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Neil Lennon: Fan protests at Celtic Park serve no purpose and not what players need

Boss issues warning but is hoping to give supporters some cheer


On alert: Police outside Parkhead following Celtic’s Betfred Cup defeat against Ross County

On alert: Police outside Parkhead following Celtic’s Betfred Cup defeat against Ross County

Getty Images

On alert: Police outside Parkhead following Celtic’s Betfred Cup defeat against Ross County

Neil Lennon has told Celtic fans that another protest outside Parkhead tomorrow is not what is needed as the Hoops look to get back to winning ways.

Hundreds of supporters turned up after the 2-0 home Betfred Cup defeat to Ross County last weekend to vent their fury at the Celtic boss and the players amid scenes of chaos as police tried to keep order.

The Parkhead club launched an investigation into events and in their statement said of their players, "to require an escort from Celtic Park while being targeted with missiles is simply unacceptable".

Boss Lennon said a few days later: "I understand the frustrations of the supporters because ultimately we are not in a great run at the minute, but it serves no purpose, particularly for the players."

After losing 4-2 to Serie A leaders AC Milan in their Europa League dead-rubber in the San Siro on Thursday night to leave the Scottish champions with just two wins in 11 matches in all competitions, the Ulsterman turns his attention to the Premiership.

St Johnstone are the visitors for another game played in front of no fans and Lennon will be looking for his side to keep on the tail of Rangers, who have an 11-point lead at the top of the table, albeit the Hoops have two games in hand.

Asked about the prospect of supporters turning up again this week to express their frustration at how the season is going, he said: "Well, hopefully they will be celebrating a victory because that is what we will be trying to do. As we always do.

"I touched on what I thought of it on Sunday and if it is going to be reminiscent of Sunday, it is not what we need or what the players need at the minute."

A busy December sees Celtic play home league games against St Johnstone, Kilmarnock, Ross County and Dundee United, as well as a trip to Hamilton, and there is also the final Europa League group game against French side Lille and the William Hill Scottish Cup final against Hearts at Hampden Park.

Lennon believes that regardless of venue, Celtic need to find a winning formula quickly, and he took encouragement from their performance in Italy.

The former Celtic captain, in his second spell as manager of the Parkhead club, said: "Home or away, it doesn't matter. We have to put in performances that reach the levels we reached last night. I saw plenty of signs last night that we are more than capable of that, which pleases me."

And defender Nir Bitton insists Celtic players still retain self-belief and will not listen to outside critics.

Bitton said: "Obviously we are disappointed with the result but I felt we played well as a team against a top side.

"Again, we conceded four goals, and it's not good enough at this level. It's not good enough at any level.

"But I think in general we showed some moments of how good we can be.

"We are still a strong team. We don't listen to anyone outside the team.

"We believe in our quality, we have a strong squad, we have belief in ourselves and we need to show it now."

Asked about keeping confidence high amid some poor results, Bitton said: "We are professionals, this is our job. This is what we need to deal with.

"Every team in history has this moment where they go on a bad run.

"It has happened to us now, but we believe in ourselves, we believe we can turn it around, we believe in our quality.

"We have enough quality in the squad to make it happen and it's in our hands.

"We need to play for each other, support each other and only by being together can we do it."

celtic v st johnstone

Celtic Park Tomorrow, 3pm

Belfast Telegraph