Ban will allow Celtic boss Neil Lennon to stand and deliver for next season

NEIL LENNON will use his vantage point in the stand for the matches against Motherwell and Rangers to assess what changes he needs to make for the title defence and an assault on the Champions League qualifiers.

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The Celtic manager has been handed a two-game ban for remarks made about referee Willie Collum's decision not to award a penalty in the League Cup final.

But, after a lengthy hearing, the SFA decided not to impose any further punishment on the Hoops boss for his altercation with match officials Calum Murray and Iain Brines at half-time in last month's Old Firm game at Ibrox.

But the fact the judicial panel considered being sent from the dugout for the second half of that match was sufficient punishment indicates there remained dubiety over which version of events was the truth.

Celtic have confirmed they will not appeal, and Lennon can look forward to returning to the dugout for the match against St Johnstone on May 3.

Before then, however, he is expected to be informed he faces even more charges after compliance officer Vincent Lunny reviews events at the end of last weekend's Scottish Cup defeat to Hearts.

Lennon could face a further two-game ban if he is found guilty of approaching referee Euan Norris in an aggressive manner.

Depending on what the referee claims was said to him, he could potentially face an even longer suspension.

Lunny is also expected to instigate action regarding the comments posted by Lennon on his Twitter page, if it is deemed he was inferring bias by the match officials.

Likewise, Lunny is looking at the tweets posted by Anthony Stokes – who has already incurred a one-game ban for comments made to the ref at full-time – and Joe Ledley to see if they have broken any rules.

Johan Mjallby is ready to stand in for Lennon as he begins his two-game ban at Fir Park on Sunday.

And the assistant manager has warned the Celtic players they can't afford to coast through to the end of the campaign – because plans are already being formulated for next season.

Top of the list will be successfully defending the SPL title.

But they are determined to get the campaign off to a flier by negotiating Champions League qualifiers.

That would unlock even more cash for new players, and Mjallby told Celtic TV: "We have the foundations of a very good team.

"The players are mentally strong, and have improved a lot from last season in that department.

"We are very proud of them, and we have a good group of players here.

"Hopefully, we can keep most of them.

"You want to improve things, and that's what we aim to do and get even stronger for next season.

"I think there is a lot of improvement in this squad, and, hopefully, we can be clever in bringing in a few players as well.

"Defending the league title is going to be very important but, hopefully, we will have a chance to qualify for the Champions League."

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