Soccer

Wednesday 30 July 2014

European adventure a distraction, admits Lennon

Published 26/11/2012|05:00

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Neil Lennon warned his Celtic players to ignore the prospect of Champions League glory for now to concentrate on domestic duties.

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After his half-hearted threat to quit the club following an altercation with angry fans during the 1-0 home defeat by Inverness, the Hoops boss admitted their European odyssey is distracting their attempts to retain the Scottish Premier League title.

Billy McKay's shock second-half winner meant the Hoops have dropped 17 points from 14 league games, only four less than they did in the whole of last season.

One theory for their lacklustre display is that the Parkhead players are thinking too much about the Champions League Group G decider with Spartak Moscow on December 5.

However, boss Lennon said: "Well, if it is, then they'll not play. I'm fed up talking about Champions League games when we are playing domestic games.

"I know it's all new to them, and I know there is a big game looming on the horizon.

"But I can't accept players thinking that way, because they won't play.

"They can't waste games, they can't think of other games when they're playing against decent SPL teams, which Inverness are."

To somewhat contradict his manager's desire to get his players focusing on the home front, skipper Scott Brown revealed he will delay surgery on an ongoing hip problem in order to play against Spartak.

The Scotland midfielder (27), who came on as a second-half substitute against Caley, said: "I feel not too bad just now and hopefully that continues.

"The aim just now is to play against Spartak and we will see how it goes.

"After I get the operation, I should be fine. However long I play and whatever operation I get, I will still be out for the same time.

"If I can prolong playing until we see what happens in the Champions League, hopefully it will help me and help the club as well. But the decision was mine.

"The gaffer asked if I wanted to go for surgery but I said I'd rather prolong it and try to play in the Spartak game. He was delighted about that."

Terry Butcher was delighted to win at Celtic Park for the first time as a manager on the day Caley recorded their first league win in the east end of Glasgow to move into fifth place in the table. The former Rangers defender, however, insisted the Hoops, who lead Aberdeen by one point albeit with a game in hand, will retain their title.

He said: "For me they are going to win the league, there is no doubt about that because they have the resources.

"They have one eye on the Champions League which is understandable, but I don't see them letting the title slip at all. I think they will kick into gear just after Christmas and New Year."

Irish Independent

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