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Lennon’s former team-mate reveals that Lawwell blocked his return

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Tommy Johnson has revealed that Neil Lennon wanted him to be part of his management team but the move was blocked by Peter Lawwell.

Twenty years ago Johnson and Lennon briefly overlapped as Martin O’Neill put his stamp on the Celtic side with the former England u-21 striker scoring the goal against St Mirren that clinched the 2000/01 SPL title.

While Lennon remained at Celtic as a player, coach then manager Johnson continued his travels through the English game either side of a loan spell with Kilmarnock.

Rather than move into management he opted for scouting which has now evolved into recruitment with Johnson building up experience from his roles at Blackburn Rovers, Nottingham Forest and now Blackburn.

When Lennon was first in charge he had Alan Thomson, Johan Mjallby and Gary Parker in his backroom team with Parker also involved at Bolton and Hibs.

In 2019 when Lennon returned to Celtic his backroom staff was already in place, even after winning four trophies he had little say in the appointment of Gavin Strachan following the departure of Damien Duff.

Johnson joined Mark Wilson and Murdo MacLeod on the Huddle Podcast and revealed how close he came to a Celtic return.

18 minutes in

M W: You are obviously at Blackpool just now, obviously connected to Celtic- would you ever, if that role came up at Celtic would you like to go back, would you like to work with Neil in some capacity?

M M: See the smile on his face there.

T J: Murdo, have you seen how he has just led into that question? Obviously there has been rumours in the past, I was. I did actually go up and meet Peter Lawwell twice, Lenny wanted to bring me in last year but the powers that be made the decision not to shall I say.

Yeah, everybody knows that once you have played for Celtic, how much it means to you, yeah, I would, Neil had asked me to come in.

M W: When Tommy, was that before Nick Hammond got the job?

T J: Nick was in the process of coming in full time, I was.

M W: You came close to it then?

T J: I was all for coming up, helping Neil in any which way I can but it didn’t materialise. Nick (Hammond) got the job, not the one that I was going for, Lenny just wanted us in to help with the recruitment. To be someone around that he could talk to.

You know Murdo you’ve been that assistant manager, the manager has got to have someone, and that is no disrespect to Gavin Strachan who has come in and John Kennedy and the rest of the staff. I think that you need as a manager someone that you can actually talk to on a personal basis as well.

Neil hasn’t brought anyone in since he’s been at the club which is quite astounding when you look back at Brendan Rodgers and the amount of staff that Brendan brought in which is right. I think that anyone who goes in as a manager, my first bit of advice to anyone is get someone in who you know, who is good at the job and who you can trust and speak to. As I said, and it is no disrespect to all of the staff that are there.

M W: You are right, look across to the other side of the city, Steven Gerrard has brought in staff, guys that he trusts. It wouldn’t put you off if the opportunity came up again

T J: No, not at all.

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