| 20°C Dublin

Lennon: I want to make Celtic champions of Europe again

He had kept his own counsel for three weeks -- bar a brief flurry after Celtic won their first title in four years at Kilmarnock last Saturday -- but how the words spilled from Neil Lennon yesterday.

Lennon seems to have been liberated to make bold, assertive statements which would have seemed almost entirely frivolous without the substance of a significant success behind them. Certainly, false modesty played no part in this conversation.

"My ambition is to win the Champions League -- here, anywhere," he said.

"I never really reached those heights as a player and I may not reach those heights as a manager, but you must keep a vision within your head and try to do everything you can to achieve it.

"Is it possible to win it here? Yes, definitely. It might not be possible to do it in a year or two, but if we can consistently get in the Champions League and gain the revenue from that then we can build a team that could challenge.

"I'm not a Mourinho, but I want to be. I want to be a Guardiola, I want to be a Clough, I want to be an O'Neill. There is no point in taking this job on if you are going to fail.

potential

"Look at 2004 when Porto and Monaco got to the final. That was a great Porto team that beat us the year before and they went one better the following year. I'm not saying this team is anywhere near our 2003 team, but they have the potential to go and achieve something and we are hoping Europe is going to be the marker."

Despite the turbulence which engulfed his life last season and extended into this year with the death of his friend, Paul McBride QC, and the conviction of two men convicted of targeting Lennon and McBride with mail bombs, the Hoops manager is fierce in defence of his adopted home.

"It was horrible. You end up putting security measures at your house, which gets restructured. You're driven here, there and everywhere, with security people outside your house.

"But I love Glasgow. There are just places I choose not to go to for obvious reasons. I find that a bit sad, that there are places I feel uncomfortable in now, but I can't see myself living anywhere else.

"I've lived here for 12 years, it's my home. I enjoy the atmosphere of the city. There are things regarding the football side of it I'd like to eradicate, you know. There is more to Glasgow than sectarianism, but Celtic and Rangers get tarred with that edge. When it goes beyond football it becomes a worry, but I feel like a Glaswegian."

If Celtic prevail against Hearts at Hampden Park tomorrow they will take a significant step towards a league and cup combination to cap the season for a man who wants to move on -- at the double. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Celtic v Hearts, live,

tomorrow, Sky Sports 1, 12.45

Irish Independent