Hibernian manager Neil Lennon believes that, if Brendan Rodgers’ side can complete a domestic treble by overcoming Aberdeen in today’s William Hill Scottish Cup final, it would rank among the greatest achievements in the club’s 129-year history.
Indeed, the former Celtic player, coach and manager claims that only the historic European Cup triumph in Lisbon 50 years ago could trump concluding a campaign without losing a single game to their domestic rivals.
“It would be up there,” he said. “To go unbeaten throughout the season is phenomenal. Martin O’Neill’s team came close when we won the title in 2002, when the only game we lost was away to Aberdeen.
“Celtic have simply dismantled all of their opposition this season. There is a ruthlessness about them. They don’t panic during games. Plus Brendan has a taste for it now and I think that’s why he signed that new four-year contract – he sees the potential for making inroads into Europe as well as being dominant domestically.
“But if they were to complete the treble and have a whole campaign without losing to a Scottish club, it would be right up there with the achievements of any of the great teams in the club’s history apart from the Lisbon Lions. It wouldn’t be on a par with that but it would be up there with the rest.”
Even so, Lennon, right, insists that the outcome at Hampden is far from a foregone conclusion.
“Anything could happen on any given day but I think Aberdeen would need to score first to have a chance because Celtic are really good once they get their noses in front,” he said. “Brendan’s side play at a tempo and with a quality that none of the others can match and they’ve handled their semi-finals and finals comfortably up until now.
“They will be determined to make their mark on the history of this club but Aberdeen have had a stellar season and it’s good that the two best teams in the country will fight it out in the showpiece game, although I’d have much rather been in the final with Hibs.”
Lennon attended the tribute concert for the Lisbon Lions in Glasgow on Thursday and revealed that he had been raised on tales of their achievements.
“When I was growing up in Lurgan, people would come back from games and talk about them,” he said. “Then, when I started making the crossings, I’d hear about them and Danny McGrains and Kenny Dalglish.
“I was only about five or six at the time and they were like mythical creatures to me. They were the ones who set the tone – they call it the Celtic way – and every manager, player and team since then has tried to aspire to those levels.
“Some of them have come close – including the Martin O’Neill side I played in –and the current team is breaking all sorts of records but we’ve all been following the pathway set out by Jock Stein and his players.
“For me, as a player and then a coach and a manager, to meet the Lions was an absolute privilege. There’s a real connection and understanding among them all. Willie Wallace has just come back from Australia for this but they just picked up immediately from where they left off with the banter. Of course, they also played football the way everyone wants to see it played.”