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Lennon: I'm out to keep good times rolling at Parkhead

Hearts v Celtic, Scottish Premiership, Tynecastle, Tonight, 7.45pm

Old routine: Neil Lennon is relishing his second spell as Celtic manager
Old routine: Neil Lennon is relishing his second spell as Celtic manager

By Graham Luney

Neil Lennon wants it to be business as usual at Celtic following his sensational return to the club.

The former Northern Ireland international is now managing the Hoops for a second time after Brendan Rodgers sealed his move to Leicester City.

Lennon (47) has been installed as manager until the end of the season with John Kennedy his assistant and Damien Duff promoted to first-team coach after a short stint in charge of the reserves.

The Ulsterman will be in the Celtic dugout for tonight's trip to face Hearts and he is aiming to make it a smooth transition, with the Hoops eight points ahead of Rangers in the race for the title.

The wind of change has certainly rattled Parkhead.

Only a few weeks ago, Lennon found himself out of a job after leaving Hibernian in controversial circumstances, while Rodgers was preparing to guide his team into battle with Valencia.

Now, the former will be in the dugout for a fiery encounter at Tynecastle and most Celtic fans will welcome the return of their former skipper and manager.

Lennon led the Hoops to three titles and two Scottish Cups during four years at Parkhead. Prior to that, the former midfielder made 214 appearances for the club in a seven-year spell before leaving in 2007.

"This is a club which has been a huge part of my life already," Lennon said. "I'm feeling a lot of pride - it's a privilege to do this job again and I'm grateful the club has taken a leap of faith in me once more.

"There's a chasm to fill as Brendan has done a wonderful job but I'm here for the club.

"The club comes first and I want to bring as much success here as I possibly can.

"There's always huge expectation at this club and the players have been absolutely exceptional over the last few years. All I want to do is carry that success on. It's not broken so I'm not going to revolutionise anything. I will lean on John Kennedy a lot - he's been with Brendan for two and a half years.

"I know a number of the players and it will just take a few days for everyone to adjust.

"But there won't be sweeping changes. We have a stellar squad and I felt they were unlucky against Valencia.

"I don't want me coming in to disrupt any flow. The players know what is at stake. They will keep their eyes on the prize and I'm here to help them along."

Carnlough man Rodgers has signed a contract with Leicester until June 2022 and succeeds Claude Puel, who was sacked on Sunday after 16 months in charge.

Lennon left Hibs in January, with the Scottish Premiership side saying he had "not been dismissed" and had "not resigned".

He left Celtic in 2014, before an ill-fated stint with Bolton Wanderers in the English Championship.

"My time at Bolton and Hibs made me more rounded because you see both sides of management," added the Lurgan man. "You see the struggles players and clubs go through, but managing Celtic was a phenomenal time for me, and I enjoy success but you don't take it for granted. From what I see from the players, they don't take it for granted either.

"It is an honour to be asked to return. I have given everything to Celtic as a player and manager already in my career and I am ready to do the same again. I am returning to one of the biggest and best clubs in world football and I can't wait to get started."

Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell added: "We have appointed a man who knows what it means to be Celtic manager and someone who knows how to win.

"We know he has the commitment and desire needed to face the challenges ahead."

Reaction to the return of Lennon

Former Hoops goalkeeper Pat Bonner: It takes a brave man to step into Brendan's shoes. Rodgers' domestic dominance is incredible. To go through two and a half seasons and not lose a cup match is incredible. Lennon lost seven and he was seen as a successful Celtic manager. Getting results now is a critical factor for Neil.

Celtic fan and football agent Gerry Carlile: I'm delighted to see Neil Lennon back at Paradise and I don't think many Celtic fans will be disappointed with John Kennedy, Damien Duff and Stephen McManus forming the nucleus of the coaching staff. It's sad to see Brendan leave, but Lenny is a more than capable replacement. There won't be too many Celtic fans disappointed tonight.

Former Celtic striker Chris Sutton: Good luck to Neil Lennon at Celtic. It's not an easy hand to take on, a tough gig with injuries to key players, but the positive is he will see the job through.

Former Celtic striker John Hartson: Celtic did the correct thing in appointing a new manager ASAP. Neil is in a great position to steer the ship.. wins the league he gets job full-time... good luck Lenny.

Former Rangers winger Neil McCann: Neil doesn't play out the way Brendan does. He's a 4-3-3 type of guy. He does like to play expansive football and I think the players will be fine with that.

Scott McDonald, former Celtic striker: I think it's worked out nicely for Celtic that Neil Lennon is out of a job. It's convenient. I think it suits both parties. Celtic need a manager and someone who understands the football club and Neil Lennon is certainly that man.

Celtic fan Robbie Sinclair on Twitter: I liked Neil Lennon in his time with us. But the fact is that Paul Heckingbottom has instilled a winning mentality into Hibs as a club where Lennon couldn't.

Hoops fan Sean Gallagher on Twitter: Celtic fans short changed again at the most important time in our history. Neil Lennon? That's no ambition, 10 in a row is not a project!

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