Martin O’Neill backs Lennon to deliver Ten-in-a-Row – “At their strongest, they are still better than Rangers, so I believe they will do it”

Who better to come forward to offer full support to our battered and bruised manager Neil Lennon than his mentor, the man who brought him to Celtic in the first place 20 years ago, Martin O’Neill.

O’Neill saw Rangers as the benchmark, looked his players in the eye – the ones who had been there the previous season had suffered not inconsiderably at the hands of the Ibrox side, the last encounter an awful 4-0 defeat in Govan – and wanted to make sure that they believed that they could defeat Rangers. That sunny August afternoon in 2000 saw Celtic go 3-0 up in eleven minutes and finished with Celtic winning 6-2. The balance of power shifted in Glasgow that afternoon.

Gerrard’s side won at Celtic Park at the weekend, giving him back-to-back victories over Neil Lennon’s side. Come May 2021 one of these two managers is likely to be looking for employment elsewhere as Ten-in-a-Row is either stopped or achieved.

Any manager losing a Glasgow Derby is going to come in for criticism but the stakes are higher this year. There is desperation on both sides of the city and it all centres on whether Celtic can reach the magical ten. Accordingly the defeat for the injury and illness hit Celtic side at the weekend has resulted in a level of criticism being aimed at Neil Lennon that Martin O’Neill thinks is unfair.

“People would probably expect me to stick up for Neil, but I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t believe it,” MON told Scottish Sun. “For one thing, this season is still in its infancy.

“Secondly, he won a Treble last season and that wasn’t too bad, was it? There is a rush to judgement at times, which I understand. If you lose a big game, like to (the)Rangers, then judgements are made.

“People talk about systems and formations, back fours and back threes. So you are open to criticism and that’s just the way it is. There’s not a lot anyone, least of all Lennon, can do about that. But what I would say is that it’s a long season.

“By the looks of it, (the)Rangers have been good this season at winning games they weren’t winning in the last few years. They have been able to stick at it and show some durability,” O’Neill said.

“But Celtic scored very late in a game against St Johnstone, and that was important. It’s too early for criticism, particularly for a manager who has actually succeeded at Celtic, both as a player and a manager. He took over from Brendan Rodgers, and was able to turn that around to win the title.

“We all know this is a massive year, because Celtic are going for ten in a row, with (the)Rangers desperate to stop it. For me there is real excitement about the season. I’ve always said those two teams need each other to be strong and I stand by that.

(the)Rangers are getting stronger, having been very weak a couple of years ago, as they tried to make their way through the leagues. Celtic had it all their own way, and now it’s different.

(the)Rangers are pushing them. They were better in the League Cup final last season, and lost. For me that was because they had not won for a while, and Celtic were able to see it through,” MON said.

“But there is a long way to go this season. (the)Rangers have piled pressure on Celtic, and it’s up to them to keep that going, not to drift off like they did last year.

(the)Rangers will get a lot of confidence from winning at Celtic Park. In terms of criticism of Lennon, from where I’m sitting, I’d say that was unfair. People will say I would say that, but I would point to the success Lennon’s had there.

Lennon with his Treble

“When Rodgers left someone had to go in and keep it going, and I don’t believe there was anyone else who could have done that other than Lennon.

“I think he’ll be able to deal with any criticism that’s coming his way, even though it stings. But overall it’s part of the territory. He has been able to deal with those things in the past, and I believe he’ll be able to deal with this now.

“Do I think Celtic will win the league? At their strongest, they are still better than (the)Rangers, so I believe they will do it.”

About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor David Faulds 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

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