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Completing historic quadruple treble can kick-start Celtic's season, insists Neil Lennon

Celts boss eager to cap incredible journey with 12th trophy in row

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To the point: Neil Lennon

To the point: Neil Lennon

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Callum McGregor

Callum McGregor

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To the point: Neil Lennon

Celtic manager Neil Lennon insists completing a fourth consecutive treble is motivation enough ahead of tomorrow's William Hill Scottish Cup final.

Some will view the Hampden clash with Hearts as a chance to kickstart confidence amid Celtic's faltering attempt to secure a record 10th consecutive Scottish title.

Lennon's job looked under serious threat and Celtic's season appeared to be imploding as they exited Europe and the Betfred Cup and fell 13 points behind Scottish Premiership leaders Rangers.

But he twice received the public backing of the board before recording two victories in succession ahead of a rare midweek off to focus on last season's delayed final.

And that is all Lennon is doing as he looks to win his first clean sweep as Celtic boss, after returning to the club in February 2019 with the Betfred Cup already in the trophy room.

"The last two results have really lifted the group and the club as a whole," said Lennon.

"I don't think we panicked. There is still a lot of work to do for this season obviously but it's well within our power to do that.

"This is a nice distraction, if you want to call it that, but it's an important game against a very good side who are chock-full of Premiership stars.

"But it would be the 12th trophy in a row. You will never see that again, certainly not in my lifetime. So it's really important for me personally as a manager - it would be my first treble - and for the players to finish off what's been a magnificent four years at the club."

The 49-year-old added: "We know what's at stake and are very much focused on this week.

"It's a break from the league but it's a game we dearly want to win for so many reasons. The gravity of the achievement is not beyond us. It's important to us to try and win the quadruple treble, which will probably never be seen again."

Lennon insists there will be no sentimentality behind his team selection.

The Hoops have arrested a slump in form with recent wins over Lille and Kilmarnock, with youngsters Conor Hazard, David Turnbull and Ismaila Soro in the side at the expense of two experienced goalkeepers in Scott Bain and Vasilis Barkas, veteran skipper Scott Brown and experienced Australia international Tom Rogic.

Speaking specifically about 35-year-old midfielder Brown, who has been at the heart of Celtic's nine-in-a-row run in the Premiership and the club's bid to win an unprecedented quadruple domestic treble, the Parkhead boss said: "He is a fabulous captain, fabulous player and I think at times we do miss him when he is not there.

"That's been the case, albeit in the last couple of games we have been giving him a bit of a rest, the team have played very well.

"There is no question he is a huge presence on and off the field.

"As regards team selection, there will be no sentimentality involved in my thinking behind that with my backroom team.

"It is a Cup final, a game we want to win. Everyone is in contention and I have to pick the best team for the occasion and to help us win another trophy.

"We are not there yet with the starting XI but we will discuss that and probably name the team tomorrow."

Lennon refused to conflate Brown's situation with his final appearance for Celtic when he was substituted in the 2007 William Hill Scottish Cup final victory over Dunfermline.

In the 66th minute and with the game goalless, then Celtic boss Gordon Strachan replaced the former midfielder with Gary Caldwell and Lennon was less than pleased but the Hoops went on to score a late winner through Jean-Joel Perrier-Doumbe.

"Don't go there - it took me 13 years to get over that," Lennon said with a smile before saying: "It is a different situation.

"I probably made a mistake by saying around March that I was going to leave at the end of the season and then it was like death by 1,000 cuts, it dragged on.

"In Scott's case he has got at least to the end of this season to play and maybe longer.

"It is not as if this is going to be Scott's swansong if he plays.

"It's not. Hopefully we can negotiate and try to maybe get to another cup final at the end of the season and he could and maybe should be involved in that as well."

Callum McGregor, meanwhile, wants Celtic to grab the chance of more glory.

McGregor, who came through the youth ranks at the Parkhead club, is as keen for success as ever as he eyes up a remarkable 12th successive domestic trophy.

The 27-year-old Scotland midfielder said: "It is a massive opportunity to go and make history.

"When you are a young kid aspiring to be a footballer these are the situations that you want to be in.

"You probably wouldn't have envisaged yourself being here but when you are here and had so much success, that hunger becomes greater."

CELTIC v HEARTS

Hampden Park, Sunday, 2.15pm

Belfast Telegraph


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