Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

No Euro blues in Scotland: Lennon

Neil Lennon does not believe that Scotland is now a Europa League football nation.

The three remaining Scottish sides in Europe were in yesterday's draw for the continent's second-tier competition with Celtic paired with Swiss side Sion.

After crashing out of their Champions League qualifier to Sweden's Malmo in midweek, Rangers were drawn against NK Maribor of Slovenia while Hearts take on Tottenham.

Celtic failed to get past the Champions League qualifiers last season but the Hoops boss did not base his analysis of Scottish football on current European form.

“Rangers got knocked out during the week obviously but in the last decade both the Old Firm clubs have made European finals and both clubs have made the last 16 of the Champions League so I don't accept that we are just a Europa League country,” said Lennon.

“I wouldn't look too far into that (recent difficulties in Champions League).

“These things can come in cycles.

“No one could have envisaged the decade that we had, going into that decade.

“Maybe Rangers were predominately stronger than us for European games with the European-quality players that they had but certainly after Martin (O'Neill) came in, that all turned round for us.

“So that was a transitional period, and from our side of the fence we are hoping that we can make inroads into Europe again and I'm sure Ally (McCoist) will be exactly the same.”

Skipper Scott Brown is suspended for tomorrow's Clydesdale Bank Premier League clash with Aberdeen at Pittodrie but Lennon revealed he is close to agreeing a new deal with his skipper.

The former Northern Ireland international said: “We want him here and he wants to stay.

“I think we are pretty close and pretty soon we will hopefully have a result on that.”

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