ALL that talk about managers making their minds up early doors about team selection and formation does not apply to Neil Lennon of Celtic.
Earlier in the season, he famously devised a way of beating Barcelona in the Champions League group match at Parkhead just hours before the kick-off.
Now one of his star players in yesterday’s Scottish Cup final, Charlie Mulgrew, has revealed that Lennon told him where he was playing just 75 minutes before the game.
It was thought that Mulgrew might play left-back or in midfield but, instead, he formed an impressive centre-back partnership with Kelvin Wilson at the expense of Efe Ambrose, who was on the bench.
“I found out I’d be playing centre-half about an hour and 15 before the match,” said Mulgrew. “It’s somewhere I’ve played a lot, especially last year, so I was happy to be involved in a cup final. To get a clean sheet was great and to win the game was even better.
“I don’t know what the manager was thinking in the lead-up. You just prepare like you’re playing and be ready for any scenario.”
Lennon had really wanted the Double, as Mulgrew explained: “Winning the Double doesn’t happen very often – the last one was in 2007 by Celtic. The manager made it very clear to us it was important to win the game and we did that comfortably.
“There have been a lot of games and a lot of hard games this season. It’s been tough mentally and physically. To finish it the way we did is a great, great feeling.”
Wilson and Mulgrew noticeably cancelled out the threat of Hibs striker Leigh Griffiths. Mulgrew said: “We’d obviously played against him before. We knew what his strengths were and that he can score goals, so it was up to us to match that. More importantly the onus was on us to win the game and score goals. We’ve got a lot of really good players up top and at the back, so we managed to keep them quiet and score three goals.”
Mulgrew also played down any talk of Celtic’s Hampden hoodoo being finally laid to rest. “We don’t get caught up in that too much,” said Mulgrew. “We let other people do the talking about that and we just focus on playing the match and not the occasion”.
It’s been another season of improvement for 27-year-old Mulgrew: “I’ve scored 11 goals this year after scoring nine last year which is a bonus,” he said. “I’ve also learned to play another position after playing a lot in central midfield.
“Its been a good season all round and the most important thing is the team, the Champions League run and the Double’s brilliant.”
Now Mulgrew faces his biggest match of all – he will marry his fiancée Alana on 8 June. Asked if it would be more nerve-wracking than a cup final, Mulgrew replied: “Probably. The speech will be! I’m about three quarters of the way through writing it. People say getting married changes things, but we’ll see.”