Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 2 August 2014

Celtic boss Lennon hits back at taunts by Shiels

Motherwell's Henrik Ojamaa celebrates his goal with team-mate Keith Lasley during the Clydesdale Bank Scottish Premier League match at Fir Park, Motherwell

Motherwell 3 Celtic 1: Neil Lennon has hit back at Kenny Shiels' paranoia taunts by comparing the Kilmarnock boss to Ricky Gervais' comedy creation David Brent.

The Celtic boss described the absence of his players from the PFA Scotland Player of the Year shortlist as "abysmal" last week, prompting Shiels to say: "Celtic make a song and dance about everything, don't they? Paranoid FC."

Speaking after Celtic's 3-1 Clydesdale Bank Premier League defeat by Motherwell at Fir Park yesterday – in which one of the shortlisted players, Michael Higdon, scored a penalty to take his tally for the season to 26 – Lennon responded by likening Shiels to Brent, a vain, deluded and self-promoting office manager from the BBC series, The Office.

"Kenny has always had plenty to say about our club," he said.

"He likes to ramble on in little monologues, he is a bit like David Brent sometimes. He is an unconscious comedian.

"Nothing surprises me from Kenny. He has had a couple of barbed comments about my team and the club over the last couple of years so he must have a personal agenda, I don't know, you would need to ask him about that.

"I do take exception to the paranoia (comment).

"That's been thrown at our club for the last 15 to 20 years but I think the last three or four years have proved that we weren't paranoid, we were just right.

"I still think that one or two of our players should be in the running for player of the year. I said the other day that all the candidates have had fine seasons.

"I am not taking anything away from them. It has been made out as though I have taken the gloss away from them, that's not what I am trying to do at all."

Higdon was key as Stuart McCall's men clinched a Europa League spot in impressive style by coming from behind to beat a much-changed Hoops side.

Gary Hooper opened the scoring for the visitors in the 39th minute before Henrik Ojamaa levelled seconds before the interval.

Higdon put the home side ahead from the spot five minutes into the second half and five minutes later right-back Mikael Lustig headed a Tom Hateley cross against his own post with the luckless Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster seeing the ball come off him and into his own net.

Motherwell moved on to 60 points, nine ahead of third-placed Inverness with three games remaining and it would take a remarkable collapse to deprive the Steelmen of second spot, but Europe is guaranteed.

Lennon was asked about Higdon's performance.

"I like Higdon," he said. "He is a handful but I didn't think he really troubled us today. He got a goal from a penalty but I thought we handled him okay.

"We looked decent going forward and we could have scored more with more composure but our problems weren't going forward, the problems were we shaky at the back again."

Higdon revealed that Lennon's comments had inspired him and the Motherwell players and joked about his "water off a duck's back-type" celebration after scoring.

"I have a lot of respect for Neil Lennon and I understood what he was saying regarding his players being nominated but I think he could have gone about it a different way," he said.

"It is nothing to do with getting in his team, it is about recognising who has had a good season.

"I think the majority of his team have had a good season.

"It is excellent for him as a manager that he has had seven or eight good players and not one outstanding player."

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