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Lennon hangs up boots for Celtic role

By Graham Luney

Neil Lennon's playing career has come to an end. The former Northern Ireland international has hung up his boots and opted to return to Celtic as a coach.

The former Hoops captain said yesterday that it was a "phenomenal" feeling to be back with the club he loves.

When Gordon Strachan came calling, the Lurgan man seized his chance to begin his second spell with the Glasgow giants.

His place among the coaches on the bench for tomorrow's Clydesdale Bank Premier League clash with Motherwell has been confirmed.

The man with the enormous passion for the Parkhead outfit, with whom he won five SPL titles until leaving for a fresh challenge in England last summer, has now kicked his last ball in competitive football.

The combative midfielder had been playing with Wycombe, bossed by fellow Hoops legend Paul Lambert, in Coca-Cola League Two.

But there was no stopping Lennon from heading north when the offer to rejoin Celtic came in.

The 36-year-old said: "I am overwhelmed at being offered this chance to return to Celtic, a place where everyone knows my heart lies. Obviously, it was a tremendous honour to play for Celtic and to captain the club. Returning to Celtic and being part of the coaching set-up is simply phenomenal."

Lennon added: "I would like to thank Gordon for this opportunity and I look forward to doing all I can to play my part in achieving further success for the club."

Lennon joins a coaching staff which includes assistant boss Garry Pendrey and first-team coach Tommy Burns.

Lennon arrives without a coaching pedigree but his leadership and motivational qualities are in no doubt. He won five SPL titles, four Scottish Cups and two League Cups with Celtic.

Lennon said: "It was an opportunity I couldn't refuse. Chances like this only come around once in a lifetime and I'm flattered to have been given the role."

Strachan's side trail Rangers by six points in the SPL, and their Old Firm rivals are poised to unseat them as Scottish champions barring a late-season twist in the title race.

Second-best was never enough for Lennon, and Strachan is relishing the return of his former skipper.

He said: "Neil is someone who I am proud to have worked with previously and is a man who I have great respect for."

Belfast Telegraph


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