If there’s no Rafa, Mourinho or AVB coming in then give it to Lenny

NEIL LENNON reckons that the real pressure is off him because the main job that he was brought in to do – make sure that Celtic win the league – has already been achieved. He has one last game to go out from the interim manager role he took on at very short notice at the end of February after the former manager walked out on Celtic, taking the majority of the back-room staff with him.

That game, tomorrow’s Scottish Cup Final against Hearts, gives Lenny the chance to get his hands on the old trophy again and it’s one that he can claim to have been won more by his own efforts in contrast to the league where he took over just as the business end of the season got underway.

Right from the start he knew what his job was and also that any decision that would be taken on his future at the club would be determined at the end of the season. If he won nothing he’d know himself that he’d have no chance of being the guy to pick up the pieces from that nightmare scenario.

With the league won and the Cup possibly added on top tomorrow you’d have said back at the end of February that if he did this he’d be in with a great chance of landing the job.

But Celtic Supporters and perhaps the Board too have had their appetites whetted by the impact that a so-called top drawer manager can make. Rodgers arrived, attracted a crowd of around 13,000 to meet and greet him, went on to have an invincible treble winning season, retained all three trophies and won the league cup this term before leaving with Celtic 8 points clear in the league and still in the Scottish Cup.

In that time Celtic reported a set of accounts that for the first time smashed through the £100m turnover mark.

So Dermot Desmond and Peter Lawwell might be about to repeat the trick, if they can.

Last time though they had Rodgers on a two man short-list with David Moyes. If they are looking at him this time around there is bound to be those who express their disappointment. Moyes would have to hit the ground running if he is to win over the support. Many would simply say, why Moyes and not Lenny?

“I knew the situation and I’ve said it ad nauseam since I’ve been here,” Neil said yesterday at his Media Conference, as reported by Evening Times. “I’ve said it will be resolved after the cup final and that hasn’t changed.

“I’m going to Marbella on Monday for a few days for my mate’s 50th birthday. I’ll be around on Sunday, then away for three or four days. That’s in place. We’ll see what happens after that.

“If there’s communication we can do it on Sunday, we can do it over the phone. Look, I’m not pre-empting anything, that’s pointless. What I’m telling you is my plan for after the Cup Final – go away and see what happens.”

And he fully intends to enjoy his day at Hampden tomorrow, feeling that the pressure is off him and that he has done all that has been asked to him when he stepped up to answer Celtic’s desperate call when Rodgers left.

“I feel really good. I’m enjoying it. All the pressure for me was on winning the league. That was really important. Saturday isn’t going to dictate whether I get the job or not.

“Now we have the huge bonus of being in the final. I’m calm. I’ve learned a lot in the four years I’ve been away, with the ups and downs and the whole package that comes with it.

“I’ve also learned not to engage in false news, noise, rumours – all that stuff. There is a lot of that in this day and age. I feel good because I’ve come in and basically done the job I’ve been entrusted to do.”

Lenny will select and set up the Celtic side tomorrow, mindful of the challenge that Craig Levein’s team will present.

“Hearts are a very difficult obstacle for us to overcome so there’s no point me sitting here telling you how I’m going to feel when we win the cup,” Lenny said.

“That will hopefully all come at half past five on Saturday. In the meantime, I’m just wary of everyone talking about treble trebles, bus parades and blah blah blah . . . Hearts aren’t going to give it you. You have to go and take it.

“We’ve got to play the game and not the occasion. That’s really important. It’s the message we will be hammering over to the players over the next two days.”

Hearts incidentally have planned their own parade should they win, as did Motherwell last May, so Celtic can’t be accused on counting chickens, but the point remains and Lenny knows it only too well. The game has to be won before the partying can begin.

Last weekend it was confirmed that Dedryck Boyata had left Celtic to sign for Hertha Berlin. So as we need a new central defender, do we interrupt Liverpool’s Champions League Final preparations by sticking in a bid to bring Virgil van Dijk to the club?

He’s box office, world class, has a Celtic connection….what’s not to like?

If you think that this is crazy then beware a short-list that includes Rafa Benitez, Jose Mourinho and Andre Villas-Boas – all box-office, world class maybe not with The Celtic connection that big VVD has.

We’ll not sign the Dutch defender and it’s probable that we won’t convince any of these three top managers to come to Celtic.

And if Peter Lawwell is sitting in his office this afternoon having just had his third knock-back and he’s left with a choice of David Moyes or Neil Lennon then hopefully Lenny can win the Cup tomorrow and make up the CEO’s mind that he is indeed the man for the job.

In the meantime Neil Lennon is oblivious to the speculation, fake news stories and the like. These days he just avoids it entirely.

“I’m not on that stuff at all. I quit Twitter years ago and all the other stuff because it’s just not important any more. It’s not real. There are things on there that can be interesting and there are things on there that are really not appropriate and personal.

“Again, you can’t take offence to it because people are voicing their opinions, but it’s not really pertinent to me because it’s not really important.

“I am more relaxed because the league is out of the way. That is the one that was the bigger stressor really. As was the semi-final and getting to the final. It was almost as if you are being judged game to game – he to win this, he has to win that.

“I’m enjoying the job now. I’ve gotten to know the players a lot more over the piece. They were, obviously, going to be a bit wary of me coming in with my reputation. But they are comfortable with that, which is good.”

About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email editor@thecelticstar.co.uk

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