Derek McInnes believes Neil Lennon is on a “hiding to nothing” as the Celtic interim manager seeks to complete a triple treble.
Lennon is the unenviable position of knowing he can only fail as Celtic prepare to face McInnes’ Aberdeen side in Sunday’s Scottish Cup semi-final. A victory would be perceived as expected as Celtic look to close out a third successive clean sweep of domestic trophies.
Brendan Rodgers has claimed the seven-in-a-row to date but left to join Leicester City in February. Lennon, who weeks earlier had parted company with Hibernian, was recruited as caretaker and looks certain to lead his side to the league title in the coming weeks. But Celtic’s treble ambitions hinge on Sunday’s clash with Aberdeen and McInnes claims no one will be putting more pressure on Lennon than the Northern Irishman himself.
The Aberdeen manager does not see why Lennon’s arrival should make a difference to Celtic’s status as favourites to win the trophy. But Lennon’s presence in the dugout does lend a different dynamic to the occasion.
“It’s still the same players,” said McInnes. “They’ve got players who can turn the game in an instant. In terms of the managers, both have been successful Celtic managers, Brendan and Neil. He [Lennon] is actually on a hiding to nothing. If he wins the league he’s already said it’s Brendan’s team and been really gracious about that. If he wins the cup, people will say that [too].
“But if he loses the cup it’s Neil’s team and I think the only pressure on Neil will be from himself. I’m pretty sure that the people within Celtic are well aware of his abilities.”
McInnes does not believe Lennon’s fate should depend on whether he wins the cup or not. He argued that since this wouldn’t have been the case for Rodgers why should it apply to Lennon?
“People wouldn’t have looked any differently if Brendan Rodgers didn’t win the cup this season if he was still in charge,” McInnes said. “His job wouldn’t have been in jeopardy. For me, the fact that they’ve given Neil the opportunity in a difficult situation, regardless of how the season plays out for him in the cup, whether it’s us beating them or whether he loses a final, I’m sure the people inside Celtic know of his capabilities. You wouldn’t like to think that he has to win a cup to get the Celtic job. I would be very surprised if that’s the case.”
Although Lennon has only been in charge for seven matches, McInnes reckons it is possible to discern slight differences between Rodgers’ team and that of his successor which are reflective of their personalities. “Brendan’s team were far more controlled, deliberate with their work, controlling games and more patient,” he said. “Neil’s team are bit more ‘here I am’, right in your face and like to show you what they’ve got.
“Any team at times can mirror their manager and what they want. There’s no huge difference. It’s down to the players and they’re good players so Neil will recognise that he’s been fortunate to inherit a strong squad. Whether it’s the end of the season or next season when he starts to put more of his stamp on the team, [we will see].”