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Celtic manager Neil Lennon Photo by: Getty

Sports Digest: Celtic's Neil Lennon happy despite Rangers absense

\"Celtic

Celtic manager Neil Lennon Photo by: Getty

Celtic were presented with their Scottish League title after a 4-0 win over St. Johnstone on Saturday when manager Neil Lennon couldn’t resist a pop at Rangers.

The Celtic boss has blasted those who claimed the Scottish Premier Division was devalued by the absence of his team’s Glasgow rivals due to their financial meltdown.

“We have proved we are not a flash in the pan team. I know there will be a lot of people out there saying there is no Rangers, it is a one-horse race and in essence there is something to that,” Lennon said.

“We are not going to hide away from that but we have a job to do. We have a responsibility to keep winning trophies.  It is part of the DNA of the club and to do it in a certain way.

“Since the turn of the year the home form has been as good as I’ve seen in my time here. We know we need to tidy up away from home but the league is won now and we can focus on finishing the season with a cup final.”

Linked with the Everton and Leicester jobs in recent days, Lennon laughed off calls from fans for 10 titles in a row.

“It is a long way off. The next target is the third. We will take it step by step for that. You can never take football or these achievements for granted,” he said.

“There is a lot of work goes into it, so 10 in a row is a long, long way off. Eventually Rangers will come back and they will put in a challenge over the next few years, I would imagine.”

Lennon now has to settle on his team for the Scottish Cup final meeting with Pat Fenlon’s Hibs on Sunday, May 26, and admits it is going to be a difficult task.

“Everyone is more or less fit now, which is great. We have a team in mind obviously, but we have Dundee United this weekend and I want to go strong for that game and keep the players ticking over,” Lennon said.

“I don’t want to rest players any more. They have had a break and I want performances like the one against St. Johnstone that until the end of the season.”

Captain Scott Brown and youngster James Forrest earned special praise for their performance in the 4-0 win against the Saints thanks to goals form Joe Ledley, Charlie Mulgrew, James Forrest, and an own goal from Saints defender Frazer Wright.

“I just think James is a fantastic player when he plays like that. He gives us such an extra dimension. He can play in any position across the pitch and play it so well,” said Lennon.

“He gets that five-yard burst away from players but his close control is fantastic. It was another exceptional performance from him.

“Scott is amazing really. He was very rusty in training but his touch was good today, he was full of running and drive and you could see Forrest, Anthony Stokes and Ledley all feeding off him. Any team would miss a player like him.

“But the way the team played was the most pleasing thing. We put a strong team out as preparation for the cup final and I thought there was a flow to us, there was an energy.  These are days you want to cherish.”

Fit again Brown is now relishing a clash with his old club Hibs in the Scottish Cup final.

“I thought I was going to be out for the rest of the season. It has been a nightmare. I am not the best spectator in the world,” Brown said.

“But as everything has been going so well recently I joined in with the lads last week in training. I didn’t know I was going to start. I am a good couple of weeks ahead of schedule.

“It meant a lot for the gaffer to give me 60 minutes and I am feeling good for it. It was a great occasion and it is always special lifting the trophy.”

Brown also appealed to Lennon to stay with the Celts despite interest from England.

The Celtic captain added, “Of course we want him to stay. He has been great for me. The gaffer loves the club and he enjoys coming in every day and he shows his enthusiasm at the side of the pitch.”

Meanwhile, Celtic striker Georgios Samaras has said he has no intention of leaving Parkhead any time soon.

“I have one more year of my contract and hopefully I will be here next season. Six years is a lot but it has gone in so fast and when you feel good at the club, people are looking after you and you feel you are part of a big family, I cannot see a reason to leave,” Samaras said.

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