Celtic are 21 points behind in the title race and Hartson believes there can be no way back for Lennon

Photo by Craig Williamson/SNS Group via Getty Images

It might not bring him any pleasure, but John Hartson believes his former team-mate Neil Lennon has to go.

Celtic began the season expecting to secure a historic tenth league title in a row, but with less than three weeks of January gone the club have exited three tournaments and find themselves 21 points adrift in the title race.

Fan protests outside Celtic Park began following the 2-0 Betfred Cup defeat against Ross County in November, and an overwhelming majority of Celtic supporters believe it is too late for the season to be salvaged.

Photo by Alan Harvey/SNS Group via Getty Images

Hartson, who won three titles during in his time at the club, has reluctantly admitted that a change is now necessary.

Speaking to Ten10 Podcasts, the Welshman said: “I think a change is needed, the time has come.

“There are fifteen or sixteen games to go and it’s the perfect opportunity for the board to get together and say ‘We need to get this right’.

“They have to give another manager the opportunity to run the club now.

“The club need to put down a statement and say they need to change it, whether Neil goes at the end of the season or he goes now.

“It’s a tough call for me to say it, but it needs done now because it needs fresh faces in there and it needs a new team.

“Whoever the new manager will be, he needs his own team – his own assistants and his own goalkeeping coach.

Photo by Alan Harvey/SNS Group via Getty Images

“I send Neil best wishes and good luck every time when he needs it, but to lose a league in such a big, big season like they have.

“At the end of the day, a load of the players – not just myself, but Chris Sutton, Stan Petrov, Thommo (Alan Thompson), myself, Henrik (Larsson) – we all love Neil Lennon.

“We all want him to succeed and were delighted when he brought home the quadruple treble.

“But I do genuinely think that with the situation in the league, change is needed from the bottom right up to the top.

Photo by Alan Harvey/SNS Group via Getty Images

“It has taken me probably up to the last couple of weeks, I said at the start of the season I’m behind the manager one hundred percent.

“Whenever I mention it or Chris or Stan Petrov mentions it, people say ‘your pal, your pal’.

“At the end of the day, there is loyalty there but it has taken me until recently to see if there is going to be a turnaround, but there hasn’t been much of a change or improvement in performances.

“Maybe the players need a different voice?

“Maybe Neil needs a new challenge and needs a little bit of fresh start? He’s done everything in his power to make it work and sometimes it just doesn’t work.

“Neil is intelligent enough and he’s got to see this.

“The whole thing needs to be changed and a team needs to come in, and it needs to happen pretty soon because they’ll need time.

“I would like to see new staff, a freshness and a fresh impetus coming in – the players need new ideas.

“The club needs a change, it looks stale at the moment and there is so much work to do.

“They can’t afford to stand still.”

In other news, Report: West Ham in talks to sign Roberto Firmino like £13.3m man with 'brutal dynamism'