RECENT trips to England have proved more than scouting jobs for Neil Lennon. They have allowed the Celtic manager to make assessments favourable towards what he has constructed in the east end of Glasgow.
In his search for new signings, Lennon attended Fulham’s FA Cup win over Norwich City last week – a jaunt that led one newspaper to claim he has been lined up as the replacement for the under-pressure Carrow Road manager Chris Hughton. From watching the English top flight in the flesh the Irishman has concluded the current Celtic team would compete favourably in the division.
“What I think is with my own group of players we would be OK in the [English] Premier League,” he said. “We would hold our own. Maybe we wouldn’t be top ten, but we’d be mid-table anyway. I don’t think we would be in the relegation dogfight. There is quality down there, no question about it, but there is a lot of mediocrity as well. I think they can over-egg the standard down south.”
While billions of pounds of television money continues to slosh through the EPL, Lennon is having to adapt to more straitened circumstances. A big signing for him is the £1.7 million he paid for Stefan Johansen last week. A big season is one such as the current campaign, where his team could go unbeaten in a league that has no other serious title contender, win the Scottish Cup and not bowl over either their own fans or the wider football public. Indeed, the five defeats in six Champions League group games is considered the major feature of the club’s season. The recent break in Turkey has allowed Lennon to take stock, he says, and seems to have had him concerning himself with the glass ceiling above his head.
“You are always looking to improve. Whether you can improve in the environment we are in is another thing. All you can do is keep getting results, keep looking to recruit well. That makes your job better – when you have good players coming in.
“It is funny, we are three years down the line but we probably don’t get the credit. You are in a no-win situation sometimes. Maybe looking back on it people will say: ‘That was good.’
“If you win, you are expected to win, and if you lose you get criticised. That is just the environment we are in. I am the Celtic manager at the minute and accept it.”