Celtic manager Neil Lennon has vowed not to let the continuing problems at Rangers distract from his team’s preparations for the new Scottish season -- and he has urged the fans to do the same.
Now operating as Rangers Newco after the old club went bust, Celtic’s rivals have failed in their attempt to start the new season in the Premier League.
They could end up in the Scottish Third Division after many clubs, including Celtic, voted against allowing them into the Scottish Premier League.
Now Lennon wants the Celtic fans and players to ignore the problems at their Old Firm rivals.
He told the official Celtic website, “We cannot let outside negative influences dictate the mood at
Celtic, we are very optimistic and we are very much looking forward to the season but we need our fans right with us.
“We are now looking forward and not back, we have a vibrant young team. I want to progress this team as far as I can but we cannot do this without the fans’ support.
“We must now move on, and move on with a collective unity between the supporters and the club and the team. We enjoyed that unity last season and we now need this to continue more than ever.”
Celtic have rebuffed all suggestions that their financial stability is dependent on their rivalry with Rangers.
Lennon added, “We now know what the situation is and where we are and it is a situation we must now deal with.
“We need to stand strong, shoulder to shoulder and all work together to continue to move the club in the right direction.
“We will need the supporters to be right behind the team. We want as many fans as possible to come back to the club and take their seat at Celtic Park and invest in the club as much as possible.”
Lennon himself refused to offer any opinion on where Rangers should up for the new season.
“The club took its position on the Rangers situation last week along with all the other SPL clubs and it was confirmed that Rangers would not play in the SPL next season,” he said.
“Clearly, in terms of where Rangers do play, that is now a matter for others to decide upon. It is something we have no control or influence over.
“Our priority is the same and we’ve approached the year the same way as ever.
“There will be no slacking off or complacency. We have a lot to look forward to and that’s what we are preparing for, but I need to be very clear, we need our fans with us every step of the way.”
Lennon has also insisted that he does not want to sell midfield star Victor Wanyama despite the 21-year-old Kenyan admitting he is keen on a move to the Premier League while on international duty.
An angry Lennon said, “The rules are made clear before the lads go away. At any time of the year players should not be talking about club business when they are away with their international teams.
“That goes for a few of the others, and I am not just singling out Victor on this, but he knows the club policy. It is difficult sometimes when they get asked questions, but they should just bat them off really.
“Victor is due back on July 11 and will meet us on tour in Germany. It does not surprise me that there is interest in Victor as he had an incredible season.
“We think he is a great player but I’m just not happy about the way things have been dealt with. As far as we are concerned Victor is not going anywhere as he signed a long-term contract.”
The Celtic boss has also confirmed that talks are set to resume with striker Gary Hooper over a new deal.
“We had a meeting with Gary’s representatives in May. I am assuming talks will start again,” said Lennon. “At 24, Gary still has plenty of progress left in him.”
Damian Duff Ready
WINGER Damien Duffhas dropped his biggest hint yet that he is ready to continue with the Ireland team into the forthcoming World Cup campaign.
Speaking as he visited Irish peacekeeping troops in the Lebanon, Duff told the Irish Sun that he is ready to play on for his country.
“At the minute I’m still an Ireland player,” Duff said. “I never brought it up that I was thinking about retirement.
“I’ve spoken to Giovanni and Marco and at the moment I’m still available.
“There’s speculation just because of my age. I’m 33 years old, but I feel as good as ever. I feel 23.
“Listen, I’m going to play until I drop. I don’t think I’m interested in anything else. Fulham, Ireland, if I end up in the Airtricity League, the Leinster Senior League.
“I’m going to do all that. You may laugh but that’s the plan, it’s on my list. I’m just going to play until I drop so I have to look after myself to do that.
“I asked Andy Cole if he was missing it and he said, ‘No, not at all,’ but I’d be the polar opposite. I live for football and have since I started kicking a ball.”