Neil Lennon uses experience of Celtic predecessors O’Neill, Strachan and Rodgers

A pensive Neil Lennon oversees Celtic training ahead of the Scottish Cup final. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS
A pensive Neil Lennon oversees Celtic training ahead of the Scottish Cup final. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS
Share this article
0
Have your say

It might be a stretch in the eyes of Celtic supporters to describe Martin O’Neill, Gordon Strachan and Brendan Rodgers as a Holy Trinity of former managers, given their contrasting degrees of popularity among the Parkhead faithful for a variety of reasons.

But as Neil Lennon looks to oversee another landmark moment for the Scottish champions on Saturday, he has revealed he will tap into the expertise and advice of all three of those predecessors as part of his preparations.

Lennon played under both O’Neill and Strachan during his glittering playing career at Celtic, while three months ago he stepped in as interim manager following Rodgers’ departure to Leicester City.

“Brendan, Martin and Gordon are the best people to speak with,” said Lennon. “They have all travelled in these shoes before. I spoke to Martin last Friday and I’ll probably have another catch-up either Friday or Saturday morning.

“You value that stuff. Of course you do. It’s normally me ringing Martin, right enough, because he’s like Lord Lucan and disappears off the face of the earth for about seven years, but he’s great.

“He’s pleased for me, put it that way. I owe him a lot and I think he’s pleased to see me doing okay.

“I speak to Gordon regularly as well. To have that sort of shoulder to lean on now and again is brilliant. They all know what it’s like.

“I’ve spoken to Brendan a lot since I came back to the club. We normally talk before games or text each other, so I’m sure we’ll be in touch and he’ll be as delighted as anyone for us if we win the cup.

“He was when we won the league a few weeks ago and, if we do the treble, he’ll be as delighted as anyone.”

Lennon is poised to be a Scottish Cup winner for the seventh time, having lifted the trophy four times as a Celtic player and then claimed it twice during his first spell as manager.

While he is gratified by the potential personal significance of the day, he is prioritising the bigger picture as Celtic face Hearts at Hampden tomorrow with a third consecutive domestic treble up for grabs.

“It would be wonderful to win the cup again but I’m not getting carried away,” he added. “I have my own motivations for winning on Saturday – personal aspirations and professional aspirations.

“But it’s all about the players and I’ve said that from day one. I’m working for them, not them working for me, over the last couple of months.

“We already got the big one with the league title and they have negotiated two very difficult games in the Scottish Cup under myself – Hibs away in the quarter-final and then Aberdeen in the semi.

“Now they are one game away from achieving something very special again. However, that one game is very important to play in.

“Don’t let it pass you by, don’t get caught up in all the noise. Because it will be flat as anything, there will be nothing, if you don’t win. So we have been totally reminding them of that, not that the majority of them need reminding of it.

“You have to play the game, not the occasion. To be fair to the players, they do it very well. The experience they have had will hopefully stand them in good stead. Every game is different – different circumstances, different opposition. But the premise is the same.

“I didn’t realise Celtic have never won the Scottish Cup three years in a row.

“That’s a great incentive, regardless of anything else, to go and win it. They can add that to their already vast resume. But Hearts are not just going to give it to them, they’re going to have to go out and take it. People are writing Hearts off. For me, that’s dangerous and I don’t want to listen to all that.

“They are a dangerous team, they are strong in set-plays. They are a powerful team and defensively hard to beat at times. I know we had a great win over them at Celtic Park earlier in the season, but this is a one-off game. You have to get things right on the day.

“I like Craig Levein a lot as a guy. He’s got Hearts to the top six, into a cup final – he’s a huge improvement on the previous manager. It’s amazing Craig has never won a trophy in his career but he won’t mind me saying I hope that continues on Saturday.”