Soccer Digest: Scottish League title goes to Celtic FC
Neil Lennon finally felt justified as a Celtic manager as his team hammered Kilmarnock 6-0 on Saturday to finally seal the Scottish League title.
For weeks now it has been inevitable that Celtic would win their first championship in four years, but Lennon could barely contain his excitement after the big win at Rugby Park.
He described it as the greatest day of his professional life and claimed afterwards that he can finally call himself a real Celtic manager after goals from Charlie Mulgrew, Gary Hooper (two each), Joe Ledley and Glenn Loovens in the 6-0 win.
“It is the greatest moment of my professional life,” said Lennon, even though Celtic will have to wait to receive the trophy. “It doesn’t get much better than this.
“I am so proud. It is hard to put into words what you go through. Today was the epitome of the team; class, pace and there was a swagger about them.
“It looked for a couple of weeks as if they were starting to tire mentally, but they found their energy and mojo today and I couldn’t be more happy for them, they are the ones who did it.
“They are babies in terms of football but they have come in for, I think, unjustified criticism. Georgios Samaras is the oldest player in the team at 27 so that says a lot about their youth.
“There is, at times, a naivety about them which I comprehend but to win the championship after 33 games is a fantastic achievement. It is a great day for the club and a great day for the supporters.”
Lennon also admitted it was a great day for him as a manager – and a relief.
He added, “When you are a player you are part of a team. I had Henrik Larsson, Chris Sutton, Stiliyan Petrov, Paul Lambert, Johan Mjallby and Alan Thompson to lean on.
“When you are a manager it is a lonely job, you have to make the decisions. You get criticized for them, you get praised for them but you have to keep the middle ground, have to keep a level head.
“I am only young in this job, it’s only my second full season, it’s a huge job with huge expectations but I fee vindicated now. I felt as if I was on probation. Now I feel the Celtic manager.
“I was walking behind Martin O’Neill, Gordon Strachan, Wim Jansen, Davie Hay, Billy McNeill and Mr. Stein, and now I can step out from behind them and walk alongside them and that is a fantastic feeling for me.
“You are judged on championships, ultimately. Cups aren’t enough. I came here in 2000 and we had a great time, winning championships.
“I wouldn’t say we took it for granted but when you look back on your career, you probably don’t appreciate it until you lost it then you realize what a great achievement it was.”
Goal hero Mulgrew paid tribute to the Celtic fans afterwards. “It was great,” said the defender.
“Credit has to go to the full team for the way we started, it was high tempo and we were lucky to get the goal and we pushed on from there.
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