Celtic’s Neil Lennon: This has been my toughest spell in management

Celtic manager Neil Lennon celebrates winning the league. Pic: SNS/Craig FoyCeltic manager Neil Lennon celebrates winning the league. Pic: SNS/Craig Foy
Celtic manager Neil Lennon celebrates winning the league. Pic: SNS/Craig Foy
Neil Lennon delivered Celtic’s eighth title win in a row then claimed it was the toughest of his managerial career and urged fans to relish it rather than worry too much about the bigger picture.

Alluding to the difficulties of coming in midway through the season following the sudden departure of Brendan Rodgers, and faced with the demands of living up to the success of his predecessor and delivering another domestic treble and, more importantly, edging towards the coveted historic tally of ten league triumphs in a row, the interim boss said he was extremely proud of the achievement.

“It’s a privilege to manage this club,” Lennon said. “It’s my second time doing it and these moments are for savouring. I’ve learned to do that as you go along, not to look too far ahead. I’m so proud of the players, the way they handled the occasion.

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“It’s been the toughest piece of management I’ve had in my ten years. That’s just with the scrutiny and agitation and the discontent surrounding the club. We all had to keep calm.

“I came in to do a job and see it through. On the outside it probably looks easy to people but on the inside there was a lot of agitation and discontent around the club and I had to deal with it. It is credit to John Kennedy and Stevie Woods, Damien Duff as well, young coaches who have helped me through with the players.

“I feel you need the hide of a rhinoceros and big cohones. I’m not sure I’ve got those, but I’ve got the hide of a rhino! You just need to bat things away and concentrate. OK, some of the performances weren’t great but we are unbeaten in 11 games so the standard is high and the expectation is very, very high. We need – even the supporters – to take stock. This is eight titles. This hasn’t been done for a very, very long time. So the fans should engage in that, not think about nine or ten.”

Captain Scott Brown said it was especially poignant to wrap things up in a week when so much focus has been on the history of the club following the recent death of legends Billy McNeill and Stevie Chalmers.

“We were feeling pressure but we get pressure week in, week out,” said Brown. “It doesn’t matter if we’re home or away, going for titles, everyone expects us to win. Yet again, we’ve managed to do that this season and get another title on the board.”

That is now nine league titles for the midfielder, who also bagged one under Gordon Strachan ahead of the current run. But he acknowledged that the mid-season managerial shift, with Rodgers quitting for Leicester in February, could have derailed them. “It’s always hard when a manager leaves but we had a fantastic manager come in to replace him. The gaffer’s been brilliant, he’s enjoyed every moment of it. To get over the line means a lot to us and Neil as well.

“Thankfully, it was short and sharp – one was out and another was in the next morning. So it worked out perfectly. The lads all know our style of play so there were no excuses there.

“It was just about getting over the line and the Rangers victory at Celtic Park in particular, really helped with that.

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“Especially in the week where we’ve lost two Lisbon Lions. To do it for them means a lot.

“Every title gets sweeter so this one’s special, especially as you get towards the end of your career. You’ve got to enjoy the moment and I definitely am, that’s for sure.”

It was a reminder why he chose to sign a deal to keep him at the club rather than head to Australia.

“There’s nothing more special than winning a title or a cup with Celtic. To have that feeling with the supporters every week, is brilliant. If I’d have left I’d have regretted not having that feeling on days like today … and I think I made the right decision for my career. For me, these moments are so special and I’m now looking forward to next season.”