Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Celtic manager Neil Lennon getting no credit... but he won't quit club

Champion feeling: Neil Lennon, Johan Mjallby and Garry Parker enjoy the moment as Celtic wrapped up the Scottish title

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill believes his former Northern Ireland team-mate Neil Lennon is not given the credit he deserves for leading Celtic to domestic success.

Earlier this week the Hoops clinched their third Scottish Premiership title in a row under Lennon but with Old Firm rivals Rangers out of the top flight for the past two seasons, many argue that championship glory is the very least that Celtic supporters should expect.

Indeed, having been knocked out in the group stages of the Champions League and suffered early elimination in the Scottish Cup and League Cup, it has been suggested in some quarters the 2013-2014 campaign has been a major let down for the Glasgow giants.

The Northern Ireland manager disagrees.

"Everyone thinks it is a formality for Celtic to win the title but they still have to go out and do it," said O'Neill.

"Neil has won three league titles in a row now and he's building a legacy for himself at Celtic. He deals with more than the average manager and I don't think he gets the credit he should in Scotland.

"Managers of the Old Firm clubs can't win because Ally McCoist at Rangers doesn't receive any credit either. McCoist has won League One for Rangers without losing a game and is still in the Scottish Cup but people prefer to pick out bad points."

There has been speculation linking Lennon with a move to England, most notably Norwich City this season and Everton last summer before Roberto Martinez took over from David Moyes at Goodison Park.

O'Neill is not convinced the 42-year-old former Northern Ireland skipper will be going anywhere.

"I don't know if he will move to the Premier League in England," said the ex-Dundee United and Hibs midfielder.

"In Scotland, Neil wins eight out of 10 games. The reality is with any opportunity he would get in England, he would be in a totally different scenario.

"The Champions League games with Celtic are a huge draw for him and in 2015 Rangers will be in the same division again, which will offer up a new challenge, so I'm not so sure he is in a hurry to leave.

"I was at Celtic's game with Aberdeen when they lost in the Scottish Cup and saw Neil after the match. He was very disappointed to go out because he wanted another double.

"In many ways it's been a difficult season for Celtic. It was always going to be tough to replicate what they did the previous season, winning the title and Scottish Cup and beating Barcelona on their way to the knockout stages of the Champions League.

"Now Neil's focus is on improving his team for next season. When the Champions League comes around again in August it will be a big thing for him. He's lost some key players in the last year and is trying to re-build to give Celtic a chance of making an impact again."

O'Neill also paid tribute to another old international team-mate, Tommy Wright, who left the Northern Ireland goalkeeping coaching role when he became boss at St Johnstone.

"Tommy is doing really well at St Johnstone with very limited resources. They have finished in the top six in Scotland and have a chance of reaching the Scottish Cup final. He's certainly enhancing his reputation," said O'Neill.

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