Rise of Jackie McNamara no surprise to Neil Lennon

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IT IS almost eight years since Neil Lennon succeeded Jackie McNamara as Celtic captain.

Few observers back then could have envisaged a day when the two men pitted their wits against each other from opposing dug-outs at Parkhead.

The return of McNamara to the stadium as Dundee United manager this afternoon lends an added dimension to what may otherwise have been a run-of-the-mill SPL fixture.

For Celtic boss Lennon, his former team-mate’s emergence as one of the brightest young managerial prospects in Scottish football has not come as a shock.

“Jackie was a magnificent servant for Celtic, a very intelligent player and a very intelligent lad,” said Lennon. “It doesn’t surprise me the progress he has made on the coaching side of things. He and his assistant Simon Donnelly are very close, there’s a real trust and loyalty there.

“I didn’t really have much contact with him when he was at Partick Thistle. Sometimes you just want to let people get on with their jobs. He did take Paul Slane on loan there from us for a little while.

“Thistle played some really good football under Jackie and it doesn’t surprise me that Dundee United have taken him. He’s young, he’s ambitious, and he’ll be as hungry as anybody else for success.

“He’s dipped his hand into a lot of things in his life, not just football but business ventures and stuff like that. He’s got a good support mechanism around him. His father Jackie senior was also a great player and with Simon and Darren [Jackson] beside him, there’s vast experience of the game there.”

United have won both of their matches under McNamara’s guidance so far but Lennon does not believe they will be a significantly different proposition than they were under previous manager Peter Houston.

“United are an attacking side anyway if you look at the players they have like Gary Mackay-Steven, Jon Daly, Willo Flood, Jonny Russell and Stuart Armstrong,” added Lennon.

“So Jackie has inherited a good squad there from Peter who did a very good job. He’s brought a bit of freshness to them. He’ll tinker with things, he’ll change a few things, but I don’t think he can change it too much at the moment and he’ll probably re-evaluate the squad in the summer.”

Lennon will be without the injured quartet of Scott Brown, Mikael Lustig, Rami Gershon and Georgios Samaras, while Victor Wanyama is doubtful with a swollen ankle.

“It’s always a dangerous game against Dundee United,” added Lennon. “We played very well last month to beat them 4-0 at home and I’m hoping for a similar reaction, particularly after losing to Juventus on Tuesday.”