Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Complacency is biggest threat to Celtic double

Neil Lennon can become only the fifth man to win a Scottish double as player and manager
Neil Lennon can become only the fifth man to win a Scottish double as player and manager

It's a bit unusual having the Scottish Cup final on a Sunday, but that's what's happening this weekend.

Due to Uefa determining there can be no other live games on the day of the Champions League final the Scottish FA had no alternative but to put their final back 24 hours.

The traditionalists aren't enthralled by the decision as you would expect, but once the players enter Hampden Park it won't matter to them what day it is.

The Cup final is the climax to the Scottish football season and for all the players, fans and directors of Hibernian and Celtic, winning is all that concerns them.

Both sides have had mixed emotions in the build-up and enter the game with different motives for wanting to lift the trophy.

For Celtic this is their chance to win the domestic double, their first since 2007 and round off what has been a memorable season for everyone at Celtic Park.

Also for Neil Lennon such an accolade would see him become only the fifth man in history to achieve the honour as player and as a manager following in the footsteps of Billy McNeill, Gordon Strachan, Alex McLeish and the great Jock Stein.

That would be a great personal achievement for Lennon and one that I've no doubt he will have thought about long and hard.

For Hibs it's an opportunity to obliterate the memory of the 5-1 mauling they received in last year's final against their city rivals Hearts.

The club also haven't lifted the trophy since 1902 which for the green half of Edinburgh is far too long. Legendary status awaits the Hibs players if they can pull off such a feat.

The big question is where will the game be won and lost?

In Leigh Griffiths, Hibs have a player who has undoubtedly been one of the stand-out performers in the country this season. He has amassed a very impressive 28 goals with five of those coming so far in his side's run to the final, including a hat-trick in the quarter-final win at Kilmarnock.

It's not exactly a secret that if you can curb the threat of Griffiths then you go a long way to overcoming the Easter Road men.

Lennon will be well aware of that. However with Pat Fenlon's charges having defeated Celtic already in the SPL the Hibs players know what it takes to beat their final opponents and that will surely give them a lift psychologically ahead of the game.

In recent weeks Lennon has tinkered with his Celtic line-up in an attempt to freshen his players, but come Sunday he'll be picking his strongest side available.

I've said previously that Cup final defeat would take a bit of gloss off their season and Lennon will see it as a definite missed opportunity for silverware if they lose.

Complacency is Celtic's biggest issue I believe.

What they've done up until now counts for nothing and come kick-off on Sunday it's about who needs and wants it most.

Lennon has the comfort of looking around his dressing room and seeing the likes of Kris Commons who has seven goals in his last seven games, 29 goal hit-man Gary Hooper, influential skipper Scott Brown fit again and also dead ball specialist Charlie Mulgrew.

That will quite rightly make Lennon feel he's well equipped to finish the season on a high.

On paper everything favours a Celtic victory, but we all know football isn't played on paper!

This really is an opportunity for Hibs players to write their names into the history books of the club and be forever remembered down Leith way.

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