CELTIC manager Neil Lennon has rejected suggestions that the success of his club’s season will be judged on the outcome of today’s Scottish Cup final against Hibs.
With Rangers in the Third Division and therefore unable to challenge their rivals for the SPL title, a number of Lennon’s own players have conceded that the campaign could be perceived as a disappointment if they do not overcome the Easter Road side at Hampden today.
But Lennon himself takes a different view. He said: “I don’t think people would look back on it negatively if we lost. We’ve won the league, really made unbelievably progression in Europe this year, exceeded everyone’s expectations – even our own probably – and made the Cup final, which is always a nice bonus.
“I suppose the expectation is that we win the treble and, if you look at it that way, if we’d got past St Mirren [in the League Cup semi-final] it would’ve been one of the best seasons since Lisbon. It would be flat for a few days [if we lost] but when you look overall it will have been pretty good. Ultimately, the league’s the priority. However, going into the final, you want to win it. There’s the chance of a double and this team deserves to take something [like that]. We’ve been knocking on the door for a while, winning a trophy a season, but it would be nice to get two in the bag.”
Lennon will be leading Celtic into a fourth domestic final, one more than predecessor Gordon Strachan. But while his Celtic mentor won all three, Lennon has tasted defeat twice: in the 2011 League Cup final, to Rangers, and in unexpected fashion against Kilmarnock in the same competition the following year.
A third final defeat, which would mean failing to add to the 2011 Scottish Cup success, would put a blot on Lennon’s record. That is even allowing for the fact that Celtic have reached at least the last four in every one of the past seven domestic cup competitions.
“I get disappointed with people who say we should win everything because it’s disrespectful to everybody else. These guys are full-time, decently-paid professional players. Football’s their life and it means everything to them. There will be 14 players today doing everything they can to stop us winning the trophy. And if we needed a warning, look at Wigan. They were brilliant against Man City on the day. Their performance was one of the biggest shocks in FA Cup history.
“We know from having been here before what can happen. We murdered Kilmarnock, lost it. Hit the post a couple of times [in the 2012 Scottish Cup semi-final] against Hearts, lost it. Missed a penalty, hit the post and bar against St Mirren, lost that. So it was nice to get through a semi-final this time.”