Lennon: We're better together at Celtic

NEIL LENNON has made a pre-emptive strike to ensure speculation about his future does not unsettle anyone at Parkhead.

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Neil Lennon went out of his way to put to bed speculation of his departure
Neil Lennon went out of his way to put to bed speculation of his departure

And the Hoops boss has extended the assurance to include his top stars as, like him, they continue to be linked with big moves away from the club.

Lennon was unhappy at the way the answers were portrayed after he had been asked if he felt leading Celtic to the last 16 of the Champions League was as far as he could take them. But even before a raft of Sunday papers carried the headlines which upset him, Lennon revealed he had gathered his squad to spell out how he expected them all to be together for a long time to come.

The Hoops boss explained: "I said to the players on Friday before I spoke to the press: 'Don't be thinking about anyone leaving, and don't be thinking that the season is finished just because we lost a cup tie in February.'

"'You have got a lot to aim for, and we have got a lot to build on for the coming years.'

"I was talking about all of us, players and management."

He felt it was necessary to nip such speculation in the bud before it could put doubts in anyone's head.

"There has been a lot of talk, and I don't like it," said Lennon. "I don't like it at all. It's a distraction that I don't need."

His focus is solely on getting his team over the finishing line in the title race, and they took another important step towards achieving that goal when they defeated St Johnstone 3-0 yesterday.

While it was the perfect return to form after their shock William Hill Scottish Cup exit to Aberdeen, the win did come at a price with Emilio Izaguirre forced off mid-way through the first half.

Now Lennon faces an anxious wait to discover the extent of the Honduran's injury.

He said: "I don't know how long he is going to be out. He will have to be assessed today.

"It's the front of his thigh. Emilio just felt it go, and we immediately took him off.

"We will have to see how he is, but it didn't look good.

"And, when it is someone like Emilio - who just likes to play and train all the time - yes, it is a blow for us because he is the only real recognised left-back we have at the minute, and he has been very consistent for us.

"We're hoping Charlie Mulgrew will be ready for the weekend against Hearts."

Darnell Fisher came on for Izaguirre yesterday, but the teenager is more comfortable on the right.

Lennon said: "Darnell looked a little bit nervy when he went on at left-back.

"But he played there in midweek for the Development Team, and we felt we would give him a bit of time to see how he got on.

"He was excellent in the second half."

Football

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