Neil Lennon on Handling the Pressure of a ‘Monumental’ Season as McCoist gets his Excuses in Early

CELTIC can handle the pressure of going for Ten-in-a-Row. Neil Lennon knows that he has a team of winners with players like Scott Brown and James Forrest – who is celebrating his birthday today – veterans of all the nine consecutive titles that Celtic have won in a row.

And with this season set to be the most stressful, pressure pot of a campaign since Wim Jansen and Henrik Larsson & Co endured the last ten in a row attempt and came out successful on the last day against St Johnstone on that never to be forgotten afternoon at Celtic Park in May 1998. Anyone who was at Dunfermline the previous Sunday when Celtic let a narrow title winning 1-0 lead slip away in the closing minutes will understand the pressure that is going to mount on Celtic and the Rangers this season.

We’ve been witnessing this earlier than usual due to the impact that the Coronavirus has had on Scottish football. With a commanding 13 point lead and a superior goal difference of 25, Celtic were steamrolling their way to 9IAR. In their final home game in the Premiership, the Rangers lost at home to Hamilton – who Celtic play on the opening day of the new campaign on Sunday 2 August.

After that Hamilton defeat their manager was under severe and increasing pressure, as atmosphere at Ibrox turned even uglier. Hearts had knocked them out of the Scottish Cup, they lost the League Cup Final to Celtic at Hampden in December – Christopher Jullien scoring the only goal of an eventful game – and their fans had well and truly thrown the towel in domestically after Hamilton left Ibrox with all three points at the start of March.

Then when the lockdown kicked in that was all forgotten and suddenly they were going to win the league. Opportunism as crass as it comes.

Yesterday the fixtures were announced for the new season. The SPFL pushed the Glasgow Derby – at Celtic Park – back to the final round of fixtures in the first section – thus increasing the chance that there will be supporters at the game. They probably did so because they have a deal with Sky Sports which is crucial to the game in Scotland where sponsors are going to be thin on the ground – and everyone knows that Sky’s main interest is in the four games between the two Glasgow sides.

Neil Doncaster though came in for heavy criticism for seemingly showing Celtic an advantage here – again. Complete and utter garbage from the Rangers support, leftest by the cunning Ally McCoist who knew exactly what he was doing yesterday and was upping the ante ahead of the domestic kick-off. The Rangers get nothing, so when there are a few favourable refereeing decisions going their way, it’s only levelling things out. You know the score.

McCoist was also getting in the Rangers excuses early, like seasoned losers do.

And it worth remembering that last season there were home and away league games between the clubs with Celtic winning the head to head 3-2, with the cup final win on top of that.

Liam Kelly covered this all very well last night on The Celtic Star in
An Analysis To Dry The Teddy Bear Tears Over Fixture List Publication and it’s well worth a read.

Speaking to the official Celtic site, Neil Lennon, sounded relaxed and full of confidence, as the excitement started to mount with the fixtures being out and signalling an imminent return to playing the game.

Celtic are now heading for their pre-season camp in Loughborough before heading over to France for friendlies against Lyon, Nice and Paris St Germaine before the serious business gets underway against Hamilton on Sunday 2 August.

“We’ve got to take it as the next title. For some players, it’ll be their first title pursuit and for others it’ll be their tenth. We have to keep a balance and remind them it’s the next one,” Lenny said.

“There’s going to be a lot of hype surrounding it from the outside. We’ve got to find our levels and our consistency as quickly as we possibly can. It is monumental what we’re going for but we can’t let that distract us from actually playing the games.

“When teams come to play us they subconsciously raise their game and try to become far more difficult to beat.

“We’re looking to improve as individuals and as a group, that’s the incentive for us and there’s huge motivation for the players going into this season on the domestic front. We have Champions League qualifiers to look forward to in August and that’ll be a big push for us from our point of view to try and qualify for that.

“It’s difficult sometimes without the supporters, there’s no question about that. That’s something we’ll have to adapt to very quickly but, in terms of training and getting ready for the games, nothing’s changed really.

“Hopefully by September or October we’ll get permission to get fans in through the doors, which would be fantastic. While it’s great to see football back, it’s just not the same without the supporters.”

Today is the final day to renew your season ticket for the Ten-in-a-Row season. The vast majority already have done that and any unsold tickets after 5pm this evening will be offered to supporters on the waiting list, which as we told you last week, now numbers 17,000.

There is a second deadline later this week, where season ticket holders have to add their names to the Home Cup Tickets Scheme. Given than we could be at Hampden for THREE cup semi-finals and Finals this season, it might be well worth joining that too!

Here we go, for Ten-in-a-Row!

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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