Neil Lennon sleeps on Celtic job offer but is already dreaming big

Neil Lennon lifts the Scottish Cup aloft after guiding Celtic to the treble-treble. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS
Neil Lennon lifts the Scottish Cup aloft after guiding Celtic to the treble-treble. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS
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As Neil Lennon was being doused in champagne by jubilant Celtic players
in the Hampden dressing room on Saturday, Dermot Desmond and Peter Lawwell walked in to make him an offer he surely cannot refuse.

It is difficult to imagine the 47-year-old, who claimed the 18th major honour of his storied Celtic career with the Scottish Cup triumph over Hearts, doing anything other than signing on the dotted line once the details of his contract as permanent manager of the Scottish champions are finalised.

With just a hint of mischief in his eyes, however, Lennon was quick to remind us that his second tenure in charge of the club he undoubtedly loves isn’t yet a fait accompli. “You could say no,” he said. “But I’m pretty steely about it and I know what I want to do.

“It’s been a privilege to manage them the first time and to do it for the second time is just unbelievable really, it’s great. I’ll take stock of things, obviously I have a lot to think about. I’m still quite emotional at the minute – there is a lot to take in. There is a lot to think about. But, again, when you get offered a job like this it’s really, really difficult to turn it down.”

Lennon suffered just one defeat in his 14 games as interim manager since stepping in to replace Brendan Rodgers in February, meeting all the requirements of the job as he guided Celtic to the completion of their extraordinary third consecutive domestic treble.

He is appreciative of the intense demands he will face to extend Celtic’s monopoly of silverware, not to mention the desire for a return to the group stage of the Champions League.

“There is always pressure at Celtic,” he added. “You just have to not listen to expectations. I will talk to the board and find out what they want. I will stick to that task.

“The first treble season under Brendan was incredible, so anything after that was going to be a regression anyway. But they’ve gone on to win another two trebles after that. It was impossible to maintain that level of performance and level of result, that was an incredible standard and benchmark that probably won’t be repeated.

“The Champions League would be an attraction for any manager at Celtic. First and foremost, the priority is the league championship and then you work around that from here on in. But it would be fantastic. It’s brilliant for the club, the players, me and my coaching staff. It can only help you and develop you but it’s a very difficult thing to do, we have eight games before we can qualify. We have to hit the ground running very, very early and again that’s going to be difficult but we’re going to have to get the right players in as quickly as possible and that can be difficult as well.

“We are looking at players. We have identified two or three players for a couple of positions already. Myself, John Kennedy and the recruitment team have been working very hard in the background. We will see if we can get the ball rolling soon too.

“We were nine points clear in the league at the end of the season. There is no doubt there is a marked improvement in Rangers but you would expect that and we have to try to endeavour to stay that bit further ahead. I think that’s the whole remit.

“At the minute, I haven’t given it much thought. I’ll compute it all and take it all in over the next couple of days and probably have a bit more for you on that.”

Lennon insists he has no regrets at his decision to quit as Celtic manager four years ago and feels he is stronger for his subsequent experiences at Bolton and Hibernian.

“At the time, it felt for me like the right thing to do,” he said. “I left on my own terms and it was in my mind to maybe come back one day. I’ve had four years and it’s been tough.

“There have been highs and lows but I have learned a lot, so to be offered the opportunity again? I wasn’t going to give that up easy.

“You need the highs and you need the lows. It’s never plain sailing and big Sam Allardyce always told me you’re not really a proper manager until you get the sack. So it’s a really good learning curve and I’ve also learned a lot in these last two and a half months about myself more than anything else.

“It’s been really tough coming in, but I think I’ve mellowed and I’m more rounded and don’t get too agitated by a world of false news, Twitter and social media. You have to ignore all that and concentrate on what you do and keep your integrity. If you believe you are doing the right things you can’t get too upset.”