Thomas Rogne: We like Neil Lennon the way he is
Celtic defender says manager’s ‘passion’ on touchline has been key to success but insists they can cope if their leader isn’t there
CELTIC defender Thomas Rogne has urged Neil Lennon not to change the way he behaves during matches and insists it is the manager’s passion which has taken the club to the brink of their first SPL title in four years.
Lennon has come under fresh criticism for his conduct in Sunday’s Old Firm defeat at Ibrox which saw him dismissed at half-time by referee Calum Murray and subsequently issued with a notice of complaint from SFA Compliance Officer Vincent Lunny
The complaint alleges he adopted aggressive behaviour towards a match official and used offensive, abusing and insulting language.
The case will be heard on Thursday 19 April with a two-match suspension from the technical area the minimum punishment if Lennon is found guilty.
The Celtic manager has already stated his intention to “vigorously defend” himself against a separate complaint from Lunny regarding his post-match criticism of referee Willie Collum following the League Cup final defeat against Kilmarnock last week.
But Rogne has expressed the support of the Celtic players for Lennon and criticised the action taken against him at Ibrox.
“We want him the way he is,” said Rogne. “That’s how he got us here and we don’t want him to change at all.
“I don’t know why he got sent off. He’s a very passionate man and you can say something that is a spontaneous reaction. That’s part of football and if he got sent off for that, it’s obviously the wrong decision.
“The players will always be behind the manager. He is our leader. Everyone wants to have a leader on the bench where he belongs. But, if he has to be in the stand, then we will have to deal with it.”
Rogne, speaking at a promotional event for forthcoming live SPL fixtures on ESPN, revealed the Celtic players were initially unaware of the action taken against Lennon by referee Murray on Sunday.
“He was trying to inspire us in the dressing room at half-time,” added Rogne, “and we knew that we had to come back in the game and we wanted to get a result. In those games, you don’t really hear instructions from the dugout because it’s so loud but, of course, we want him to be there.
“To be honest, I didn’t even know he’d been sent off and I only found out in the middle of the game when I looked at the dugout and he wasn’t there. That tells you how loud it was.
“We look for instruction and to the dugout where our leader is, but we’ve got good coaches who also can step up and be leaders.”
Rogne, meanwhile has ridiculed claims that Celtic regularly choke on big occasions.
The Norwegian international defender insists they have already won their biggest game of the season and have nothing to prove in terms of their resolve when it matters most.
“I think it’s nonsense, to be honest,” said Rogne.
“We’ve played a lot of big games and won them. Okay, we’ve just lost a couple of big games but that happens in football. But, if we lose two, people start to talk about our mentality being bad. As I say, that’s nonsense.
“The game we played against Rangers at Celtic Park on 28 December was an even bigger game, because we started the night one point behind them.
“We won the game to go top of the table. We were 15 points behind at one stage and somehow we are now 18 points in front. I don’t think you have a weak mentality if you manage to do that. We also won the Scottish Cup final last year, that was a big game.
“We have got strong characters in our dressing room and that’s one of the things the manager wanted to change when he came in. The group was a bit down but he changed our mentality and he changed our character. I think we have a very strong dressing room.
“We want to win every game and, of course, we put the pressure on ourselves because we think we’re good enough to do it, so we don’t care what other people say about us or expect of us from the outside. The pressure we feel is the pressure we put on ourselves.
“Sometimes you lose games in football. We conceded a late goal in the League Cup final and I thought we deserved better but that’s part of the game. Against Rangers it was a bit of a strange game, but that happens.
“I don’t think we ever gave up in the game and that shows a bit of character. Even though we had nine men and were three goals down, we never gave up. We tried to play and score goals and that shows character. I didn’t think of that negatively. Everyone just wanted to play and show that we were better than what we had showed at the beginning of the game.
“Personally, I don’t listen to praise or criticism. I just listen to what the manager says.
“I don’t really like to listen to credit because if people praise you, you know that if you play one bad game, some people will turn against you. So I don’t actually know if we’ve been getting the credit we deserve this season.”
Rogne accepts that the edge might have gone from Celtic’s performance levels as a consequence of their massive lead at the top of the SPL which has made it a case of when, rather than if, they clinch the title.
“Maybe that’s the case, but I hope that’s not what’s happened with us,” he added. “We just want to get back to winning ways and look forward again.
“There’s been a lot of talk about the treble and the title and winning at Ibrox and all that sort of thing. But what we want to do is just win the next game and then what happens, happens. If we win the league, I think that’s all that matters, really. At the end of the season, that’s all you think about – did you win the league or not?”
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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