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Neil Lennon is glad he talked John Kennedy out of Hibs job but can see him as Celtic boss

© Craig Foy / SNS GroupJohn Kennedy
John Kennedy

Neil Lennon views John Kennedy as a future manager of Celtic.

The Hoops assistant boss was targeted by Hibernian for their top job earlier this month, prior to the appointment of Jack Ross.

On that occasion, Lennon was able to dissuade his No. 2 from moving on. But he is convinced big things lie in his future.

“John came to see me about it, and I gave him short shrift!” said Lennon.

“I told him: ‘Look, I am not surprised by this, but you are just too important to what we are doing here. You know your time will come’. John is ambitious, he has his own ambitions, but Celtic means a lot to him.

“He had a really difficult time as a player with his injury, and the club was very good with him.

“I think John appreciates that, and it has worked both ways because he has been very good for the club since then.

“He has studied the game very hard and made a huge contribution to the club on the coaching side of things. And I believe he still has a big contribution to make before he either steps in here – in the hot seat eventually – or goes and does his own thing elsewhere.

“People might say that, at 36 years old, he is young enough to not yet take the plunge.

“But if you ask me if he is ready to go into management, I would say, yeah, he could do it now.

“He has been coaching now for four or five years.

“People say you never know when you are ready, and that would be the case. But I think he is ready.

“If an opportunity comes along and it is the right one, then I think John would make a fine job wherever he went.

“But I am delighted he is staying put because we have worked very hard in the last nine months, and John has been pivotal to that.

“So we certainly didn’t want to break up the backroom team.”

Lennon is all too accustomed to having to try to fend off predatory bids to lure his players away from Celtic Park, and, for him, the interest in Kennedy fell into the same category.

“John is going to be sought after because he is excellent,” the Celtic boss continued.

“He has been in the system, if you want to call it that, for a long time now.

“He has worked under Ronny Deila, and he has worked under Brendan Rodgers for the last four years.

“So he has a wealth of coaching expertise now.

“You can see the way he works with the players that he has a great relationship with them, and he was really important to me coming in.

“I needed that stability, and I am so glad that John has decided to stay.

“I am not surprised Hibs eyed him because he has a very good reputation now.”

Kennedy and Lennon’s attention will this week turn to the visit of Rennes to Celtic Park in the last home game of the Europa League group. Celtic’s qualification is already secured, but Lennon insists there are still targets to be met so fans should not be expecting to see a second-string side in action.

“I think it’s important we don’t take our foot off the gas,” continued Lennon.

“We want to finish top because, in theory, that might help you get a more favourable draw in the next stage.

“Hopefully Lazio take points off Cluj, meaning a win on Thursday guarantees us top spot – something which I am told would be a first for us – with a game to spare.

“I would like to see us take maximum points from the home games.

“That would be a good marker going into the new year.”