Neil Lennon steps down as Scottish champion Celtic's manager

Neil Lennon has stepped down as manager of Celtic after guiding the club to another Scottish Premier League title this season.
Press Association/AP

GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) - Neil Lennon quit as Celtic manager on Thursday after winning five trophies in four years with the Scottish club.

In a statement to the BBC, Lennon confirmed his decision to step down after his agent Martin Reilly said the former club captain needed a fresh challenge and wanted ''to look ahead to the next chapter of his career.''

Despite winning a third consecutive Scottish league title, Lennon had reportedly been considering his position for some time because of uncertainties over the player budget for next season.

''I have parted company with Celtic. I can't thank (chief executive) Peter Lawwell and the board enough for their backing and support,'' the 42-year-old Lennon said. ''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 appointed manager in 2010 as a replacement for Tony Mowbray and guided Celtic to three league titles and two Scottish Cups. He also led Celtic to the last 16 of the Champions League and his players claimed a win over Barcelona in the group stage in November 2012.

Although his future remains unclear, Lennon is expected to continue his career in England, having been linked to a number of clubs, including West Bromwich Albion and Norwich. His agent, however, said Lennon has yet to accept a job offer.

''He has nothing lined up. He just feels now is the time to move on to the next challenge,'' Reilly told the Press Association news agency.

As a player, Lennon joined Celtic in 2000 and won five titles in seven seasons, reaching the UEFA Cup final in 2003.

He left the club in 2007 to join Nottingham Forest but returned to Celtic Park a year later as a member of the coaching staff.

Lennon's reign was not without controversy as he received a four-match touchline ban following a spat with then Rangers assistant manager Ally McCoist in March 2011. In other incidents the same year, a letter bomb addressed to the Celtic manager was intercepted by Royal Mail staff in 2011 and Lennon was attacked by a Hearts supporter.

Former Celtic player Henrik Larsson, currently in charge of Swedish club Falkenbergs, is favored to succeed Lennon.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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