John Kennedy speaks on Celtic futures of Neil Lennon and Shane Duffy
Against that backdrop, John Kennedy draws succour from the fact the position of Neil Lennon no longer appears as if it will be in a constant state of flux. It has become apparent that Celtic’s powerbrokers, in the shape of major shareholder Dermot Desmond and club chief executive Peter Lawwell, have no appetite for removing the Celtic manager from his post in this campaign - however much they put themselves at odds with a sizeable section of the support for that.
Assistant manager Kennedy doesn’t pretend Celtic’s coaching staff face other than an onerous task to make good on their board’s backing as they trail Rangers by a monstrous 19 points in the quest for a 10th straight championship. However, he welcomes fewer distractions over their job status for the remainder of the term as Celtic start out on a bid to reverse title fortunes with the hosting of Hibs on Monday.
“I think it brings clarity to the situation,” the Celtic no.2 said of the reported outcome of the board’s review that emerged this week as the squad were in Dubai for a winter training camp. “There is a lot of noise around the big two in Scotland, especially when one team is ahead of the other. There is always pressure on the team who isn’t on top. The board have been fantastic in keeping a cool head and seeing the bigger picture in terms of ‘are things still working?’. In terms of the rumours that go around, it brings that to a close and allows everyone to focus on what is important - and that’s performances and results in every game.”
Taking three points from just about every one of their remaining 19 Premiership encounters has become a recognised imperative for Celtic simply to put heat on Steven Gerrard’s men. As it stands, the longest such run for Lennon’s side in this campaign is seven games. Kennedy, though, says Celtic cannot simply throw in the towel.
“I understand there is a big points’ difference but it isn’t over until it is finished. That has to be the mindset of Neil, me and the players mindset. We have a lot of ground to make up, and a lot of challenges ahead of us, but we will attack every game to win it. That is all we can do. Things have to work out for us elsewhere sometimes but we have to put ourselves in a position where we can get close enough to put Rangers under pressure. We know we are capable of putting a run of results together to do that.”
They will need to take the first step to doing that without Shane Duffy, who will not feature against the Easter Road side as a consequence of leaving the Dubai camp early for personal reasons. Not an act that is the precursor for the on-loan Brighton centre-back to part ways with Celtic in the window, despite speculation, maintains Kennedy.
“In following protocols, he’ll miss the game because he’s left the bubble,” he said. “He’s been through one round of tests, he’ll go through a second before returning to the bubble, which is normal. From then on Shane will be in our thoughts in terms of games.”
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