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Celtic boss Neil Lennon believes European defeat can be catalyst for another treble

© Craig Williamson / SNS GroupNeil Lennon felt the lows against Copenhagen but will be looking for some highs this afternoon
Neil Lennon felt the lows against Copenhagen but will be looking for some highs this afternoon

Neil Lennon believes Celtic’s Euro exit will be the catalyst for the club’s fourth-successive Treble.

The Hoops head into today’s Scottish Cup quarter-final against St Johnstone looking to extend their incredible record in domestic cup competition.

They have won their last 33 ties in a row, with their last defeat having come against Rangers in the Scottish Cup semis way back in April, 2016.

This afternoon, though, they will go in against the Perth Saints off the back of a wounding Europa League 3-1 reverse against Copenhagen.

“I think it will galvanise them,” said Lennon.

“But can they now go on and get another Cup, another league? Absolutely. I think they owe it to themselves.

“They are devastated because it was a great opportunity lost after such a great European campaign.

“This Europa League campaign, up until now, has been very good. I didn’t think we deserved to lose against Copenhagen.

“Now we are out and I hope it makes them angry. But that it’s controlled anger and they take it out on the opposition going forwards.

“We have our jobs to do and we will still make it a season to remember.”

As unhappy as the Northern Irishman was about the error-strewn display against the Danes, he was forthright in his defence of the men responsible.

“I’ve got good players, but they’re not robots,” the manager said.

“We’ve won every game, more or less, since we came back in 2020. We’ve had a couple of mad moments in an important game – it happens. They have my total backing.

“Of course, there will be a mountain of criticism coming their way – and probably my way – and the backroom staff’s way.

“It might be a bit unjustified but that is just the nature of a club as big as this with the expectation levels here.

“Should we have beaten Copenhagen? Yeah, absolutely.

“I wouldn’t say I’m in shock, nothing shocks you in football. It’s game management. You get the equaliser that you deserve, see the game out, then take it to extra-time and try to win it from there.

“It was the sloppiness at the second goal. We were in possession, we won a free-kick and we go back the way instead of going forward. That I don’t understand.

“You can analyse it to death. But what you can’t do is legislate for basic individual errors, that you don’t expect from good players who have been brilliant for me.

“And that is why I am not here to criticise them. We know we have made mistakes. But we win as a team and we lose as a team.

“If any flak comes my way I will take it, and take the pressure off the players, because they have been magnificent.

“I am sitting here, a year in, with three trophies and it is all down to them.

“To people like Jozo Simunovic. People like Odsonne Edouard. People like Callum McGregor, like Scott Brown. I am not for one minute going to criticise them.”

While Lennon’s logic is lent weight by Celtic’s recent record at the Perth ground – in their last four visits they scored 15 and conceded none – he insists it will offer no protection against an opponent on the rise.

“You talk about a team that’s galvanised, Tommy Wright has done a magnificent job there,” he said.

“He keeps reinventing his teams on a very limited budget. Tommy does a remarkable job and he has longevity in the position.”

“They have been improving recently and were very good against Rangers.

“People go on about the good record we have there. But it’ll count for nothing come Sunday.

“What I do know is we’ll try to get the players highly motivated for it.”

Lennon himself is not without experience as a manager and he will lean on it to get through the Euro setback. The same way he did after the Champions League loss to Cluj back at the start of the season.

“I have my family to lift me. And my friends, the people who know me,” he said.

“It is a sore one. But I have to dismiss it as quickly as possible.

“We managed to throw an opportunity away and we will look at where it went wrong, and hopefully we can eradicate that going forwards.

“It is my job to pick the players up. I will do everything I possibly can to do just that.”