Lennon hails ‘ruthless’ team and singles out ‘fantastic’ Stokes
NEIL Lennon is adamant that his team are showing not a shred of complacency as they close in on the league title. Speaking after his team’s 5-0 thrashing of Hibernian at Easter Road yesterday, the Celtic manager said the exemplary attitude of his team had been key in a winning run in the SPL which now stands at 15 games.
“We look a powerful team at the moment,” Lennon said. “We were confident and ruthless today. I told them before the game what I was wanting from them and everything we asked of them they delivered.
“The work-rate off the ball was exceptional, the front two set the tone for the rest of the team and the quality in the final third was of a very high standard.
“I’ve never seen any complacency in this squad for a long, long time now. The players know they need to maintain their level of performance if they want to stay within the confines of the squad. They are all pushing each other on and there’s a great spirit.
“That comes with the confidence of winning games, I suppose. There’s competition for places, but I don’t see it as competition. We all just see it as players pushing each other on.
“They are good pros. Their attitude is spot-on and their conditioning is good too. They look strong and athletic on and off the ball, and there’s real zip about how they are playing.”
Lennon was delighted with all of his squad, but reserved especial praise for strikers Gary Hooper and Anthony Stokes. “The front two were terrific,” he said. “Particularly Anthony. It was his best game for me since he’s joined the club.
“I will review all the contracts at the end of the season. If we get over the line in the championship then he will be at the front of the queue because his contributions have been fantastic.”
Stokes, whose current deal has another season to go after this one, said he would welcome the chance to extend his stay at Celtic Park. “Of course I’m up for a new deal,” he said. “I’ve never been happier at a club, and I can’t see myself playing for anyone else for a long time if the offer is on the table.”
Stokes is never happy when left out of the starting line-up, as he often has been, but he conceded that Lennon’s ruthless selection policy had sharpened up the whole squad. “He’s on our case every day, because he wants to push us as far as we can go individually and as a team. You see that in the performances,” he said.
“The size of the squad helps. We’ve got so many good players, really good players who couldn’t even make the bench today, that’s the strength we have.
“So it’s tough for us to stay in the team. You have to keep performing day in, day out in training and, when you get the chance in a game, you have to perform – or you know you won’t get too many.”
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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