JONATHAN Gould helped Wim Jansen bring an end to nine long seasons of pain and disappointment for Celtic and stop Rangers completing 10-In-A-Row at the same time with an historic Scottish title triumph back in 1998.

He then saw how Martin O’Neill revitalised the Parkhead club following two years of turmoil and unrest and led them to what was at the time only the third domestic treble in their history in 2001.

So Gould knows exactly what it kind of manager it takes to transform the fortunes of the Glasgow giants after difficult trophyless spells.

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And he believes that Alex Neil has all of the qualities required.  

The former Scotland goalkeeper, now back in New Zealand coaching at his first club Napier City Rovers, still takes a keen interest in how Celtic, where he spent five-and-a-half years of his playing career and won six major honours, are faring.

He was desperately disappointed when his old team mate Neil Lennon finally parted company with his boyhood heroes on Monday after seven turbulent months.

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However, the 52-year-old has also been intrigued to see Neil, the former Hamilton and Norwich City boss who has been in charge at Preston North End since 2017, linked with the vacancy.

He delayed his return to Antipodes for a year so he could work with the Scot at Deepdale - and was grateful that he did so.

“I was the goalkeeping coach with Tony Pulis at West Brom in the Premier League for three years and then I did 18 months with him at Middlesbrough,” he said. “But my family and I were all set to come back to New Zealand in 2019.

READ MORE: Why Celtic need a new manager now if they want to reclaim the Scottish title from rampant Rangers next season

“Then I got a phone call from Peter Ridsdale (the Preston owner) and Alex Neil. Alex is someone I had seen from a distance in his work at Norwich and Hamilton.

“I thought he had done a great job. I was intrigued enough to go and work with him. I had a fabulous 12 months with Alex at Preston. I really enjoyed it and loved the way he worked.”

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Many famous names and internationally renowned managers have been linked with the Celtic position – including Rafa Benitez, Steve Clarke, Eddie Howe, Mark Hughes, Leonardo Jardim, Roy Keane, Paul Lambert, Frank Lampard, Enzo Maresca, Roberto Martinez, Dan Petrescu, Ralf Rangnick, Jindrick Trpisovsky and David Wagner.

Supporters would - regardless of the success he enjoyed at both Hamilton, who he steered back into the Premiership, and Norwich, who he took up into the Premier League via the play-off final - not be as excited at the appointment of Neil as they would if any of those aforementioned individuals were brought on board.

Gould, though, knows they would be getting an exceptional coach who would be undeterred by the size of the challenge he faces in the East End and undaunted by the pressure he would be under to succeed if he did replace Lennon.

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“Alex’s detail, the way he prepares his teams, is impeccable,” he said. “I have had the privilege of working with a lot of good managers as a player and as a coach. Alex is one of the few coaches who can come up with his strategy on a Monday and can translate that onto a football field on a Saturday.

“He doesn’t do it just by using a whiteboard or a power point, he does by coaching the lads from Monday to Friday. It is quite a rare quality. It says a lot about him as a student of the game and how much he thinks about football. He has got a certain quality that has seen him be successful.

“He has done remarkable jobs with all of the clubs he has been at. I think he is well suited at some point, although I am sure Preston North End won’t be happy to lose him, to work at a big club. He has got that in him somewhere down the line.”

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Many former Celtic players have been highly critical of Lennon during the 2020/21 campaign as the Parkhead club have struggled in the Premiership, bombed in both the Champions League and Europa League and been knocked out of the Betfred Cup. 

Gould, who has coached extensively in New Zealand, Australia and England since hanging up his gloves, is unwilling to join them. He knows from personal experience that all managers have to contend with complex issues away from the glare of the public eye. He suspects the Northern Irishman has encountered many difficulties in this coronavirus-disrupted campaign.  

READ MORE: Cluj calamity, Old Firm agony and Sparta shame: The 10 defeats that led to Neil Lennon's downfall as Celtic boss

“I am an old team mate of Lenny’s and I also don’t like stepping outside the Celtic family when things aren’t going right,” he said. “I’m not the kind of person who would have a go.

“There are always things going on inside football clubs that we don’t know about. People are dealing with certain things within that we don’t know about. I also know how much Celtic means to Lenny. He will be hurting.”

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