Craig Levein has backed interim Celtic boss Neil Lennon after he launched a passionate defence of his credentials in a bid to convince his employers and the Parkhead fans that he deserves the job on a permanent basis.
“Neil has done a really good job for Celtic. And, if you look at his longevity, he was there for a long time as a player, and was very successful,” said Levein. “This is his second spell as a manager and, again, he has been very successful.”
With 11 trophies as a player and six as manager of the Glasgow club, the success is well-documented but, in his second spell at Hearts, Levein understands that, for some, familiarity does breed contempt.
“I think it’s just the way the game is. People expect the best – or above. We all know that and this isn’t a job to do if you are prepared to lower your sights at any point.
“It all depends on the outcomes. Neil has got his own pressures to deal with. Ours might be slightly different in that, unfortunately, we’re not going for the treble treble. And we’re not often in cup finals. So, for us, there’s an air of excitement attached to it, rather than pressure.”
Levein’s men will form a guard of honour at Celtic Park tomorrow, showing due respect to a team who have wrapped up their eighth successive Premiership trophy but the Hearts boss hopes that is where the deferential behaviour begins and ends on the field as the Gorgie club seek to set the right tone ahead of next weekend’s Scottish Cup final meeting at Hampden.
“It is a bit strange. My main focus has obviously been on the final,” said Levein. “So that has really shaped my thoughts for this game. I don’t want to be sitting on Monday morning with any injuries and I’m sure Celtic will be the same.
“We’re going to have some younger players involved because, when I look at it, the benefits to them are obvious. There are older guys who will benefit from more training time and one less game. But the young players will benefit from playing in this atmosphere, so it makes sense.”