The dust had barely settled on the double when Celtic boss Neil Lennon was again the center of attention regarding his future and that of many of his star players.
As the Parkhead heroes prepared for their summer holidays, news filtered through from England of Roberto Martinez’s decision to step down as manager of Wigan, probably to take control at Everton.
Lennon, already linked with the task of replacing David Moyes on Merseyside, is now being talked about as a live contender to succeed Martinez at relegated Wigan.
The speculation wasn’t his and his alone. Hull City have reportedly joined Norwich in the chase for Celtic striker Gary Hooper. Sunderland want goalkeeper Fraser Forster. Victor Wanyama is still wanted in the Premier League.
Such is the nature of success which breeds interest as well as more success, and Lennon knows it. He is set to sit down for talks with Celtic owner Dermot Desmond in the coming days, not just to discuss a transfer budget for next season but also to continue talks on his own future.
Sunday, though, was all about the present as Celtic celebrated a 3-0 Scottish Cup final win over Pat Fenlon’s Hibernian that cemented their league and cup double.
That makes Lennon only the third Celt to win the double as both a player and manager as he joins an elite club which also includes Jock Stein and Billy McNeill.
“They are two icons of the club. When I got the job, I wanted to follow in their footsteps. We are progressing well now,” Lennon said.
Respect should follow for his players as well according to the Celtic boss.
“That’s the double and we had a great European campaign. For a team that gets nipped at a little bit, they are a great side and I hope they get the respect they deserve tonight.
“People shouldn’t be asking questions. Okay, domestically we are expected to do things but surely no one could have expected what we did in Europe this season.
“People were raising their eyebrows at the qualification stage. Then, when the group stage came out, people were raising their eyebrows at that.
“We overcame it all. They were playing the 59th game of a marathon season.”
Gary Hooper scored twice against Hibs to add to his potential transfer value with Joe Ledley adding a third, all three goals starting from the vision of Ireland striker Anthony Stokes as he too cements a new deal to stay with the Bhoys.
Hoper also passed the 30-goal mark for the season in the final game of the first campaign without Rangers breathing down Celtic’s necks.
“It was a great win in the end and we’re delighted with the double. This, getting to the last 16, winning the league, and scoring 31 goals, I’m at the top of my career,” Hooper said.
“At the start of the season my aim was to beat last year’s goals total and I did that two games ago. I was unlucky not to get to 20 in the league but I wanted to get past 30 overall and I managed that.
“This feels even better than the first time we won the Scottish Cup two years ago because we did this one in style. We’ve also got the league win and the Champions League run behind us as well so this has been my best season at the club.
“Playing like that, like we did at Hampden, really topped it off.”
The manager was quick to praise Stokes and Hooper after the Cup win.
“Hooper is the master and his partner in crime Stokes had probably his best game in a Celtic shirt. I had a gut feeling about Stokesy all week but I didn’t realize he was going to play as well as that so I was delighted for those two.
“We got a clean sheet. Scott Brown was huge in the midfield and read the game brilliantly and broke up the play and passed it well. It was a great all round team performance.
“Anthony is getting another contract because he’s a good player. There is just something about Anthony. He looks, in the last two or three weeks, more consistent, better in his overall play, stronger.
“He’s just got that something you can’t put a finger on.”
Stokes, overlooked by Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni again, is keen to enjoy his holidays and get back to work with Celtic next season.
“The contract is getting sorted out and I am very confident about it. My agent has been speaking with the club for the last week or two so I am sure something will get sorted,” Dubliner Stokes said.
“I was happy with my performance but the most important thing was the result. We dominated the game, played well, worked hard and got the result we wanted. We finished on a high and we are all delighted. It couldn’t have worked out much better.”
Unwilling to talk about his own future, Lennon did admit that some players may leave Parkhead over the summer months.
“If they are to go, it’s very sad from my point of view but they’ve given the supporters some great nights and great days,” Lennon said.
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