Davie Hay: No prospect of slacking as Neil pans for Celtic records

THERE are just 13 games for Celtic to negotiate this season as they look to complete an unbeaten Premiership campaign.

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Neil Lennon and his Celtic squad welcomed 21-year-old Sohail Rehman, the first wheelchair-bound, fully-qualified football coach in the world, to Lennoxtown on Friday. Picture: Steve Welsh
Neil Lennon and his Celtic squad welcomed 21-year-old Sohail Rehman, the first wheelchair-bound, fully-qualified football coach in the world, to Lennoxtown on Friday. Picture: Steve Welsh

Neil Lennon and his players would, of course, still prefer to have the League Cup Final and more Scottish Cup ties to play, but I don't agree in any way, shape or form that there is nothing to play for between now and the end of the season.

Celtic have a huge lead at the top of the Premiership and they will want to win the title as quickly as they can.

Neil has said that he wants to better their totals from last season in terms of points and goals scored, and he won't allow the players to take their foot off the gas in the coming weeks.

The big incentive, this weekend at least, is to help Fraser Forster break the Scottish clean-sheet record.

It would be a terrific achievement if Bobby Clark's record from season 1970-71 can be beaten and one that everyone at the club can rightly be proud of.

Going out early in the League Cup to Morton and the Scottish Cup to Aberdeen are the two big domestic disappointments this season, but Celtic can't, and won't, just down tools.

They will want to win the Premiership as soon as they can and Neil will maybe then look to change the side a bit and give some players a few games off to assess his options for next season.

The main thing for Celtic is to win the league and they will soon get to celebrate their third successive top-flight title.

But, even after the league is won, the Celtic fans will still demand the same level of performance and application from the team and Neil won't allow his players to slack off in the end-of-season run-in.

They will win the title earlier than they did last year, but that doesn't mean the job is finished for the season.

As a player, and a manager, you want to win every game you play and their professional pride will ensure there will be no let-up in the closing weeks.

Neil might want to have a look at some of the younger players in the squad and give them a chance, as well as some of the first-team players that haven't featured regularly this season.

Leigh Griffiths came in and did well last weekend against St Johnstone, and he will want to have a really strong finish to the campaign.

And there will be chances for the likes of Teemu Pukki, Amido Balde and Derk Boerrigter as well I would think.

They haven't had a lot of football recently and they need to show what they can do between now and the end of the season.

Neil gave a couple of players some time off last season before the end of the campaign and that is something that he might consider doing again.

But you might well find that the players are happy to keep on playing right through until the end of the season and don't need or want a break.

If you are playing well and playing with confidence, someone like Kris Commons, then you may well rather just keep playing.

Some players need the playing time more than others, with the likes of Pukki and Balde, I am sure, eager to show the manager that they can still play a part next season.

Darnell Fisher came in and did well for a few games recently and there will be a lot of younger players hoping that they can a chance to do likewise before the end of the campaign.

I am sure Neil would like to see the kids getting some game time but you also have the likes of Adam Matthews, who has just come back from injury, and Mikael Lustig, who still has to come back, that will want to get some more minutes under their belts as well.

While the players have to remain focused on the Premiership, I suspect Neil will still have one eye on the Champions League qualifiers next season.

The Premiership title will come sooner rather than later and it is only natural then that thoughts will turn to arranging pre-season and looking at players to bring in, and, possibly, to move on.

The Champions League is huge for Celtic, everyone knows the importance of getting through the qualifiers and into the Group Stages and Neil will want to be as prepared as he can for those games in July.

Once the league is won, it gives Neil time to try things out and to look0 at the future, but there certainly won't be a drop in standards or desire to win from anyone at Parkhead.


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