Celtic’s Neil Lennon: I miss Rangers rivalry

Celtic manager Neil Lennon. Picture: Ian Rutherford/TSPL
Celtic manager Neil Lennon. Picture: Ian Rutherford/TSPL
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Neil Lennon has admitted to missing the excitement of regular Old Firm matches since Rangers’ demotion to Scotland’s bottom tier.

The Celtic manager was speaking to Sky Sports as he pined for the presence of the Parkhead side’s bitter rivals in Scotland’s top flight. Rangers have not faced Celtic since their relegation to the Third Division in 2012 after liquidation.

Lennon also said that Rangers would return to the top flight a weakened side, as they would need time to find their feet in the Scottish Premiership after years spent in the lower leagues.

“You look for their result after your game or, if they’ve had an earlier kick-off, then you know what you’ve got to do,” said Lennon of when Rangers last featured regularly in Scotland’s top tier.

“The to-ing and fro-ing with Rangers is always exciting. You also miss the competitiveness and, of course, you miss the games, because it’s one of the greatest derbies in the world. There is always drama and energy in those games, and they will happen again in another couple of seasons and the excitement will start building again.”

The widening gap between Rangers and Celtic, exacerbated by the latter side’s notable European excursions, may be brought into sharper relief once Ally McCoist’s men return to compete with Celtic on a regular basis.

“I don’t think Rangers will be as strong initially as they were, as they will have to build p slowly and stabilise themselves, because it has been a tumultuous time for them.”

Lennon also heaped praise on goalkeeper Fraser Forster’s development, and called his entry into the England squad one of his greatest achievements as Celtic manager.

Forster, who made his international debut against Chile in a 2-0 defeat, won praise for his display despite conceding two goals, and Lennon said his progress from third choice at Newcastle to England no1 was remarkable.

“He’s worked tirelessly on his game and what I’ve always liked about him is his presence. We have worked and worked on his agility and for a big man he really fills the goal.”