SACKING Neil Lennon, who has spent much of the past 20 years at Celtic and enjoyed some remarkable successes as both a player and a manager in that time, will not, despite the catastrophic run of recent results and the deafening clamour for his removal, be easy for the Parkhead hierarchy.

Lennon may, as the angry protests outside the stadium in the aftermath of their 2-0 defeat to Ross County in the second round of the Betfred Cup yesterday underlined, not be particularly popular at the present moment in time.

Still, major shareholder Dermot Desmond and chief executive Peter Lawwell appreciate all that he has contributed and at times endured in the past two decades and will find it difficult if they have to, as now appears inevitable, dispense with his services.

But bringing in a replacement who can turn around their on-field fortunes, get unhappy supporters back onside and clinch the Scottish title that completes 10-In-A-Row next May will be a far harder undertaking for them.

Many famous names have been touted as potential successors to Lennon in recent weeks as the Glasgow club has struggled domestically and bombed in Europe; Rafa Benitez, Steve Clarke, Chris Coleman, Eddie Howe, Paul Lambert, Henrik Larsson, Martin and Michael O’Neill, Alan Pardew and Marco Silva have all been linked with the position.

There is, due to the increasingly transient nature of their profession, never any shortage of seasoned and accomplished candidates when a position becomes available.

Who, though, could come in and deal with the pressure of being in one of the most high-profile positions in British football, satisfy the demands of a disgruntled fanbase, revitalise players who have failed to perform and appear in some cases to be hankering after transfers elsewhere, halt the slump in form and win the Premiership this season? It is a tall order and then some.

Who, too, could Celtic afford in the current economic climate? The Covid-19 outbreak has created problems for every club around the world and they are, despite their healthy finances, no different. Not having any spectators at their games due to the coronavirus pandemic continues to hit them hard.

When Celtic released their annual results last month, chairman Ian Bankier indicated they would be more frugal in their spending going forward in order to safeguard their future amid an unprecedented crisis. “The board is determined to balance the objective of success with the strategy of long-term sustainability,” he said.

Those who would like to see Mauricio Pochettino targeted may be disappointed.

The Scottish champions still lavished a substantial amount of money on new signings in the close season despite the difficulties they were contending with. Albian Ajeti (£4.5m), Vasilis Barkas (£4.5m) and David Turnbull (£3.25m) all arrived in permanent deals. Securing Shane Duffy, Mohamed Elyounoussi and Diego Laxalt on loan also cost a pretty penny.

Is a new manager really going to be handed a blank cheque book and told he can go out and strengthen in January? Even with 10-In-A-Row at stake, he may well have to make do with what he has. That could put many interested parties off.

Howe is the front runner and bookmakers’ favourite for a number of reasons. He did superbly during his eight years at Bournemouth, he is young, talented and ambitious and he is available for nothing after departing Dean Court following relegation from the Premier League in the summer. His arrival would meet with the approval of many supporters.

But will managing the Cherries really prepare him for life in the dugout at Celtic? He has no experience of Scottish football, of the European game, of managing a team who are expected to win every match they play and every domestic competition they enter. He could, of course, learn over time. But he will have no time to find his feet if he is appointed.

Among Lennon’s many strengths are his understanding of what is expected of him as Celtic manager and his ability to cope with the abuse, criticism and scrutiny that inevitably came his way when performances and results fell short of what was required.

There would be logic, then, behind approaching Martin O’Neill or Gordon Strachan, two men who have done the job before, won trophies and titles and appreciate exactly what the role entails, and asking them to step in, possibly just until the end of the 2020/21 campaign.

However, both men will feel a sense of loyalty to Lennon, who they worked with and remain close to, and would perhaps feel uneasy about taking over, even in the short-term, in such unfortunate circumstances.

The Rangers juggernaut rolled on yesterday. They extended their unbeaten run to 23 games with a comfortable 4-0 win over Falkirk away in the Betfred Cup despite Steven Gerrard making no fewer than seven changes to his starting line-up. There is a long way still to go and many points to be played for. But they are looking stronger with every passing day.

Celtic could lure Pep Guardiola to the East End from Manchester City and still struggle to catch and overtake their city rivals in the league given how woefully the side is currently performing and the myriad issues which require to be addressed.