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Don't give me sympathy vote: Lennon

By Ronnie Esplin

Neil Lennon does not want the Celtic board to offer him a new contract out of "sympathy".

The Hoops boss has had a troubled first full season in charge of the Parkhead side, being targeted by death threats and parcel bombs and he was attacked by a fan during the 3-0 win over Hearts at Tynecastle on Wednesday.

The Lurgan man was given rapturous backing by the Celtic fans during the 4-0 home victory over Motherwell yesterday, even though the title was ultimately lost to Old Firm rivals Rangers by one point.

After the game Lennon came on to the pitch to address the fans, saying: "This isn't the end, this is the beginning."

However, he revealed in the post-match press conference that he has yet to discuss his current six-month rolling contract with the club and he wants any new deal to be offered on merit.

"I think I was being presumptuous (out on the pitch)," joked Lennon, "but that's what I want to do.

"I brought a lot of players here and they have been magnificent for me all season.

"I think we have a nucleus of a very good squad.

"But I am saying all this and I might not be here.The remit is to win the championship and we haven't done that so that might be a stroke against me.

"I can't really comment on what the board are thinking because I haven't spoken to them and I probably won't until after the Scottish Cup final next week.

"But I don't want it (contract) through sympathy or anything like that.

"If they were to give me a contract then I want it because they think I am the right person to take the club forward and bring success to the club."

Lennon added: "We are very disappointed. I don't like finishing second at anything.

"Our priority was the championship but I'd like to congratulate Rangers. To win the league with 93 points takes some doing, it shows great consistency in the run-in.

"Obviously I would like to congratulate Walter as well, he has been a tremendous ambassador for the game in Scotland."

Lennon admitted he has considered walking away at various points during a difficult time in which he has been given 24-hour security protection.

The former Celtic skipper said: "Once or twice but then I thought, 'Why?'.

"Being a manager, wherever you are, is a very precious job.

"You are in the game because you love football, all managers are the same. They think they can make a difference, improve and progress and that's what I want to do here.

"I'm not happy that my personal safety was under threat at Tynecastle. Obviously that's not an issue for myself or my club to deal with, that's for other authorities and clubs to sort out.

"I am not here to hurt people or damage them, I am here to build a football team. I give answers to questions and some people take that the wrong way."

Asked what he thought about those who have claimed he has brought much of the trouble on himself, Lennon replied: "Astonishing. That's one word.

"It tells me about those people who are saying these things.

"It tells me what their mindset is and what their views are.

"It's not a slight on me, it's a slight on them."

Belfast Telegraph


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