IF ST MIRREN caused the sort of major upset against Celtic on Sunday that recent football history has convinced Danny Lennon is eminently possible, the Paisley club’s manager would be guaranteed a central role in a League Cup final. As it stands, Lennon is remembered for the League Cup final he didn’t have any part in.
It is often forgotten that though the then Raith Rovers midfielder was a pivotal performer for the First Division side that created the almightiest of shocks by edging out Celtic on penalties to win the competition in November 1994, injury prevented him from actually performing in the decider.
“I got caught in training in the week building up to the game and fractured my metatarsal. People only heard of that when David Beckham broke his, but I was the first,” Lennon said.
“I got up after the injury and ran about for a minute, but, as I put pressure on it, I heard it crack. Our physio then was Gerry Docherty, who is with us now, took me up to hospital afterwards. I had a wee cry for five minutes after it. After that you become a supporter.
“I had actually scored the fifth penalty in the semi-final win over Airdrie and felt a part of that winning cup side because I scored a few goals in that competition, one of them against St Johnstone in the quarter-finals up there. I felt part of the group the day we won it. The down side was when they were going up to get the trophy, that was the worst that I felt, but you quickly get over it. I only feel sorry for myself for a minute and the boys got me back into it with the group and at the party… which lasted three weeks.
“I always believe that my bonus after that was the running success we had in Europe, getting a big tie against Bayern Munich and managing to score a few goals along the way. When you talk about miracles that was an unbelievable occasion that.”
Recent evidence suggests that for the Paisley club to come out on Sunday’s occasion, they would require the most unbelievable miracle. Lennon describes the weekend tie at Hampden as a “proud moment in my young managerial career”.
It could seem a decidedly presumptuous assessment in light of the fact that, across the past two-and-a-half-years of his career guiding St Mirren, eight encounters against Celtic have produced eight defeats and a gruesome goal count of 22 conceded and precisely zilch scored.
“Celtic have certainly turned us over on numerous occasions. [But] with it being a one-off cup game, anything can happen,” said the eternal optimist Lennon, whose team were thumped 4-1 at home by Ross County at the weekend. “In a lot of people’s minds, they will think it would be a miracle if St Mirren were to beat Celtic. But in football, miracles do happen.
“You just have to look at Chelsea last season when they beat Barcelona and Bayern Munich to win the Champions League. Kilmarnock beat Celtic in the final of this same tournament last season. Arbroath took Celtic through 180 minutes of football and narrowly lost 1-0. Bradford got to the final of the Capital One Cup by beating Aston Villa so I am a big believer in miracles.
“And if we are prepared to work and have that confidence and that bravery, I certainly believe the underdog can have their day.
“I am looking forward to it. It will be a proud moment in my young managerial career and I hope there will be many more to come. We will certainly not be going there to enjoy the occasion. We will be going to make it an occasion.
“We have to go there with belief, bravery and confidence if we are going to progress. Those are the key ingredients that Celtic used to beat Barcelona and that is what we need as well. This is why we fall in love with football: to play in occasions like this and go and win trophies, regardless of which level you are at.
“We are all dreamers and there will be a lot of players taking the field on Sunday trying to fulfil that dream.”