Neil Lennon wants to keep the Celtic manager’s job after he stepped into the breach following the swift sacking of Tony Mowbray last week.
Former captain Mowbray was unceremoniously removed as manager last Thursday, just hours after a shocking 4-0 defeat at St. Mirren ended any remaining if slim title hopes for the Bhoys.
Lennon took over as caretaker boss on Friday, masterminded a 3-1 win over Kilmarnock on Saturday and admitted he wants the job on a permanent basis.
“Yes I do want the job for keeps, everyone knows what this club means to me,” Lennon said.
“It is a wonderful opportunity for me. Obviously I am here in difficult circumstances, but I have a job to do between now and the end of the season.”
Giovanni Trapattoni, Celtic old boys Paul Lambert and Roy Keane, former Manchester City boss Mark Hughes and Croatian Slaven Bilic have all been linked with the job, but Lennon is aiming to make the most of his big chance.
He added, “It will be very difficult to prove myself in such a short space of time. I have got to win as many games as I can and get as close to Rangers as we possibly can in the league and try to win the cup.
“You just take the job and see where it takes you, even if things go well it may not be offered to me.
“I spoke to Martin O’Neill, spoke to Gordon Strachan and spoke to Tony about it. They all said what a great job it is, it was a wonderful opportunity for me and told me that I would regret it if I didn’t take it.
“I think it is an absolute privilege and I’m hoping that everyone will come out and support me and the team from here on in.
“I don’t think anything prepares you for being a manager of the Old Firm. Yes, I have been here 10 years but you can have the most experienced manager in the world and still find it difficult here.
“I had difficult periods as a player, with things off the field. But I know the pressure that come with the job and I know the Scottish scene and that is of benefit to me more than anything else.”
The Lennon era began with another Robbie Keane double and a Scott Brown goal as Celtic thrashed Kilmarnock 3-1 at Parkhead on Saturday.
Lennon said, “I spoke to Paul Lambert the night before the game and he said the only emotion you will feel at the end is relief and that’s what it was basically, it’s a relief that it’s over.
“I really enjoyed the reception I received from the fans, it was tremendous, but once the game began I was totally engrossed. I asked for a reaction and I got one. I’m thrilled that we won and played in the manner that befits the club.
“I enjoyed large parts of the game but obviously if we had drawn or got beat I would have been devastated.
“It was a pretty good team performance and defensively I got what I asked for and I really enjoyed watching the attacking players today.
“Keane’s was a wonderful goal to get us going. Aiden McGeady was unplayable in the second half, Georgios Samaras was the best I’ve seen him, and Marc-Antoine Fortune worked his socks off all day.”
Double goal scorer Keane felt the players owed the victory to the Celtic faithful after the ignominy of their 4-0 defeat against St. Mirren the previous week.
“Wednesday night wasn’t good enough, it is as simple as that,” said Ireland captain Keane. “You can talk about this that and the other, but as players it wasn’t good enough and we had to accept that.
“Of course we owed the fans a debt. Big time. Obviously the supporters are as disappointed as much as we are, there is no one in that dressing room who likes losing game.
“It has been a difficult week for everybody. I have a lot of respect for Tony Mowbray and his coaching staff and I really enjoyed working with them.
“Unfortunately I have been in this situation before. I have seen changes and as players you have to be professional and get on with it.”