Neil Lennon has backed Steve Clarke’s plea for SPFL assistance ahead of the crucial Nations League play-offs.
Scotland manager Clarke has requested the League’s support ahead of a run of games that could end the country’s 22-year wait to reach a major tournament.
With a semi-final to be played on Thursday March 26 – probably against Israel, Bulgaria or Romania – he wants a guarantee no top-flight fixtures will be scheduled for live television on the previous Sunday.
As Celtic boss Lennon acknowledged, that would require negotiation with the broadcasters.
But it is a step he says must be taken.
“I think a sit-down with all the relevant parties should be scheduled for January,” said Lennon.
“And basically Steve Clarke should get what he wants because the national team is a priority.
“These play-offs coming up are the most-important games Scotland have had for a long time.
“So whatever he needs, whatever he wants, the authorities should give him.
“Then, in terms of ourselves, we need a little bit of help on the early kicks-offs. There is no question about that.
“You are playing in Europe on a Thursday night and then you are in Aberdeen on Sunday for a 12.15 kick-off.
“Yes, we played well at Pittodrie last weekend and got a great result. But it’s still the players who have to go out and do the work.
“That can lead to fatigue or injury, which can really cost you going forward.
“It is an issue you’ll be battling with the TV companies on. They want the early kick-offs so you’re not coming up against other matches.
“But we could do with help on it.”
Lennon’s Old Firm opposite number, Steven Gerrard, made the same point recently.
If trying to juggle the demands of domestic and continental campaigns can be a headache, the Northern Irishman has at least been given some respite through the club’s early qualification from their Europa League group.
Thursday’s thrilling victory over Lazio in Rome secured their place in the competition’s last 32, when it moves to a knock-out format.
“It’s excellent for the club,” said Lennon. “For one thing, it takes away the anxiety of playing on Thursdays and Sundays.
“While we still want to finish on top of the group, there won’t be the same stress levels in the European ties and we can rotate the squad a bit more.
“When you look at us having nine fixtures in December, that will help. We need to balance that.
“But, in terms of signing players in January, us being in the knock-out stage is a huge carrot for players.
“I think we’re quite relaxed about things. We now have European football after Christmas and there is already an opportunity for the team to win a trophy.
“The players are full of belief and playing well, and it’s very rare that clubs spend big money in January.
“We’re also in a position to fend off any offers for our players we want to keep anyway. So, without tempting fate, we can move into January in a very strong position.”
There is plenty of water to flow under the bridge before then, though, with this afternoon seeing a return to Premiership action when Motherwell visit Celtic Park.
The Hoops boss said: “The game is one for us to think about, because they have got some great results and actually been there or thereabouts for about a year now.
“Stephen Robinson has had to keep evolving the team as the club sell their best players every year.
“You think of people like Louis Moult and Cedric Kipre being moved on. We were going to take David Turnbull, then they lost him through injury.
“So he has done a brilliant job to keep them competitive, which they certainly were against Rangers at Ibrox a couple of weeks ago.
“We are in a good place right now, and want to win because momentum is important.
“At the same time, we know we’re coming up against a team who, apart maybe from the Aberdeen result, have been playing very well.
“There probably won’t be too many changes as we haven’t been doing that when we go Thursday to Sunday.
“In the main – Livingston being the obvious exception – it has worked okay for us.”
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