Celtic’s Neil Lennon decides ‘throwing players under the bus’ is no longer his way

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard has generated (some might say deflected) many headlines in recent weeks by publicly criticising his players, individually and collectively, after damaging defeats.

Neil Lennon, Manager of the Month for February, now lets his players manage the drsssing room. Picture: SNS.

Some pundits regard that response as admirable honesty while others claim that can only impact negatively on the relationship between the former Liverpool and England captain and his dressing room.

The art of throwing players under a bus is often regarded as old school and counter-productive and Celtic’s Neil Lennon has been there, done that and decided it is no 
longer for him.

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As recently as last year, he left Hibernian following a bust-up with Swiss striker Florian Kamberi (ironically, now on loan at Rangers) but nowadays he prefers less confrontational methods, as he proved by his refusal to single out individuals for game-changing errors in the 3-1 Europa League defeat by FC Copenhagen nine days ago or the 2-2 draw with Livingston at the Tony Macaroni Arena on Wednesday.

Instead, he preferred to focus on the positive contributions of others and he claims this will be the way forward for him from now on.

“I think it’s the right way to do it now,” he claimed. “You’re dealing with a different generation. I was a bit of a firebrand in those days and part of my management style now is that I have learned a lot from that.

“They are a great bunch of players who give me everything. They’re going to make mistakes here and there because they’re human beings, but those mistakes have been very few and far between.

“Anyway, these are different times. Players are socially different, they are brought up differently, they’re different culturally so my approach to management has definitely changed over the years.

“I think it’s a gradual evolution. When I look back at some of the occasions [when I lost it] early on in my career, you think: ‘Was that the right way?’ It was the way I was brought up but I look back at them now and think: ‘No, it wasn’t’. You pick your moments and, again, they’ve been very few and far between.”

Lennon is working with a squad full of international players and admits that their ability and ideas have helped him to improve. “[I like to think] they’ve learned from me but I’ve learned from them as well, especially over the past year or so,” he said. “I’ve never really had to raise my voice. I may say a bit and [assistant-manager] John Kennedy may say a bit but that’s it, really.”

He also believes that refusing to go overboard with home and away wins over Lazio and then resisting the temptation to wail and gnash his teeth at European defeats by unfancied rivals have helped keep the team on an even keel in a demanding campaign.

“I hope so, although I’ve had great support from my backroom team,” he said. “I also have some really experienced players in there who know how to drive the team on and they’ve all been responding in the right manner so far.

“I let them manage the dressing room. I don’t really get involved unless there is a really major issue that needs addressing. Apart from that, the players are a good group. A lot of them have been together a long time and know what is best. If there’s a major problem, I’ll speak with [captain] Scott Brown about it but, in the main, it’s been pretty seamless from that point of view.”

There will be no let-up when Celtic host struggling St Mirren this afternoon, Lennon revealing that this will not be a game for rotating his squad and providing game time for some of his peripheral players.

“I’m not taking any opponent lightly, so no,” he said. “We’re still at full throttle at the minute. I want us to get better, I want us to keep pushing.

“There are places up for grabs, we have a Scottish Cup semi-final to think about in the coming weeks and there’s obviously a big game [against Rangers at Ibrox] next week as well. We can’t take our foot off the pedal. St Mirren have been a difficult team to break down at times so I’m looking for a strong performance.”

Lennon praised Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson, who signed a new contract at the age of 70.

“He’s got great enthusiasm, he’s had a magnificent career and he’s doing a great job at Palace so why not?” he said. “I can’t see me managing at that age. What else would I do? I don’t know, probably play golf, badly.”

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