Neil Lennon has praised his players for their commitments on Sunday as he sat through his first press conference since winning the quadruple treble – but the Hoops’ boss is refusing to let his side rest on their laurels, as he challenges them to take their newfound confidence into the rest of the season.
Celtic completed the feat on Sunday after beating Hearts on penalties at Hampden in an enthralling encounter, but Lennon wants his side to recover from their previous hiccups and push on in a season that, as disastrous as it has been, is still not a foregone conclusion.
Speaking to Celtic TV, Lennon was upbeat about the rest of the season, starting with Ross County tomorrow at Paradise.
“It hasn’t really sunk in for us, yet. The atmosphere has been fantastic as you can imagine, and there is a feel-good factor around the place – the players are galvanized and full of energy.”
However, after celebrating the proceedings at Hampden, the Hoops’ boss was in no way ready to allow his team to rest, despite their efforts.
“We hope that the pressure and burden has been taken off the players now given the last three results – the boys can then go out and play more freely. If we keep chipping away and winning games, we’ll find our consistency. There’s no doubt it’s a huge boost for them and its given them a huge psychological lift.”
“We’ve completed half of what was required of us, and now we have to dig deep to claw-back the deficit – it really isn’t beyond us. There isn’t any pressure on the upcoming games; yes, we have drawn to many and had a poor European campaign but we can now build on Sunday’s game to become fully focused on what lies ahead. ”
Lennon did seem slightly annoyed when he was quizzed about his teams’ defensive frailties and how he plans to rectify them given such a huge avalanche of fixtures. Given his quick turnaround of fixtures, Lennon answered back: “It’s impossible, at the moment! We played 120 minutes on Sunday, today is only the second day of recovery, you’ve still got your muscle fatigue and already we have to play Ross County tomorrow. We’ve had a word about shape and set-plays and that is all you can do at the moment.” If anything, that pays testament to the teams’ qualities – as the saying goes, form is temporary but class is permanent.
He will be doing everything he can to stop a repeat of the last time the Scottish Premiership’s basement boys visited Parkhead, but under a new manager in John Hughes, the new manager curse may play into full effect and throw up yet another Christmas miracle for the Staggies.