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'We didn't listen to any of you': Neil Lennon slams Old Firm build-up that painted Celtic as an 'afterthought'

Picture perfect: Neil Lennon celebrates for the cameras
Picture perfect: Neil Lennon celebrates for the cameras

By Gavin McCafferty

Celtic manager Neil Lennon believes his players had extra motivation in their 2-0 win over Rangers after claiming his team were "written off" in the build-up.

Rangers went into the Ibrox clash as favourites in the eyes of all the major bookmakers after both teams won their opening three Ladbrokes Premiership games and qualified for the Europa League group stages.

But the hosts struggled to create chances and Celtic nearly added to Odsonne Edouard's 32nd-minute opener several times in the closing quarter before Jonny Hayes netted on the break in stoppage-time.

Lennon and the Celtic board came under criticism after their Champions League exit against Cluj and the former captain admitted the victory had given him as much satisfaction as any Old Firm triumph.

"Everyone had written us off," he said. "The bookies had Rangers favourites and I asked you on Friday: 'Why?' And I think we proved we are still going to have a big say in the title race, that's for sure.

"We took it as a slight on us. We were very motivated, we were hungry, we had great belief about us. And that takes a lot. You can't listen to the noise surrounding the game, you have to stick to what you believe in.

"We were an afterthought coming into this fixture, I was an afterthought, my board were an afterthought. It was all about the opposition and what they were going to do to us. We didn't listen to any of you, we stayed strong, we played brilliantly."

Lennon hailed the performances of players he felt had been singled out for criticism - summer signings Boli Bolingoli and Christopher Jullien, plus skipper Scott Brown.

"The personality and character and strength of the team was evident when everyone, including some of our own supporters, had written us all off," he added

"You are the ones who are writing all the stories, you are the so-called experts, the pundits giving your opinions on radios or TV or in the papers. You want us to fail because we have been so dominant.

"But we are not prepared to give up our title just yet, and neither are the players and neither are the board."

Lennon is, meanwhile, hopeful of signing Kilmarnock left-back Greg Taylor before Scotland's transfer deadline.

Sunderland have also made enquiries over 21-year-old Taylor, who is in the Scotland squad for their upcoming European qualifiers against Russia and Belgium.

When asked if they could sign Taylor, Lennon said: "Hopefully. There's a bit of a hold-up, not at our end, it's a third party.

"We will have to see how it develops but (Boli) Bolingoli can be absolutely delighted with his performance after being written off in more or less every single game so far.

"So I hope that really kick-starts his season because he showed a lot of good qualities."

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