Thursday 18 January 2018

Furious Lennon puts players in their place as new order irks Old Firm

St Johnstone 2 Celtic 1

Celtic manager Neil Lennon gestures towards his players during the Clydesdale Bank Scottish Premier League match at McDiarmid Park in 2012
Celtic manager Neil Lennon gestures towards his players during the Clydesdale Bank Scottish Premier League match at McDiarmid Park in 2012

Roddy Forsyth

When an asteroid last hit earth, the aftermath must have been -- and one must make a due allowance for scale, of course -- something like the current state of Scottish football.

The tyrannosaurs who used to stomp around the planet, hoovering up the other species, suddenly find themselves competing for forage with unfancied creatures who have woken up to the fact that the game has changed.

Now, you know and I know that, eventually, something like the old order is likely to be restored, but for connoisseurs of the singular experience it is worth lingering over today's Scottish Premier League and Scottish Football League Division 3 tables and committing them to memory.

Ah, the fun that the phone-in punters had over the weekend, wondering whether Celtic have what it takes to make the SPL top six and if Rangers will win a league game on the road before Christmas.

The pair stumbled again at the weekend, Celtic losing 2-1 to St Johnstone in Perth and Rangers held to a 0-0 draw by mighty Annan on the artificial turf at Galabank.

Celtic have not conceded a goal in four European ties but have leaked seven in five SPL fixtures.

Neil Lennon believes that he discerns a difference in his players' approach to European fixtures -- they open their Champions League group stage campaign at home to Benfica on Wednesday -- and their attitude to domestic obligations, although in Perth they got off to a bright start with a fine goal from Kris Commons after only three minutes.

When Celtic took the lead similarly early in Inverness, they ran up a 4-0 advantage before understandably letting their thoughts run ahead to the return leg of their Champions League qualifier with Helsingborgs and conceding two goals. Thereafter, they let Hibernian off the hook after twice being in front at home and have now suffered their first defeat of the season thanks to a sub-standard performance at McDiarmid Park, in which hardly any Celtic player passed muster.

"The gaffer told us a few things and we can't argue with them," said James Forrest. "Sometimes he will tell individual players what he thinks but this time it was more of a collective thing.

"We have to hold our hands up to not playing well and need to turn it around. The boys have been feeling good so there's nothing we can use as an excuse. Wednesday night wasn't on our minds -- it was a bad result.

"The league is the most important thing for us so we need to focus on that. It was nothing to do with complacency -- the boys had been flying in training in the build-up to the St Johnstone game.

"We were all looking forward to the game but it just didn't happen. I can't put my finger on it."


Celtic fielded Miku, their Venezuelan striker on loan from Spain. He came from Getafe but 'get aff' was the message from the bench after 58 minutes, when he was replaced by Tony Watt. To be fair to Miku, he is not the first foreign player to be confounded by the speed of the Scottish game.

Watt almost replicated his achievement against Ross County at Dingwall last month when he scored the equaliser in a 1-1 draw at the end of three minutes of injury-time, but on this occasion -- also after three minutes of additional play -- he was thwarted by a splendid block by Allan Mannus. The goalkeeper ensured Saints would get the reward they merited after coming from behind to score through Gregory Tade and Rowan Vine.

Lennon's realistic assessment of Celtic's flaws was such that he made little issue of the blatant penalty kick denied his team when Steven Anderson tripped Commons for what should also have been a red card. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport