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Stephen Craigan: How Neil Lennon is proving doubters wrong and why Steven Davis is crucial for Rangers

Carrying on: Neil Lennon has been leading by example since replacing Brendan Rodgers for his second Celtic spell
Carrying on: Neil Lennon has been leading by example since replacing Brendan Rodgers for his second Celtic spell
Brendan Rodgers
Stephen Craigan

By Stephen Craigan

In football, people say you should never go back - but in the case of Neil Lennon, I think he's proving more than a few people wrong and dispersing that myth.

Many thought that when Lennon stepped back into the Celtic hotseat in January for the second time to replace Brendan Rodgers it was purely an emotional decision and that it was the wrong thing for him and the club. Others questioned the Hoops hierarchy and Peter Lawwell in particular.

Lennon did, however, manage to steer Celtic over the line to win another Premiership title with two games to spare and lift the Scottish Cup to secure an unprecedented treble treble.

If we look at it subjectively, Neil undoubtedly put his reputation on the line when he took the job initially, as all he could do was fail to deliver another clean sweep. However, in true Neil Lennon fashion, he showed his mettle and backed himself to deliver when others expected and wanted him to fail.

Neil's reward was to be given the job on a permanent basis and surprisingly there was a bit of unrest among some supporters. Some thought it was a backwards step, the cheaper option to save money.

On the flip side, Rangers fans seemed quite upbeat and the feeling was that Lennon's appointment would give them the best chance to win their first league title since 2011.

It's fair to say that to date Lennon has managed to silence plenty of his critics and his record since he arrived back in January is nothing short of fantastic.

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He's had 31 games with a win percentage of 77%. When you consider Rodgers' win percentage in his opening 31 games was only 67%, that puts into perspective just what an impact Neil has had.

The sore point of his tenure has been losing to Cluj in the Champions League qualifying round and as expected the knives were out and fingers were being pointed in the direction of the manager. It was another test for Lennon as he got things wrong and was criticised for it. Nonetheless, they've since qualified for the Europa League group stages and drew their opening game away to the much-fancied Rennes.

A win at home to Partick Thistle on Wednesday night means they are in the Scottish League Cup semi-final, where they will face Hibernian. They have also won their opening six league games in the Scottish Premiership for the first time since 2010, when ironically Lennon was also in charge.

So when you weigh all that up, it's not a bad way to respond to your cynics and doubters. I imagine Neil will have a wry smile privately, although publicly he will admit there's a lot of hard work to do.

Knowing Neil as a person, I have no doubt the question marks over his appointment will have inspired him. It will make him more determined to succeed. Speculation and negativity affects people in different ways but Neil's character has shone through once again and he'll be delighted with the shape his team are in at the minute.

With eight successive titles in the bag, all eyes in the green half of Glasgow are on nine, then the unparalleled 10 in a row.

When Neil rejoined Celtic in January, he reminded everyone that he started the current run of consecutive league championships back in 2012 and that he hoped to still be around for the 10.

It would take a brave man to bet against it because if the career of Neil Lennon as a player or a manager is anything to go by, always expect the unexpected and write him off at your peril.

Class act Davis' experience will be crucial if Gers are to get back to winning trophies

After Rangers' comprehensive 4-0 victory over St Johnstone last Sunday, manager Steven Gerrard hailed the performance of Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis.

Gerrard said that he was man of the match and the best player on the pitch by some distance.

High praise indeed, but having played many times with and against Steven I have to admit I wasn't surprised at all by Gerrard's judgment. I just saw it as a typical top-class Davis performance and I'm sure Northern Ireland fans would agree.

Steven's level of consistency in the green and white jersey has long been admired by international boss Michael O'Neill, Northern Ireland players, fans and press alike but this season in the blue of Rangers his performances have also been of the highest calibre.

At the ripe old age of 34 he shows no signs of slowing down which is great news for club and country, and his influence on the current Rangers team is vital as they look to get back on the trophy trail.

The Rangers squad assembled by Gerrard is full of ambitious young footballers but Davis' experience of winning trophies and delivering on the big occasion is an essential ingredient if success is to be attained at Ibrox.

That quest for silverware heightened after Wednesday night's 1-0 win over Livingston set them up for a League Cup semi-final against Hearts at Hampden Park in November.

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