Tuesday 20 February 2018

Lennon sympathy for McCoist plight

Jamie Holland

NEIL LENNON hopes Ally McCoist has plenty of support around him as the Rangers manager tries to cope with the crisis engulfing the Ibrox club.

McCoist, in his first season in the job, is trying to prevent the Scottish champions from imploding altogether following the move into administration last week over an unpaid tax bill of £9m which was accrued since Craig Whyte bought out former owner David Murray last May.

The Scottish champions were automatically deducted 10 points by the Scottish Premier League, which effectively ended their title challenge, and they now face a race to meet the March 31 deadline for financial criteria needed to qualify for European participation next season.

More pressingly, amid seemingly endless off-field problems relating to the financing of Whyte's takeover, the former Rangers striker is waiting to see if he has to help the club's administrators make player cuts.

Last season, in his first full campaign as Celtic boss, Lennon was given 24-hour protection after being subject to death threats and was attacked by a fan during a game against Hearts at Tynecastle.

Ahead of today's home game against Motherwell, where victory would put his side 23 points ahead of Rangers, the Armagh native noted that McCoist's problems "might be a bit different to mine, to be fair."

He added: "I can't speak for Ally, but he will have to have good people around him. He needs a support mechanism -- he can't do it all on his own.

"I couldn't do what I went though last season on my own. I had people around me, keeping things (that were happening) away from the park on the right footing. He might not have that. All Ally can do is try to motivate his players as best he can to put as good a run as possible together between now and the end of the season."

Lennon revealed there was a loneliness to being the manager of an Old Firm club which will stop him from ever being too satisfied. "Of course it is a lonely job because the buck stops with you. At the minute you are getting all the plaudits and you take them with a pinch of salt. You know you have gone through the rough times as well," he said.

MALAISE

"The one person you have to prove something to every day is yourself. If you take your eye of the ball, things can change very quickly and I obviously don't want that malaise to sweep through the club. You keep pushing the players on and that comes from me and my backroom staff."

Meanwhile, Georgios Samaras insists he took no notice when Lennon claimed earlier in the season that he was the type of player who could get him fired as Celtic boss. The former Manchester City forward has been instrumental in Celtic's remarkable turnaround in form during the intervening period and perhaps for the first time he appears to be winning fans over.

Samaras was his usual laid-back self when asked about his reaction to Lennon's comment. "I tried to stay focused for the football, tried to help my team, tried to perform and play well when I had my chances," he said.

"I love football and I really don't care about what people say, I just try to stay focused because I really love what I'm doing. I want to go on the pitch and enjoy it."

Lennon praised Samaras' "resolve" and claimed the big Greek personified his belief that character is every bit as important as talent at Celtic Park. "It wasn't just the opposition fans who were on his back -- it was his own supporters as well and what he has done has been fantastic. He has shown great resolve.

"If you come to a big club or you come through the ranks, you have talent but can you handle the expectation level of the supporters? Can you handle the intensity of the game and that fact that basically you have to win every game?

"Georgios has shown that on many occasions this year and I have enjoyed watching him play at times. Some of his performances have been magnificent."

Irish Independent

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