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Celtic boss Lennon is Lurgan's hometown Bhoy

By Stuart McKinley

Neil Lennon needn’t worry about being a prophet without honour in his hometown.

It’s a long time since he was growing up on the streets of Lurgan dreaming of one day pulling on the famous green and white hooped shirt.

Returning to those same streets yesterday — with those childhood dreams fulfiled some time ago with over 200 appearances in seven years — there was a hero’s welcome awaiting for the man who has been handed the responsibility of leading Celtic back to silverware.

And that should be enough to erase any doubts in Lennon’s mind that there may have been scepticism among Hoops followers with similar backgrounds to his in County Armagh, as they are adamant that their Bhoy is the right man for the job.

“Our Supporters Club has been in existence for 46 years and this was one of the biggest days in those 46 years,” said Eddie Seeley, chairman of Lurgan Celtic Supporters Club, who welcomed Lennon and five of his first-team squad yesterday.

“We’ve never had a Celtic manager visit our club before and I don’t think that will ever happen again. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for our club.

“Neil Lennon is a Lurgan boy, he’s manager of Celtic now and I think he was a little bit apprehensive about coming home, but there was a great reception for him. We were delighted to have him in our club and I am certain he will have got a good feeling from the warmth of the fans.

“It was fantastic to get the players over as well. A lot of people just wanted to see the players and speak to them and their presence was very much appreciated.”

Some 160 Celtic supporters from across Ulster spent two hours firing questions at Lennon, chief executive Peter Lawwell and five members of the first-team squad, Morten Rasmussen, Josh Thompson, Andreas Hinkel, Northern Ireland international Paddy McCourt and club captain Scott Brown.

The trip was organised as part of Celtic’s ‘Meet the fans’ roadshow and the fans took the opportunity to put their views forward to the club.

“We wanted to make sure that Neil Lennon has the full backing of the Celtic board,” said Eddie.

“Peter Lawwell, the chief executive, assured us that is the case.

“For him to come over as well is a great way for the club to officially recognise us.

“Neil has the full backing of the supporters because he is one of us.

“We know all about his lack of experience as a manager, but that doesn’t concern us. He was a winner as a player and he will be a winner as a manager.”

Lennon’s installation as the 17th manager in Celtic’s history was made easier by his record of winning every league game after taking caretaker charge following the sacking of Tony Mowbray back in March.

The fact that one of those victories came in a home clash with Old Firm rivals Rangers all but rubber-stamped the approval of a contract offer to Lennon.

Given that he was a crowd favourite during his playing days — after being signed from Leicester City by Martin O’Neill — Lennon can look forward to an extended honeymoon period. That will only last so long though, before winning becomes important.

That’s when the backing of the more loyal fans will kick in and for Lennon, that means those from back home being on his side every step of the way.

“There’s no doubt about it, last season was not a good one,” admitted Eddie.

“In fact it was one of the worst we’ve had in a long time and the board have done their job in reacting positively to the situation.

“Hopefully now there is a successful season ahead with a good man in charge.”

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