Desmond seal of approval caps Lennon's glory
Published 23/05/2011 | 05:00
For the first time since he succeeded Tony Mowbray on a caretaker basis 14 months ago, Neil Lennon can plan for a future that extends beyond the six months of his rolling contract.
That is the consequence of Saturday's events at Hampden Park, when the Scottish Cup final brought down the curtain on a rancorous domestic season, at the heart of which has been the singular figure of the Celtic boss.
Mind you, it was not Celtic's ultimately comfortable win over Motherwell that altered the manager's event horizon, but rather the unguarded statement made before kick-off by the club's biggest shareholder, Dermot Desmond, about Lennon's employment prospects.
"There's no doubt about it, he'll get a new contract -- for a very long time," said the Irish billionaire.
It was beyond belief that the Parkhead board would have ditched Lennon, even had the season finished without trophies, simply because of the unprecedented events that have attended him and the club over the last few months. When menaced by threats in the shape of packets of live bullets and mail bombs -- and eventually a real, physical assault at Hearts -- the wagons have been circled and the support rallied into what is sometimes literally a massive huddle around the manager.
Rod Stewart, ever the man for an understated gesture, trailed his own banner when he hired a plane to fly over Hampden Pak, hauling a message that read: "In Lennon We Trust".
Lennon and his reconstructed team have learned -- mostly the hard way -- how tantalisingly fine the dividing line between success and failure can be.
Ki Sung-Yeung supplied the opening goal with a spectacular drive from distance to beat Darren Randolph. Yet Motherwell might have gone in front -- Dubliner Gavin Gunning probably spent the weekend replaying his equally vivacious effort and wondering what might have been had his shot been just a fraction lower instead of rebounding off the crossbar.
Although Motherwell competed vigorously for much of what remained of the proceedings, they could not formulate a case to confound the Celtic defence.
Just after Motherwell had sent on an extra attacker, Mark Wilson was able to get forward for a shot which on most days would have done no damage but which skipped off Stephen Craig and across the goal-line to make it 2-0.
Charlie Mulgrew's late free-kick, which fizzed past Randolph, was garnish.
Now, with Celtic having won the Scottish Cup for a record 35th time and having dislodged the monkey of failure to win games that mattered, Lennon is entitled to present a significantly positive account of his achievements.
Under Tony Mowbray, Celtic turned into mush, easily mopped up by Rangers. The Armagh man has reinforced, regrouped and built a side that went to the wire in all three domestic tournaments.
He is surely already looking forward to next season. (© Daily Telegraph, London)