Neil Lennon reminds Celtic fans about lean times of 1990s

Celtic interim manager Neil Lennon has been stung by fans' criticism after the defeat by Rangers at Ibrox. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS
Celtic interim manager Neil Lennon has been stung by fans' criticism after the defeat by Rangers at Ibrox. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS
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Like everyone else of a Celtic persuasion, Neil Lennon will thrill to the sight of Paul McStay walking on to the Parkhead pitch this Sunday.

The club’s former captain and one of the finest midfielders Scotland has ever produced will be Celtic’s guest of honour and carry out the Premiership trophy for the eight-in-a-row presentation party after the match against Hearts.

Lennon will join the applause for McStay and, if he had his way, would also hand him a microphone to address the crowd and remind them of the unprecedented era of success that they are currently witnessing.

Interim manager Lennon feels too many Celtic fans are failing to fully appreciate the magnitude of what has been achieved in recent years by a squad which can complete a third successive domestic treble if they win the Scottish Cup final at Hampden on 25 May.

“Maybe Paul should talk to some of our younger generation of fans and let them know what it was like back in the day,” said Lennon. “He is one of the greatest of all time but unfortunately he played in some difficult times for the club.

“He went six years without winning a trophy from 1989 and when Celtic won the Scottish Cup under Tommy Burns and with Paul as captain in 1995, you could see how much it meant to both of them.

“So we don’t take it lightly, winning trophies. We take it very seriously. We know the amount of work, the sacrifice that goes into it. We’ve been doing it very well for a long, long time here but we certainly don’t take it for granted.

“I’m delighted Paul is going to be there on Sunday. He won’t enjoy it, because he is shy. But it will be brilliant to see him and I’m sure he will get a huge reception walking out there. I hope it means a lot to him because he means a lot to us.”

Lennon has clearly been stung by the level of criticism from some Celtic fans after the 2-0 defeat by Rangers at Ibrox last Sunday. With the league title already wrapped up, it was his first loss in 12 games since stepping in for Brendan Rodgers in February.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Lennon. “Maybe it’s because Brendan has left and I’ve come in that we’re getting analysed to death from game to game. The league was done a week earlier. We won the league comfortably. I read we’d stuttered over the line which is complete nonsense.

“The league was done in a good fashion. I understand the players coming down a little bit. They have to get back on it for the next ten days or so and really focus on winning the Scottish Cup.

“Martin O’Neill lost at Ibrox. Gordon Strachan lost there. Tony Mowbray lost there. I’ve lost there. Brendan lost there. It happens.

“Is it frustrating that I’m always having to prove myself? Yes. You are always looking to prove something to yourself every year or every time you go out there but the level of doubt about me surprises me.

“I won three titles in a row as manager not so long ago, I got to the last 16 of the Champions League not so long ago. I won a Championship with Hibs, got the highest points total with them last year. Last year, not like ten years ago. I got them into Europe, got them through two rounds for the first time since the 80s. I think I can do the job alright. If people want to have an opinion that’s fine, but the evidence is there to the contrary.”

Lennon has also warned those Celtic supporters seeking a higher profile appointment as the next permanent manager to be careful what they wish for.

“They want the glamour name, a lot of them,” he said. “Whether that would guarantee success is another matter. Rangers brought in a big name this season in Steven Gerrard and they’ve got no trophies to show for it so it doesn’t guarantee it.

“There was a lot of talk when Steven came in about Rangers putting in a title challenge and there being a feelgood factor around it, but the players here have seen it off again this year. We are two trophies in and going for a third one for the third successive season.

“I think people take that for granted. I certainly don’t. It’s a remarkable effort and I do understand the mental and physical fatigue involved now because it’s a long season for them. You have to remember they have four qualifying rounds in the Champions League at the start with a small break from last season.

“Whenever they are called upon for the meaningful games, the real meaningful games, they come alive again. They know they let themselves down at Ibrox but it’s not terminal, that’s for sure.”