Neil Lennon says Celtic must live with being the main lunch course
TWO lunchtime SPL kick-offs in the Highlands either side of a Champions League assignment in Sweden is hardly the schedule Neil Lennon would have hand-picked as he enters what he describes as “a huge two weeks” for his players.
Today’s 12.15pm start against Ross County in Dingwall and next Saturday’s 12.45pm date with Inverness Caledonian Thistle will bookend Tuesday night’s Play-off round, first leg meeting with Helsingborgs, testing the early season readiness and resilience of the Scottish champions to the limit.
The early kick-off times are the price Celtic must pay for the SPL managing to salvage a live television contract with BSkyB and ESPN in the wake of Rangers’ drop into the Third Division, with Lennon’s team now the main attraction. It is a source of frustration for the Celtic manager, although one to which he is resigned.
“I would imagine TV are going to want most of our away games this season,” he said. “What do I make of it? Don’t start me on it, honestly. It’s the way it is and I don’t think there is anything we can do about it. When it comes to TV, we dance to their tune. That’s just the realism of it and we can only deal with it the best we can.
“We had the same problem last year. I think people are thinking we have the Champions League game on Tuesday and they are trying to give us as much time to recover. But the flip side of that is that a lot of these boys have been away on international duty, they come back to us on Friday morning and then we are travelling on Friday afternoon, three and a half hours before an early game It’s very, very difficult for the players, very taxing and demanding of them.
“We have to worry about the dehydration factor for the players, coming back then playing so soon. But we’ll gauge that. I think 12.15pm is a funny time for a game anyway. Normally it’s 12.45 and I suppose half an hour doesn’t make that much difference. It’s just the fact we have travelled three and a half hours the day before that compounds the difficultly.”
Today’s fixture is one Lennon would regard as testing in any circumstances, given Ross County’s outstanding 36-game unbeaten run in league matches.
“At any level, that’s pretty impressive,” he added. “Ross County are a good club and I like what they’ve done there. The set-up is very good. They’ve started this season very well. It’s a difficult venue and there are a lot of things going against us. But we’re not using that as an excuse, we’ll go there to try and win the game.”
Midfielder Stuart Kettlewell returns for Ross County.
The 28-year-old has missed their opening two SPL games through suspension.
However, Paul Lawson and Martin Scott have both been ruled out through injury.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North east