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Lennon keeps a 'Firm' focus

Neil Lennon will call on a decade of Old Firm drama to steer Celtic to victory over Rangers tomorrow.

Twelve months ago, the caretaker boss was trying to recover from the debris caused by losing a Scottish Cup semi-final to Ross County.

Against the backdrop of the most fearful week of his life, the Celtic boss will attempt to maintain his unbeaten record at Ibrox as a manager and bring the SPL title within sight.

Lennon's private life has been sacrificed by 24/7 security but insists that it's all about how his players cope on the park when they get to Ibrox.

He said: "I am not looking for sympathy. I am looking to go there and win a match. I don't want the focus to be on me. I am not saying going to Ibrox is a title decider, but it could be psychologically good for us if we can get a positive result.



Affinity

"The players have had six Old Firm games this season and coped well with them. I don't want them to win for me -- I want them to win for themselves.

"There is a real affinity between the players and the fans at the moment, the fans are enjoying the way that the team are playing football but I don't want it to fall flat.

"When you see your team play with the freedom and intensity they did at Kilmarnock then there's no better feeling. The players are in good nick and as long as they are OK, I'm OK. Honestly, it's not been a problem to get on with the football.

"I enjoy watching the lads play and train. I have an exceptionally good group of players and I'm very proud of them. But I want them to go on and achieve."

The job description for managing Celtic doesn't touch on the unsavoury side of life that attaches itself to football in Glasgow.

'Stick' and 'banter' are accepted parts of the job but the sinister threat of nail bombs in the post has escalated things to a new level.

Glasgow-born Owen Coyle and others have shied away from managing Celtic stating 'family reasons', but the job holds a magnetic appeal to Lennon.

Being at the centre of the successes enjoyed by Martin O'Neill and Gordon Strachan whetted his appetite for the job that he has no regrets over accepting.

He added: ""You are offered the Celtic job once in a lifetime and you take all the crap that goes with it.

"By that I mean criticism, but I get things a little bit differently. However, I said it's a great privilege to manage Celtic and I want to do it for a while.

"I would have regretted it the rest of my life if I hadn't taken it. The support I have had since I have been in the job has been fantastic. It's very humbling, and it's grown and grown."

Teamwise, Lennon has still to decide whether he wants to break up the Anthony Stokes/Gary Hooper partner-ship in attack in favour of Georgios Samaras.

Stokes has sat on the bench throughout Celtic's previous visits to Ibrox but his understanding with Hooper and Kris Commons was a major factor in Celtic's return to form in the 4-0 win over Kilmarnock on Wednesday.

Lennon admitted: "I'm not clear in my own mind about the team. I'll watch the players in training and then make up my mind. I'll get a feel for how they are looking. This will be tight and tense because there's a lot riding on it, but I want them to express themselves."


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