Scottish Daily Mail

Celtic will not be worried by Old Firm loss, claims Lennon


NEIL LENNON has predicted that Rangers’ victory over Celtic on Saturday will prove to be irrelevant. A comprehens­ive 3-0 triumph for the Ibrox club was their first in seven derbies and saw manager Michael Beale finally claim a win against Celtic at the fifth time of asking.

But with Rangers poised for a summer of significan­t change and Ange Postecoglo­u also looking to strengthen, former Celtic boss Lennon feels that talk of Beale’s men having laid down a marker is premature.

‘That didn’t happen and it never does,’ he said. ‘Rangers will look completely different come August or September and I’m sure Celtic will have different personnel by then, too.

‘So you can’t look too much into that 3-0 game. The edge had gone from Celtic after they won the title at Tynecastle the week before.

‘You can talk about playing for pride at Ibrox if you want to call it that but I wouldn’t take much from it in terms of what might happen going forward.’

Under Lennon (pictured), Celtic lost the final Old Firm game of 2018-19 but would still go on to complete the Treble by defeating Hearts in the Scottish Cup final.

With Inverness standing between Celtic and a clean sweep for Postecoglo­u this year, Lennon feels the Australian was fully justified in putting out an experiment­al side last weekend.

‘I don’t know how upset Celtic fans were by that result but it’s academic, really,’ he added.

‘Ange did the right thing by making a few changes because he has to see whether some of the fringe players can adapt to that environmen­t and, with the league over, he could afford to do that.

‘That also meant he could give some regulars a rest. It’s been a long season and a few of them have looked a little fatigued in recent weeks but at this stage that’s more of a mental issue than a physical one.

‘Getting the team over the line is a great feeling and it’s a relief for everyone once you know you’re the champions again. Ange will also have an eye on the Scottish Cup final and won’t want to risk an injury to his key men, although I imagine he’ll go with his strongest team in the games just before the final.’

Lennon was at the helm as Celtic won a fourth straight Treble in 2019-20 but saw his dreams of guiding the side to ten in a row the following year turn to dust.

Hugely impressed by the way his successor has returned the club to winning ways, he said: ‘His team has played brilliantl­y. The consistenc­y they’ve shown throughout the season has been remarkable and the quality of the football has been really good as well.

‘They can also break the 100-point barrier, which is a hard thing to do.

‘He didn’t just bring in very good players but players who were hungry and wanted to make an impression.

‘Kyogo (Furuhashi) has been a revelation and Reo Hatate’s been pretty special but even when another successful signing, Josip Juranovic, was sold to Union Berlin I thought he’d be a huge loss but Alistair Johnston was brought in and he’s been terrific — it’s been a seamless transition. ‘He more or less had a blank canvas to begin with, which is never easy. It took him a few months to impose his own style on the job but when he beat Rangers 3-0 at Parkhead to go top of the table in February of last year that was the “boom” moment.

‘That was really laying down a marker and they’ve never looked back since. His behaviour and his approach to the games has been excellent.’ Meanwhile, Postecoglo­u insists he hasn’t yet made up his mind on the future of Liam Scales.

On loan at Aberdeen this season, the defender has rediscover­ed his form under Barry Robson but the Celtic manager says no decision has yet been made on where he’ll play next season.

‘We’ll wait until the summer,’ he said. ‘It’s good to see him doing so well at Aberdeen. When you put guys out on loan you hope they get good experience and make an impact.

‘Liam has done that and I know Barry and the club have been really happy with him.

‘But those decisions will be made at the end of the year. We’ll see what’s best for him and the club.’

Postecoglo­u will, however, look to sort out the futures of forgotten men like James McCarthy soon, adding: ‘These guys will need some sort of clarity moving forward. We will look at them all on an individual basis. We’ll get to that when the time is right.’

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