Neil Lennon hints at remaining with Celtic for the long haul

Neil Lennon, the interim manager of champions elect Celtic, gave the clearest indication yet that he is back at Parkhead for the long haul when he revealed that he has already been heavily involved in the recruitment process for this summer.

Neil Lennon is already planning Celtics squad for next season. Picture: SNS.

With loan signings Filip Benkovic, Jeremy Toljan, Oliver Burke and Timothy Weah set to return to their parent clubs and Dedryck Boyata and Mikael Lustig coming to the end of their contracts, Lennon is aware that the club cannot afford a repeat of the two disastrous transfer windows they endured last year.

The failure to conclude deals then was a source of great frustration for previous manager Brendan Rodgers and Lennon accepts that, with Champions League qualifying rounds due to start in July, significant business needs to be done before then.

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“I already have had [input],” he said. “I had a meeting with [chief executive] Peter Lawwell and [head of recruitment] Lee Congerton on Wednesday so there are plans in place already.

“There are positions – and some players – identified and there is a plan going forward so it’s business as usual as far as I’m concerned and until I am told otherwise. As for pre-season, we haven’t touched on that yet.

“I think there was a meeting the other day that I couldn’t make but that’s all in hand as well.”

Lennon was the last manager to lead Celtic into the knock-out stages of the Champions League in 2013 and he appreciates the necessity for new signings to be bedded in as quickly as possible.

“Some players are away playing in tournaments like the under-20 World Cup and things like that,” he said. “It’s important to do as much business as quickly as possible; if we can get it done now then even better.”

Celtic host Aberdeen this afternoon looking to extend their lead at the pinnacle of the Premiership. With an unprecedented third consecutive treble a possibility, Lennon – who didn’t complete a clean sweep of domestic honours during his four previous seasons in charge at Parkhead – admits he feels under pressure to finish the job this time out.

“It’s not about me completing the treble; it’s about making sure the players do,” he said. “The bulk of the work was done by Brendan and the players so it’s important that we maintain that run of form and try to get over the line to do something pretty unique.

“Winning the treble for me would be nice but it’s all about the players. I am only in here for 12 or 15 games so it would be job done and job well done but we know we still have a lot of work to do.

“I was coming in when things are going well; it’s not like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, when he had to pick Manchester United up and make people happy again. This was a happy place anyway so you don’t want to disrupt that. And then with the cup runs they’ve had for the last two years you don’t want to go in on your first game and spoil that. There was a lot of pressure on those first two games.

“Now I’ve had time to analyse things and draw breath I feel a little bit more at home again.”

The feeling that Lennon will still be calling the shots next season was strengthened when he dismissed social media speculation that a rift between himself and Lawwell was the prime reason for his departure in 2014.

“I always hoped I would be walking back in the door one day,” he said. “Despite a lot of rumours and conjecture I left on really good terms with Peter and [major shareholder] Dermot Desmond. We had dinner in Dublin and talked things through.

“I always wanted to leave the door open. That’s the way we left things – and here I am, four and a half years later, with a great opportunity and one that I’m really relishing again.”

Midfielder Callum McGregor will miss today’s match with the calf injury which has sidelined him for the last fortnight but Lennon claims the 25-year-old should recover in time to face Dundee next weekend and then travel to Kazakhstan and San Marino with the Scotland squad.

“He should be fit to feature in one of the games,” he said. “Ryan Christie has a hamstring injury so he’s out for longer.

“Kieran Tierney has a pubic problem but he’ll be assessed when he gets there.

“Our physio is also the Scotland physio so he’ll be talking to himself!”