Celtic: Neil Lennon in 'strong position' to get permanent job

Neil Lennon
Neil Lennon's Celtic were beaten 2-0 by Rangers in the final Old Firm derby of the season on Sunday

Celtic manager Neil Lennon says he is in a "strong position" to remain in the post even if they fail to secure the treble treble.

Lennon replaced Brendan Rodgers until the end of the season in February and is one win away from a clean sweep of domestic trophies for the third successive season.

Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez is the latest to be linked with the role.

"There's no evidence to suggest I can't take the job on," Lennon said.

"I've been here since 2000 as a player, coach or manager and in that time, Celtic have won 14 league titles and I've played a part in 10 of them, so I think I know how to win titles here. That gets overlooked."

Celtic, who won the League Cup in December and sealed an eight successive Premiership title this month, face Hearts in the Scottish Cup final on 25 May.

"If we win the Scottish Cup, that'll be my seventh cup," Lennon said. "Any time we lost the league that I've been involved in, it was on the last day of the season. Any time we've won the league, we've skooshed it."

A former Celtic captain and coach, Lennon returned to the club for a second stint as manager when Rodgers left for Leicester City.

"I never said I wanted [the manager's job] long term," Lennon added. "My contract here expires at the end of May and after the cup final I'll sit down with whoever, and that's always been the case.

"Nothing has changed, despite all the speculation whether I'm getting the job, whether it's Rafa Benitez, Jose Mourinho, Slaven Bilic or whoever.

"As far as I'm aware, the club aren't speaking to anybody until after the final. I'm in a strong position anyway.

"I've got the big one out the way and now the cup is very, very important. Not for me, but for the players."

'What more can the players do?'

Celtic suffered a limp 2-0 defeat by Rangers in the final Old Firm derby of the season on Sunday, but Lennon is adamant criticism of the team has been excessive.

"In modern football, there's a furore after one game," he said. "You just have to keep a lid on it and keep calm.

"We played with the handbrake on on Sunday. No question, we deserved to lose the game, but it's not terminal by any means.

"They've won two trophies out of two and they've got the possibility of winning the third one for the third year in a row. What more can the players do? Really, sit back and think about it.

"For some reason there's been a bit of negativity around the place, whether it be the expectation level of this team or unrealistic expectation at times from the supporters.

"All these people criticising, whether it be me, the board, or the players, take a step back and go, 'you know what, this is pretty special, pretty special'."

Lennon confirmed left-back Kieran Tierney and winger James Forrest will be rested for Sunday's league visit of Hearts, while highly-rated 16-year-old Karamoko Dembele could make his first-team debut.

New manager 'needs funds' for players - analysis

Former Celtic striker Scott McDonald on BBC Sportsound

"Getting to nine (titles) and then 10 takes precedence over everything else. It means everything to the fans and it's so important to the board, even though they might not admit it.

"Do the board trust someone they know? Or do they take the gamble and bring someone else in, who has got a decent CV, who's got a philosophy to take the club forward in a different direction? That doesn't always work. There are big questions. Can they deal with the pressure if doesn't quite go their way, are the players going to buy into it?

"It should be who's the best man for the job, not who's the most economical. Whether it's Neil or someone else, they need funds to progress the club because there are plenty of positions that need filled."

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