Celtic want Henrik Larsson as they eye up the Return of the King

HENRIK LARSSON is the Old Bhoy Celtic want to take over from Neil Lennon following his surprise departure yesterday.

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Henrik Larsson is Celtic's first choice to replace Neil Lennon. Picture: SNS
Henrik Larsson is Celtic's first choice to replace Neil Lennon. Picture: SNS

However, the Hoops are aware they may not be able to get their first choice, and will also continue to give other candidates to become the 17th permanent boss of the Parkhead club serious consideration.

Owen Coyle, who was offered the chance to replace Gordon Strachan in 2009 before Tony Mowbray was appointed, is understood to be on the list of possibles.

Steve Clarke and Malky Mackay - like Coyle, currently out of work after being sacked by West Brom and Cardiff, respectively - are also in the frame.

Former Hoops players, David Moyes and Jackie McNamara are others high on the bookies' list to take over the biggest job in Scottish football, while Roy Keane remains a big favourite of Dermot Desmond.

Celtic have known for some time Lennon's departure was imminent, and appreciate the necessity to get the new man in as quickly as possible as the transfer window is about to open and Champions League qualifiers start on July 16.

Larsson has been in charge of Swedish team, Falkenbergs - 10th in

the Allsvenskan - since December. The Hoops icon remains in regular contact with the club

he served for seven years.

But, as ever, the 42-year-old is playing his cards close to his chest about the prospect of returning to Paradise, saying: "I can see myself back at Celtic. Whether it's now or in the future, time will tell."

His lack of experience in charge of a club with Celtic-like expectations could, though, be seen

as a handicap. However, Lennon was a rookie when, at 38, he stepped up from coaching the development squad to replace Tony Mowbray

in March 2010.

He allowed the league title to slip through his fingers in the closing games of the following season, and also suffered a damaging early exit from the qualifiers of the Champions League and the Europa Cup.

But, the next year, Lennon led Celtic to the first of three titles in

a row, and last season into the last 16 of the Champions League.

His decision to call time on his four years in the hot seat came after meetings with chief executive Peter Lawwell and major shareholder Dermot Desmond at which next season's player budget was one of the key issues discussed.

Lennon's agent, Martin Reilly, insisted he does not have another job lined up. But his availability makes him an even stronger candidate as there will now be no need for a new employer to negotiate with Celtic

or pay compensation.

He is not averse to taking over at a promotion-chasing Championship club. But it will not be Norwich, who last night appointed Neil Adams as Chris Hughton's successor.

However, former Ipswich winger and Celtic team-mate of Lennon, Bobby Petta, believes it would be a step down too far for him to drop into the division.

He said: "He's got to go to the Premier League.He's got Champions League experience he's been successful, and he wants a new challenge."

Football

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