Neil Lennon was back in the Celtic dugout on Tuesday night and adamant his future is with the Glasgow club.
Lennon’s five match touchline ban came to an end for the SPL clash at St. Johnstone, and the manager terminated his self-imposed media ban to coincide with his touchline return.
The former Northern Ireland player spoke in the media for the first time since the tempestuous Scottish Cup clash with Rangers when he told the News of the World that he is staying with Celtic despite all the recent sectarian attacks, including live bullets sent in the post from his homeland.
He followed that interview up with a full-scale press conference on Monday when he again vowed to carry on and insisted he has benefitted from the five-week long absence from media duties.
“I had a five-game ban which meant I couldn’t do my job properly and there was a lot of adverse publicity which was taking the shine away from the team and their performances and focus,” Lennon said.
“So I just decided to have a break. I feel fine. I’m glad the ban is over. I’m back doing what I want to do and it encompasses all aspects of the job again.
“I hope there is a positive reaction from the players but they have played quite well in the period I have been out. It hasn’t affected them at all.”
Lennon has learned his lesson and added, “I wouldn’t want to be in that position again to tell you the truth and I hope I’m not.
“It’s been a cooling-off period and the last thing I want to be is sitting in the stand again.
“I had a five-game ban which meant I couldn’t do my job properly. I don’t see the body language of the players closely and I don’t get a feel for the games as well as I would do on the touchline.”
A nervy Celtic faithful and Lennon looked on as Celtic struggled to grind out a 1-0 win over St. Mirren at Parkhead on Saturday when substitute Kris Commons scored a late winner.
Coach Johan Mjallby admitted the decision to leave Mark Wilson and Georgios Samaras on the bench and captain Scott Brown out of the squad completely -- ahead of final Old Firm game of the season against Rangers -- may have backfired.
Mjallby said, “You always miss Scott because he is our skipper but that’s not an excuse for the other players who come in and we think we’ve got a good squad anyway.
“You are always going to miss Scott with his energy but we had to make a decision about his yellow cards situation.
“Him playing and restricting him by telling him he’s not able to use his energy and pick up yellow cards would have been silly.
“We think about all our players and some players we want to use for the Old Firm game so we need to be clever.
“On another note, we also need to rotate the players because it’s good to have players who haven’t played as much this season.”
Mjallby also said that the club has no problem with Anthony Stokes despite the news that family members were arrested in Dublin on Friday.
The coach added, “Not at all. If you are a footballer, you want to be out on the pitch no matter what is happening around you.
“That’s where you have the chance to express yourself and I think he did a good job. It was good seeing him out there and it wasn’t a problem for us to pick him.”
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