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Ex-Celtic boss Neil Lennon backs Brendan Rodgers over 'embarrassing' defeat

By Steven Beacom

Published 14/07/2016

Hibernian manager Neil Lennon
Hibernian manager Neil Lennon

Former Celtic manager Neil Lennon has insisted that current Hoops boss Brendan Rodgers was correct to say that Tuesday's stunning 1-0 Champions League defeat to part-timers Lincoln Red Imps from Gibraltar was NOT an embarrassment.

Given that many Celtic fans and ex-players labelled the loss the worst in the club's history, the views of the two Northern Ireland men on the subject are in the minority, but Lennon added that there was no need for Celtic supporters to panic, stating that the reaction to the result in the first leg of the second qualifying round clash had been 'hysterical'.

Lennon, who will take charge of his new club Hibs for the first time tonight at home to Brondby in the Europa League, famously guided Celtic to an unforgettable 2-1 triumph over Barcelona in the Champions League when he was the manager of the Bhoys.

The ex-Northern Ireland midfielder, who had hoped to succeed Ronny Deila at Parkhead in the summer, believes Rodgers and his team will have no problems turning around the deficit in Glasgow next week.

Backing the Carnlough native's assertion that the shock in Gibraltar was no embarrassment, Lennon said: "Brendan is right, he is spot on. They will get through. By all accounts they probably should have won.

"From a coach's point of view, were they creating chances? Yeah. Were they unlucky not to win? Should they have won? Yeah. It will be different at Celtic Park, they will come through it and then it will be forgotten about very quickly.

"If they were out of the tie then I could understand the hype, the furore around it and the hysterical nature of it."

Lennon did not see his countryman’s first game as Celtic boss because he was preparing for the Hibs encounter this evening.

He is confident that the loss won’t have a long lasting impact.

“I wouldn’t read anything into it really other than it’s come very early,” Lennon said.

“Listen, I’ve been there myself, it’s difficult. But they will be a week fitter when they play Lincoln at Celtic Park and I expect Celtic to comfortably come through the tie and move on to the next round.

“I think there’s too much analysis over something that might be a bit of a surprise, but it’s not going to rock the season for Celtic, that’s for sure.”

Former Celtic striker Charlie Nicholas had a different opinion, though, telling Rodgers his honeymoon period was over.

“I’m trying to get my head around it,” said Sky Sports pundit Nicholas, when talking about the 1-0 defeat on an artificial pitch.

“All this rubbish about the rubber pitch, they’re just excuses. This is probably as humiliating as it gets. I was really disappointed with Brendan’s comment. I watched 15 minutes of the first half and I thought, ‘This doesn’t look good at all, it doesn’t look like a Brendan Rodgers team.’

“He has to take his responsibility, it’s going to take him time to get this right, but it was a loss that was severely embarrassing, it’s as embarrassing as it gets.”

Another ex-Celtic star Andy Walker added: “I played in a few games for Celtic that were pretty embarrassing — arguably this is the worst result in the history of Celtic. It’s embarrassing and humiliating. Brendan Rodgers called it wrong: this is embarrassing. Nothing less than a win in the second leg will do, but even then fans will look at some players and think they’re not good enough to take them to the Champions League group stages.”

Belfast Telegraph

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