Since their founding in 1887, Celtic Football Club has been the premier club in Scotland with a long list of championships with great players and managers along the way. Of those managers, there are some that have stood out as among the best in the club’s history. Between Scottish League titles and success across Europe, these five have helped define Celtic football and established it as the greatest club in the nation.
5. Neil Lennon
Northern Ireland-born Neil Lennon spent his career playing with many different clubs, but it was with Celtic where he had his most matches with one club at 214. The midfielder would retire after spending time with Wycombe Wanderers in 2008, and after a year off of football he became manager of the club he played with for eight years.
Lennon first served as Celtic manager from 2010 to 2014 and won 70 percent of his matches and three Scottish League titles. The then managed Bolton Wanderers and Hibernian before returning to manage Celtic once again from 2019 to 2021, and once again won 70 percent of his matches while adding two more Scottish League titles.
4. Gordon Strachan
Gordon Strachan had one of the longest senior careers ever as a midfielder, starting with Dundee back in 1974, playing with manchester United in much of the 1980s and then finally ending his career with Coventry City in 1997. He stuck around with Coventry when he started his managerial career, leading the squad from 1996 to 2001.
After a few years with Southampton, Strachan became the Celtic manager with his tenure running from 2005 to 2009. During his time with Celtic, the club won three Scottish League titles and nearly two-thirds of their matches, and added a Scottish Cup and a pair of Scottish League Cups during his tenure.
3. Martin O’Neill
From 1971 to 1985, Martin O’Neill played for several clubs, but none more than Nottingham Forest as he spent a decade with them, making 285 appearances. O’Neill’s managerial career got started with Grantham Town in the late 1980s and he made several stops including Leicester City in the second half of the 1990s. In 2000, he took on the Celtic managerial position.
O’Neill spent 282 matches as the Celtic manager, and won more than three-quarters of those matches to go along with five total titles and needed just 40.3 matches per trophy. Following his departure from Celtic, O’Neill spent time as the manager for Aston Villa and Sunderland before retiring following his brief gig in 2019 with Nottingham Forest.
2. Willie Maley
There isn’t anybody alive that remembers Willie Maley’s playing career, with 70 of his 71 senior career appearances coming with Celtic from 1888 to 1897. Celtic would be the only team that Maley managed, and he did it for a very long time. All in all, he spent 43 years as the manager, with his tenure lasting from 1897 to 1940.
Nobody will able to top Maley’s record for matches managed with 1,617. He won 1,042 of those matches and an astonishing 16 Scottish League titles. Malley retired in 1940 and would live for 18 more years in retirement. The legendary manager passed away in 1958 at the age of 89.
1. Jock Stein
As a player, Jock Stein spent eight years with Albion Rovers before heading to Llanelli Town and ending his career with six years with Celtic in 1957. Following his playing career, Stein took a few years off then became the manager of Dunfermline Athletic for the first half of the 1960s before a brief stint to Hibernian that led him to Celtic from 1965 to 1978.
Stein managed Celtic in 690 matches, winning just over 70 percent of those. He would end up winning the Scottish League 10 times and added another eight Scottish Cups. Following his Celtic managerial career, Stein was the manager for Leeds United briefly in 1978 and then managed the Scottish national team before passing away in 1985 at the age of 62.