Neil Lennon says partnership with Nick Hammond at Celtic ‘like a good marriage’

Celtic manager Neil Lennon, right, with the club's new head of football operations Nick Hammond. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS
Celtic manager Neil Lennon, right, with the club's new head of football operations Nick Hammond. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS
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Christopher Jullien became the most expensive defender in Celtic’s history when they paid Toulouse £7 million for the 26-year-old centre-back on 28 June. Apart from the odd blip, the Frenchman has looked like value for money.

Manager Neil Lennon, however, believes that their most significant summer signing will prove to be that of Nick Hammond. The Englishman had been brought in several weeks before Jullien’s arrival and played a key role in identifying him and helping to get the deal over the line.

The 52-year-old signed a three-month contract at Parkhead when Lee Congerton followed Brendan Rodgers’ example by defecting to Leicester City and many would argue that he did more for the champions in that time frame than his predecessor achieved in his 27 months with the club.

This week, after he had provided chief executive Peter Lawwell with the blueprint for a much-needed restructuring of Celtic’s scouting network, Hammond, 52, was confirmed as the club’s head of football operations and Lennon is delighted that his position is now a permanent one.

“It gives me a lot of comfort; it gives the club stability now,” he said. “He’s very experienced in that role and he knows exactly what he wants from it.

“He’s working away at setting up the recruitment department up here, in England and in Europe. All scouts will report to him. He also oversees the analysis people and they’ll report to him as well so he’s going to be busy. But I’ve been really impressed with him in the three or four months he’s been here now – and I’m delighted that we’ve got him. He was great for me when I came back in; he’s very experienced so you can bounce things off him.

“He has good contacts and a good knowledge of the game from his time at Reading and West Brom. His [understanding of] the role is vital; it’s not like he’s a newcomer. He’s had 10-12 years of it now.

“It’s a big undertaking, managing that department and the people underneath, keeping everything running in terms of the reports coming in on a regular basis, video data etc. He packages all that so we can have a look at it. He’s very, very proficient at that.

“Recruitment is up there as one of the most important facets of managing these days so his input will be key here. Behind the scenes, he’s a hard worker, I’ve seen that he’s very diligent and professional. Plus he’s a good guy, as well.”

While Hammond will use modern technology to help target potential signings, he knows that Lennon prefers a more old-school approach.

“He just comes walking in to my office; don’t bother e-mailing me!” he grinned. “He’ll say: ‘Come and have a look at this’ and I much prefer it that way.

“It’s important to actually see players with your own eyes, whether I go and watch them or Nicky goes and does it a couple of times. He’s been to see players in the past for us, particularly in the summer there, and I think that’s important.

“It’s like a good marriage. Sometimes stats can hide things and they can overdo things as well. It can also be down to your own personal preference as well. Has a player got good legs about him? What’s his running style like? Is he a technician? Could you see him playing for your team? Is he the type you want? That’s what you don’t see on the sheet of paper.

“Character is important. Like stamina, speed, enthusiasm and pace. A lot of those attributes – along with temperament – make up the whole package and that’s what you’re looking for, really.”