Lennon was born in Lurgan, County Armagh and attended St Michael’s Grammar School in the town. As a youngster he played gaelic football for the school and was also selected for the Armagh minor team. He grew up supporting Celtic and played football for the local Lurgan Celtic youth team.
Lennon joined Glenavon, after reaching the final of the Milk Cup with Glenavon Select and scored on his Irish League debut. He then joined Manchester City as a trainee in 1987. He made one first team appearance during his time in Manchester, a league match on 30 April 1988 away against Birmingham City, before signing for Crewe Alexandra on a free transfer in August 1990.
Lennon made his debut for Crewe on 18 September 1990 against Reading. Despite missing the whole of season 1991–92 due to a back injury, he became an established member of the side and impressed with his intelligent play and consistent performances. Lennon’s form saw him make his debut for Northern Ireland in 1994, and thus became the first Crewe Alexandra player in 60 years to win a full international cap. In 5+1⁄2 years at Crewe, Lennon made 187 appearances for the club and scored 18 goals.
In February 1996, Lennon signed for Leicester City for a fee of £750,000. In May 1996, Lennon played in the Leicester City side that defeated Crystal Palace 2–1 at Wembley in the Play-off Final to win promotion to the Premier League. On 16 April 1997, Lennon picked up his first major winner’s medal when Leicester won 1–0 against Middlesbrough in a replayed League Cup Final. He played in a further two League Cup Finals during his time at Filbert Street, losing 1-0 to Tottenham Hotspur in March 1999but winning 2–1 against Tranmere Rovers in February 2000.
An on-field incident during a league match in 1998 against Newcastle United between Lennon and Alan Shearer resulted in the England international being charged with misconduct by the FA, Television footage showed Shearer appearing to intentionally kick Lennon in the head following a challenge. The referee of the game took no action against Shearer. Shearer apologised afterwards, but denied that the contact with Lennon was deliberate, and Lennon later gave evidence in Shearer’s defence at the FA hearing which subsequently cleared the Newcastle and England striker of all charges.
After Martin O’Neill became the new manager of Celtic in June 2000, he made several attempts to sign Lennon. Finally after months of protracted negotiations with Leicester, on 6 December 2000 Lennon joined the club he supported as a boy for a fee of £5.75 million. That season saw Lennon pick-up three winner’s medals as Celtic swept to a domestic treble, winning the Scottish Premier League, Scottish Cup and Scottish League Cup. The next four seasons at Celtic saw Lennon win a further two league championships and two Scottish Cups. He was also an integral part of the Celtic side that reached the UEFA Cup Final in 2003, losing 3-2 to Porto after extra time.
When Gordon Strachan took over from Martin O’Neill as Celtic manager in the summer of 2005, he made Lennon Celtic captain. In January 2006 when his former club Leicester City sacked Craig Levein, Lennon was linked with a return to the Midlands side in a player-manager role. He went on record saying he was flattered but wanted to captain Celtic to the Scottish Premier League title.
Although he was also linked with a move to Crystal Palace in a player-manager role in the summer of 2006, on 23 June 2006, Celtic announced he had signed a new one-year contract. Sunderland manager Roy Keane made an attempt to sign Lennon prior to the closure of the August 2006 transfer window, but his approach for the player was rejected by Celtic. On 25 April 2007, Lennon announced he would be leaving Celtic, and in his last game for the club on 26 May 2007, he captained the team to victory in the Scottish Cup Final against Dunfermline Athletic. Celtic’s 1–0 win clinched the League and Cup Double.
Lennon joined League One club Nottingham Forest on a one-year contract with an option for a second year on 12 June 2007. He made his debut captaining the side in a 0–0 draw at home to AFC Bournemouth. He missed a week’s training with Forest in November 2007, because of family reasons in Scotland, and lost his place in the team as a consequence.
Lennon joined Wycombe Wanderers of League Two on a free transfer on 31 January 2008, managed by his former Celtic midfield partner Paul Lambert.
- Full Name: Neil Francis Lennon
- Position: Midfield
- Date of Birth: 25.07.1971
- Birthplace: Belfast
- Nation: N Ireland
- Caps / Goals: 40/2
- Major League Career:
- 1990-96, Crewe Alexandria (147/15)
- 1996-00, Leicester City (170/6)
- 2000-07, Celtic (214/3)
- 2007-08, Nottingham Forest (18/0)