CELTIC manager Neil Lennon and every single one of his players – including the new arrivals – understand the significance of winning the league this season and next. Regardless of what they might say to the media as the season progresses and the intensity of football’s winners and losers in the Glasgow football goldfish bowl increases there will be no doubt in everyone’s mind what they are playing for.
Let’s be clear Nine in a Row this season means we become the first club to win nine consecutive Championships twice.
Ten in a Row takes Celtic into new territory and will have a huge impact on everyone interested in football in Glasgow. The impact it will have on the Rangers supporters will perhaps be even more profound than when their old club was liquidated – a fact so awful for them that even to this day they deny that their initial club died. Ten in Row can’t be denied. Record books can’t be changed again – as they were in 2012 when two Rangers supporters in the Scottish Football League decided to award the honours of the dead club to the one recently founded by Charles Green.
So regardless of what you hear or read Nine in a Row and especially Ten in a Row matters greatly.
Neil Lennon was asked to confirm this earlier this week for the Sunday papers and goes what he said? See above…
“No. No, it’s just the next one. The most important one. That’s the next one. They know what’s at stake. We had all the talk of the Treble Treble. That got very, very wearing towards the end of the season on the players – as you can imagine,” the Celtic boss told the Media as reported by The Scotsman.
“This will probably be no different. But we’ve just got to keep a perspective on things from there.
“Hibs away – ‘oh this could be it, Lennon’s first game back in the cup’. Aberdeen in the semi final. (The) Rangers in the league – ‘if you lose this he could lose his job’.
“All that. Not just on me, but on the players as well. We were on the cusp of history, they were going to do something that hadn’t been done before, and in every press conference it was mentioned. And that’s understandable. It can sort of wear away at you and your subconscious sometimes, but they dealt with it brilliantly – and I’m sure this season will be no different.
“We are calm. There has been a lot of hard work going on and we are still looking to add to the squad and cull a bit of the squad. We would like to get what we want as quickly as possible but it is not always as easy as that, as you know.
“I am delighted with the three games we have had in the Champions League so far. You can’t ask any more and we have Hatem Abd Elhamed in, another addition, which is great. Whether we add to the squad or not we already have a really good core of players here but I think some of them could do with a hand. When they see quality comes in it gives them a huge lift as well.
“The priorities are: can we get into the Champions League?…which would be fantastic. A great sort of foothold in the season. And then the main priority is the Championship which is the same every season.”
Neil takes his squad to Estonia tomorrow for Tuesdays second leg against Nomme Kalju, who were thrashed 5-0 at Celtic Park last midweek. That result means that Lenny can afford to rest some key players – guys who have been carrying the heaviest load for Celtic in recent times, so expect to see Callum McGregor, James Forrest and Odsonne Edouard dropping out of the side with Christopher Jullien set start and new signing signing Hatem Abd Elhamed likely to make his debut, perhaps from the bench. Scotty Sinclair – the subject of some interest from down south over the weekend – see HERE – looks like starting, as does Lewis Morgan, who has impressed the manager since returning from his loan spell at Sunderland.
“We will look at it,” Lenny said. “I’d like to give some players a rest if we can and it is an opportunity to do that. I’d imagine that Christopher Julien will probably play. He has a great chance of starting and it is a chance of getting a good 90 minutes into him to get him up and running. Lewis Morgan and Scott Sinclair too – we will look at the squad. We can’t overdo it but we have given ourselves a really strong platform.”
The media then asked Lennon about the toughness of winning the title in his second spell as Celtic manager as opposed to the first time around when he was up against the club that was operating a dodgy tax scheme and living so far outwit its means that it would eventually over the next few years self destruct and die with the liquidators still in place raking through the ashes caused by the corporate death of Rangers Football Club in 2012.
“I don’t know if the league is tougher than when I managed the first time, Rangers were very strong in the first two seasons. People are saying they are stronger this year. Again, it’s too early to say. It’s too early to say what shape we’re in at the minute, though we are going in the right direction. So I think the league will be competitive as it always it. We just have to make sure we are at the top of it come the end.”
Other things have changed too for Lennon, second time around as Celtic boss and he accepts that he’s a little older and wiser too.
‘I’ve different staff and I think the staff are good for me John (Kennedy) takes a lot on, Damien (Duff), they have good energy, they will take a lot off my shoulders which is great. I’m more experienced. I know I lose the rag every now and again. I did at half time (in midweek), actually. You don’t lose that. But you evolve.
I’m not saying I’m completely mellow but I’m enjoying what I’m doing at the minute.”
The Nine in a Row season kicks off this Saturday at 3pm when St Johnstone visit Celtic Park and after the widows of Billy McNeill and Stevie Chalmers unfurl the 8 in a row flag, Celtic will set about winning NINE IN A ROW.