate by Juventus in the last 16 round, but both Celtic and Lennon were still praised for their overall Champions League campaign. On 21 April 2013, Celtic retained the Premier League title. Lennon finished the season by leading Celtic to a League and Cup double with a 3–0 win over Hibernian in the Scottish Cup Final.
Celtic qualified for the group stages of the Champions League again the following season, but had a dismal campaign; winning only once with a 2–1 home win over Ajax, and slumping to a 6–1 rout away against Barcelona in the final group match. They fared little better in the domestic cup competitions; losing 0–1 to Morton in their first game in the Scottish League Cup, and losing 1–2 to Aberdeen in the fourth round of the Scottish Cup. The League campaign was much more impressive through; 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. On 22 May 2014, Lennon announced that he was leaving Celtic after four years as manager. "I have parted company with Celtic," he said in a brief statement, adding "The club are in a very strong position and I wish the fans and the club all the very best for the future."
Lennon was announced as the new manager of Bolton Wanderers on 12 October 2014, signing a four-year contract. He won his first game in charge 1–0 against Birmingham City at St Andrew's stadium, although he was sent to the stands in the 81st minute after an altercation with referee Mark Hayward caused by Lennon leaving his technical area before Craig Davies's penalty was saved. Lennon's first three months in charge saw Bolton rise ten places from bottom of the league up to fourteenth; a spell that included an eight match unbeaten run and four consecutive clean sheets. Bolton reached the fourth round of the FA Cup and took Liverpool to a replay before conceding a last minute goal to lose 2–1 and go out. Things didn't go well for Lennon thereafter, with Bolton winning only one of their last 11 games of the season, and Barry Bannan and Neil Danns being suspended by Lennon for off-field indiscipline. Bolton did however succeed in avoiding relegation, finishing 18th in the league.
Bolton struggled at the start of the following season, and by October 2015 were lying bottom of the table with only one win in their first eleven league games. Lennon maintained confidence in his ability to improve Bolton's fortunes, stating "I didn't realise quite how tough it was going to be but I have got faith in my own ability and I believe we'll turn things around." By the end of November 2015, Bolton had gone on a run of twelve games without a win, and remained bottom of the Championship. At this time, the club announced that their squad had not been paid this month "due to a short-term funding issue" in a statement which came hours before their 1–1 draw with Brentford. In that game, Bolton striker Gary Madine was seen on television mouthing an insult towards Lennon, although the manager played down the incident afterwards, stating "I don't know what he said. He's a Geordie, I can't understand him! It was probably reciprocated!" Bolton continued to struggle and, with the club at the bottom of the table, Lennon left by "mutual consent" on 15 March 2016.
Lennon was appointed head coach of Scottish Championship club Hibernian in June 2016. He led the "Hibees" to the Scottish Championship title and promotion back to the Scottish Premiership (after a three-season absence) in his first season. In September 2017, Lennon and Hibs agreed to extend his contract to the end of the 2019–20 season.
Lennon has spoken about having suffered from depression since 2000.
In January 2011, the Royal Mail intercepted packages containing bullets addressed to Lennon and Celtic and Northern Ireland players Niall McGinn and Paddy McCourt. In March 2011, a suspect package addressed to him was discovered in a mail depot in Saltcoats.
In March 2011, Lennon and two high-profile fans of Celtic were sent parcel bombs. The device sent to Lennon was intercepted by the Royal Mail at a depot in Kirkintilloch, Scotland whilst the two other devices were delivered, but treated as suspicious packages and were not opened. (See HM Advocate v Muirhead and McKenzie.)
In response to the death threats, First Minister Alex Salmond condemned those that "use football as a pretext for their pathetic and dangerous prejudices" and UEFA President Michel Platini said he would fight violence and sectarianism. Former Celtic Director Dr. Michael Kelly described the bombs and bullets as terrorism.
On 31 August 2011, a Hearts supporter was found guilty of a breach of the peace, after running into the technical area of the football pitch, and shouting and swearing at Lennon, during a match against Celtic in Edinburgh on 11 May 2011. A further charge of assault, aggravated by religious and racial prejudice, during the same incident, was found not proven. The media and many observers disapproved of the jury's verdict, mainly because of the admission of assault from the accused, as well as the evidence presented. The Hearts supporter was sentenced to eight months in prison.
- Leicester City
- Scottish Premier League (5): 2000–01, 2001–02, 2003–04, 2005–06, 2006–07
- Scottish Cup (4): 2000–01, 2003–04, 2004–05, 2006–07
- Scottish League Cup (2): 2000–01, 2005–06
- Scottish Premier League (2): 2011–12, 2012–13
- Scottish Premiership: 2013–14
- Scottish Cup (2): 2010–11, 2012–13
Awards and achievements
- Northern Ireland International Personality of the Year (1): 2001
- SPL Player of the Month (3): March 2001, March 2004, April 2007
- SPL Manager of the Month (8): September 2010, January 2011, April 2011, November 2011, December 2011, February 2012, April 2012, December 2012
- SPFL Premiership Manager of the Month (3): December 2013, January 2014, October 2017
- SPFL Championship Manager of the Month (2): August 2016, January 2017
- SPL Manager of the Year (1): 2011–12
- SFWA Manager of the Year (2): 2011–12, 2012–13
- As of match played 2 December 2017
|Celtic||March 2010||May 2014||228||159||30||39||69.7|
|Bolton Wanderers||October 2014||March 2016||79||18||26||35||22.8|