Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Brown can handle Old Firm heat, says Celtic boss Lennon

Under-fire Scott Brown will hold his nerve, says Hoops supremo Neil Lennon

Neil Lennon has no concerns about Scott Brown despite the Celtic skipper being singled out by Rangers defender Kyle Bartley ahead of tonight's Scottish Cup fifth-round replay at Parkhead.

Brown has clashed with El-Hadji Diouf in recent Glasgow derbies and the on-loan Arsenal youngster, who was deemed lucky only to be booked three minutes into his Old Firm debut last week for a foul on the Scotland midfielder, rekindled the fire again at the weekend.

Bartley said: “Not many people at Rangers get on with Scott Brown and I'm not his biggest fan so we will see what happens in the next game.”

His remarks come in a week that saw Police Federation chairman Les Gray claim that scrapping the Old Firm fixtures was the only way to stop the “murder and mayhem” that regularly follows the games.

When asked about the police viewpoint the Celtic boss would only say: “It is one of the great fixtures in football, leave it at that,” but revealed he had no plans for a pep talk with his skipper.

“He doesn't need me to say anything to him,” said Lennon.

“Scotty can look after himself and he has proved that this season.

“There will be no special talk about that.

“Players know that discipline is important in these games but they should relish the challenge.”

After the 2-0 defeat by Motherwell at Fir Park on Sunday, the Hoops' first defeat in 18 games, Lennon is looking for his players to recapture their hunger against their Old Firm rivals, whom they beat convincingly 3-0 in their last meeting.

“It is only 10 days ago so it will be fresh in their minds,” he said.

“I want to see that hunger again. There was an intensity to their play that wasn't really evident on Sunday.

“So we are looking for a positive reaction.

“After every negative result you are looking for a return to form. The players didn't do themselves justice at Motherwell and they know that.”

It will be the fifth Old Firm meeting of the season but Lennon is looking forward to hosting Rangers under the Celtic Park floodlights and expects the game to match any of the great European nights in recent years.

The former Parkhead skipper said: “There is no better place to be, midweek games under the lights and Old Firm games are always special no matter what the competition is and it probably will be up there with any European nights we have had over the years.”

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