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Celtic can handle heat of historic treble treble bid, insists Lennon

Confident: Hoops boss Neil Lennon addresses media yesterday
Confident: Hoops boss Neil Lennon addresses media yesterday

By Ronnie Epslin

Neil Lennon believes the desire from those outside Celtic Park to see the Hoops' domination end will motivate the players in their Scottish Cup semi-final against Aberdeen.

The Parkhead club have won the last seven domestic trophies in Scotland - all of them under former manager Brendan Rodgers, who left for Leicester City in February - and are closing in on an unprecedented treble treble.

If Celtic get past Derek McInnes' Dons side at the national stadium tomorrow they would face either Hearts or Championship outfit Inverness, who play today, in the final next month.

The holders go into the game 11 points clear of Rangers at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership and needing just two wins to guarantee an eighth successive title win as their stranglehold on the Scottish game shows no sign of weakening.

Interim boss Lennon said: "It is the most important game because it is the next one and that is really the mantra.

"We know everyone outside of the club would like to see us lose that domination so that is the incentive for the players, the extra motivation if you want to call it that, to keep prevailing and keep coming through these really stiff tests.

"I don't know about extra pressure but there is a lot of talk about that (treble treble) and it is not going to go away.

"They are experienced enough, they have done the double treble.

"Can they do the treble treble? They have four games to do that and it won't be easy.

"The closer it gets the more difficult it becomes and the expectation and anticipation builds I suppose - but they have handled it pretty well.

"Aberdeen is a key game because it is the next one. Obviously it is a cup competition and it is one-off and we know if you lose that's it, that's why it is key. Whereas in the league, you can afford a defeat and still go on to win that."

The former Celtic skipper hailed the Hoops' remarkable cup record over the past two-and-a-half seasons where they have yet to be overturned.

He said: "Fantastic consistency and mentality as well and I am just looking for more of the same.

"It is more important for the players really. They know they are one game away from another final.

"They have handled these occasions pretty well over the last few seasons and obviously the cup record is spectacular.

"It is important we approach the game the right way. We know we are up against a very tough opponent."

Meanwhile, Lurgan native Lennon has backed Hearts chairwoman Ann Budge's "big call" to close a section of Tynecastle after the disorder at last week's Edinburgh derby.

Following a series of incidents during the 2-1 win for Hibernian, a 19-year-old has been charged in connection with a hate crime and a 38-year-old was arrested in connection with the use of racist language.

Another 19-year-old was also arrested over a flare being thrown and a 16-year-old was arrested in connection with a coin being thrown.

And in the wake of those incidents, Budge stated on Thursday that a part of the Wheatfield Stand would be closed for the final two home games of the season with around 200 supporters moved elsewhere in the ground.

While manager of Hibernian last year, Lennon was struck by a coin thrown from the crowd at Tynecastle in an Edinburgh derby.

He said: "It is a big call from Ann Budge but it has got to be applauded.

"It has been going on too much.

"I don't know how many times I have spoken about it, there seems to be an underbelly this season.

"I was watching Motherwell versus Rangers last week and James Tavernier had objects thrown at him. It is totally out of hand.

"Ann has come forward and taken some action. It will probably be detrimental to her but she seems to think that is the right thing to do.

"It is unfortunate because a lot of good people go to football games and we are always talking about a minority but it's got to stop.

"It doesn't look good for the image of the game and the clubs even though in the main the product is pretty good," added Lennon.

Belfast Telegraph


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