NEIL Lennon has revealed he tried to persuade Kris Commons not to retire from international football this week and believes the player may yet change his mind and make himself available for Scotland again in the future.
Celtic midfielder Commons made his surprise announcement on Tuesday, citing his desire to spend more time with his young family and a wish to devote his professional commitment to extending his career with the Scottish champions for as long as possible.
While Celtic manager Lennon understands the reasons Commons has given for ruling himself out of Scotland national coach Gordon Strachan’s plans, he also feels the 29-year-old is stepping away from the international scene too soon.
“Kris’ decision isn’t an overnight thing,” said Lennon. “He has been talking to me about it for a while and I also had a long chat with Gordon about it a few weeks ago.
“I tried to talk Kris out of it because I think he has got plenty to offer Scotland. But he had made his mind up and I can’t play God with him. It was a tough decision for him to make, but he has made it. There are pros and cons on why he has done it. With Kris having a new baby it can be challenging for him and his family. A young family takes precedence over anything else. I respect that and I support him on it.
“But as I say, I tried to talk him out of it because I think it is a bit premature for him. He has only had 12 caps and there are plenty more there for him in terms of his Scotland career if he wants.
“Gordon was naturally disappointed but he has said he has left the door open for Kris to come back. That’s a positive thing and maybe in time, depending on how he is feeling, Kris may change his mind.
“I know it has been a difficult decision for him to make and in time he will maybe have a re-think. For now, though, all he has to think about is his club career.”
Lennon’s own international career was cut short in very different circumstances when he retired from Northern Ireland duty after receiving death threats when he played for his country as a Celtic player.
“I missed international football after I stopped,” he added. “At that time, I was 32 though. Kris is only 29. He is at his peak in terms of footballing ability. He has had a marvellous season, been really consistent and a real key player for us.
“I’m not convinced by the argument that not playing international football can extend your club career by a few years. It’s only four or five games in your season and sometimes it’s more about the mentality involved in travelling and staying at hotel after hotel. We stay in hotels all the time before domestic games, so the players are away from their families quite a lot. With the European campaign we had this season, it was tough from that point of view.”
Commons’ decision was criticised this week by SFA performance director Mark Wotte, the Dutchman questioning the player’s “pride, desire and ambition”. But Lennon was dismissive of Wotte’s comment, insisting it is of no consequence to Commons.
“Who has questioned Kris – Mark Wotte? Alright. Listen, three or four years ago Kris was playing in League One. Five months ago, he scored the goal which put Celtic into the last 16 of the Champions League. So I don’t see where the question of desire or ambition comes from.
“I haven’t spoken to Kris about it but I’m sure he hasn’t even batted an eyelid at Mark’s comments. If they came from Gordon Strachan or one of his former coaches, then he might take it on board, but we’ve not even touched on it to be honest. Scott Brown covered it the other day when he responded to what Mark said, we are all in disagreement on that one.
“Kris is at a big club, he has made his way through the game, he has had to be patient to get here and he is now benefitting from all his hard work. He is in prime condition and at this stage of his career he is in the best shape of his life.”