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We’re just like politicians, hero to zero and zero to hero: Celtic boss Neil Lennon bemoans the lot of modern-day football manager

How things quickly change for Neil Lennon is illustrated by his reaction to the defeat at Livingston in contrast to last Thursday night against Lazio
How things quickly change for Neil Lennon is illustrated by his reaction to the defeat at Livingston in contrast to last Thursday night against Lazio

It says it all about the current national preoccupation that the praise lavished on Neil Lennon after Celtic’s victory over Lazio brought politics to mind for the Irishman.

Widely criticised in the wake of the club’s Champions League exit at the hands of Cluj in mid-August, the Hoops manager is now being universally credited for his team’s success in coming from behind to beat the Serie A outfit.

The man himself is resolutely philosophical.

“I don’t take too much notice because I’ve been through this before,” said Lennon.

“I’ve seen the film many times.

“It is something I can’t control, so I don’t get too upset about it.

“Managers are treated almost like politicians these days.

“It is hero to zero, zero to hero, in a matter of days, hours.

“It is not real, so we have to have a realistic sense of perspective on it.

“I’m very aware of that. Whether it is people having a go – or saying nice stuff – I don’t pay attention.

“Listen, I don’t think I’m the greatest, and I don’t think I’m the worst.

“We come in and do our work, and do it as conscientiously as we can.

“The win over Lazio was brilliant, but we move on.

“Now it is all about concentrating on getting three points on Sunday.

“That means doing everything we can to let the players rest up and recover because playing Aberdeen at Pittodrie is undoubtedly going to be a tough test.”

The early kick-off will see Lennon pit his wits against Derek McInnes, another manager who has come in for plenty of fan criticism this season.

“I’m not surprised because we live in this day and age,” said the 48-year-old.

“But I know Derek very well and the qualities he has as a manager.

“He’s one of the best in the country and has been for a long time. He’s done great things at Aberdeen.

“When he went in there, they were finishing eighth and ninth and he’s turned them into one of the top clubs in the country.

“He has had a lot of injuries, and that bites any squad.

“I had it myself at Hibs last season when we were struggling and weren’t getting results.

“But now Derek’s starting to get players back, and he’s got Cosgrove flying.

“They had fantastic win at Motherwell. That was a real statement of intent from Aberdeen last week, so we are probably getting them at the wrong time.

“They are dangerous, they have goals in them, and we know how solid they can be as well.

“They have a good goalkeeper at this level, and Andrew Considine and Scott McKenna are top players, Niall McGinn can still have moments of magic and Sam Cosgrove has been in blistering form this season.

“We couldn’t have asked for a stiffer game after Thursday night.

“But we have to look at what went wrong at Livingston and rectify that as quickly as possible.

“Going down to 10 men had a huge bearing on the game, and Pittodrie is a difficult venue.

“But off the back of Thursday night, the players will be looking forward to going there.”

While the Celtic manager will aim to freshen up his side, one player who almost certainly won’t be involved is Greg Taylor.

Signed on a four-year deal for £2.2 million from Kilmarnock ahead of the transfer window, the 21-year-old has yet to get any game time.

The form of fellow summer signing, Boli Bolingoli, has been one reason for that. The other, Lennon revealed, has been the greater versatility offered by Jonny Hayes.

“It has been difficult for Greg because Boli has come in and been consistent. So Greg has to be patient,” said the Celtic boss.

“We’ve had a chat with him about it and he knows the situation.

“The fact he’s not in the squad is because we have Hayes, who can double up positions, either right-wing, left-wing or left-back .

“So it is pointless having one bona fide left-back when you have a player who can factor in a couple of positions for you, and Greg totally understands that.

“It is new to him because he played every week at Kilmarnock. But he will be patient and I am sure when his chance comes, he will take it.

“Working every day with the players, sports scientists and fitness coaches here will make him better.

“At the same time, I understand there is a need for him to play and he’ll get that opportunity because there are so many games coming up.”