Rest assured ... it's a Celtic party

FOR Neil Lennon, it will be that old familiar feeling tomorrow as he hoists the league championship trophy through a cascade of green-and-white confetti at a raucous Celtic Park.

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Scott Brown, Derk Boerrigter, Kris Commons and Georgios Samaras can't wait to lift the league trophy
Scott Brown, Derk Boerrigter, Kris Commons and Georgios Samaras can't wait to lift the league trophy

It was a joyous occasion he experienced five times as a player under Martin O'Neill and Gordon Strachan.

He will be doing it for a third time as a manager, with the winning sequence predicted to run for many more years.

Whether or not Lennon will be the manager of the club on future trophy presentation days is another matter.

But, for now, he is content to reflect on another job completed, and in the style which he demanded from day one.

Against Dundee United tomorrow, it will not be so much crossing the T's and dotting the I's on the report card, but trying to hit 100 goals and 99 points.

As he looked forward to the green party in Paradise eight games after clinching three-in-a-row, Lennon's assessment of the season was: "The championship has been fantastic. The cups have been disappointing.

"The Champions League qualification was great, the first half of the group stage was pretty decent, but the second half was disappointing. So it was a bit of a mixed bag."

Now comes the moment to bring down the curtain, and Lennon can sense the anticipation among his squad.

"It would be nice to get the 100 goals and win the game, and this is a celebration of the league season," said the Hoops boss.

"I think the players have earned it. They haven't really had the proper opportunity to celebrate it, but I always feel when you get the trophy is the best time to do it, anyway.

"There's no better feeling than to see your captain lift the league trophy. This is the third one in a row, but the next one is always the most special one. I know the players will want to finish on a high and in style.

"I have been very impressed with the focus of the players right through this campaign.

"If you look at the one game we have lost in the league [at Pittodrie in February], we were very unfortunate as we played for 78 minutes with 10 men and dominated the second half.

"So to lose one game up to now is really impressive. Domestically, I have only been disappointed with the odd game here and there. In the rest we have been well on top, and that's a testament to their talent and consistency."

Lennon looked deeper into the detail of the glory run to the title, and almost purred as he surveyed the stats.

"I am really proud of some of their performances, the clean sheet record, the amount of goals we have scored and the number we have conceded as well," he said.

"It can't be easy for them being so far in front to keep that going because, subconsciously, you do tend to switch off. But, to be fair, they have kept their concentration very well, and have played some great football in the second half of the year."

When he leaves the field and concludes his final press conferences of the campaign tomorrow night, Lennon can kick back and enjoy some well-earned down-time.

But his season is not quite over. He explained: "I'm going to the Champions League final with the club at the end of the month, and I'll take a break after that. I'm then going out to the World Cup, just for a week.

"I would hope it would be productive. It gives me the opportunity to see a lot of games and look at a lot of players. Why not do it when the opportunity is there?"

Even when he is spending family time, Lennon knows this will be regularly interrupted by checks on the progress of the players he wants to add to the squad before it all begins again when they report back to Lennoxtown in mid-June.

While on pundit duty for the BBC in Brazil, he will continue to search for the quality he believes his team needs to get through the Champions League qualifiers and become more competitive in the group stage.

Lennon concedes this squad is not as strong as the one which began the previous season.

That had taken him three years to build, and the work is ongoing to get back to that standard.

Lennon knows continuous season-upon-season improvement is the main challenge facing the Celtic manager and said: "You go out to find players who make you better. First things first, it's qualification for the Champions League, then you try to win the three domestic competitions.

"We are building again, and I am pretty happy with the way it is taking shape in the second half of the season. And I think we will see more next season from Nir Biton, Stefan Johansen and Liam Henderson.

"That will augment the core of players we already have. That's given me a lot of confidence going into next year. You always want to build long-term, but you can't. So you have just got to do it season-by-season."

Football

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