AS another championship hoves into view for Neil Lennon, the Celtic manager will play a numbers game. And find himself with a sum that doesn’t add up. Lennon is close to confirming his status as only the fourth manager at the club to win three consecutive titles.
The fact that he is not already keeping company with Jock Stein, Willie Maley and Gordon Strachan and heading for a fourth straight championship, though, continues to irk him.
Lennon’s revitalising of a team he picked up in a shambolic state following the brief, ill-starred Tony Mowbray tenure in 2009-10 appeared as if it would be completed in the closing weeks of the following season. A win in the club’s rearranged fixture away to Inverness would have put Celtic two points clear of Rangers. Instead, Lennon’s side endured a cataclysmic night in the Highlands, going 3-1 down after an hour before eventually losing 3-2.
Rangers won their remaining three fixtures to complete a three-in-a-row under Walter Smith, and promptly imploded nine months later. Their demise has meant that anything Lennon has achieved in the league since has been little valued.
“When we went up to Inverness in that midweek and lost to them after having already done the majority of the donkey work, we had drawn at Ibrox and ended as runners-up when, if we’d kept our focus and our consistency, we’d have won the league,” Lennon said. “So regardless of what people may say about Rangers not having been here for the last two seasons, in the two before that we picked up 92 and 93 points so we have been very consistent.
“You don’t dwell on missing out for too long but sometimes you look back on it and think we could have silenced the critics who saw we’re only winning the league because Rangers aren’t in it. Well, we won one when they were and narrowly lost out in the other one against the man who was, probably, Rangers’ best-ever manager.”