Neil Lennon 'enjoying' taking heat at Celtic and has fire in belly

Neil Lennon maintains he is taking perverse pleasure from the pressure being heaped on him amid Celtic’s on-field struggles.

Celtic manager Neil Lennon says he has the "fire" in his belly for the current challenges (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

The 49-year-old now needs to come up with rapid answers to the issues that have resulted in only two victories being harvested from eight games. A run has allowed Rangers to open up an 11-point gap in the Parkhead club’s historic 10-in-a-row-chasing season, the sequence led to a Green Brigade banner being placed at the club’s stadium demanding his removal.

As his team faces a win-or-bust Europa League encounter away to Sparta Prague, Lennon admitted he “wouldn’t be human” if he wasn’t “disappointed” in the actions of the ultras group, but says he is energised by the current precarious situation.

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“I’m strong, I’m so motivated now, and have the fire in the belly,” said the Celtic manager. “I’m actually enjoying going through this adverse period, if you want to call it that. It makes you feel stronger. My backroom staff are the same, they’re good and vibrant, and the players are hopefully taking on board what we’re asking of them. They know they have a lot more to come.

“Look, I’ve been in worse situations, far worse situations in my managerial career and also my own football career. Maybe some fans or players haven’t been through a real rest like this before. But it’s my job, certainly from the players’ point of view, to cajole them through it and I do believe they will hit a run of form and momentum to get going.

“There are always challenges as a manager that you have to face. It can’t always be rose gardens. You have to come through a little bit of adversity at times. Listen, there has to be a sense of perspective here. We have won nine, drawn three and lost one [in the league]. In the three draws we’ve given away silly penalties that have cost us six points.

“If we eradicate that we’ll be there or thereabouts. And we’ve got games in hand - which we’re not guaranteeing we’re going go win. But we could win them and the gap then isn’t as big as it probably looks on paper. The reality is we’ve been a little bit inconsistent but that’s no different from any other season.

“Our rivals are going very well at the minute and we have to stay around, stay strong, and push through it. There is plenty of football to go. We go to Prague now knowing we need to win. So we’re looking for a really strong performance.”

The banner protest isn’t so much about the frenzy surrounding the title but the knee-jerk nature of modern living. “I think it’s just a sign of the times,” he said. “You’re either a one-week wonder or a one-week disaster. With all the media platforms and the so-called expert opinions...I really don’t engage with it. I step away and look at the facts.

“We have to be calm and have a sense of perspective and share that with the players. What’s let us down is just silly moments when we could have done better – it’s not as though we’ve been cut open. Against Hibs [in the 2-2 draw at the weekend] we dominated but shot ourselves in the foot a little bit.”

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