Lennon: Celtic must not fail in Europe again this campaign

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The Independent Online

Neil Lennon has told his Celtic players that there must not be a repeat of last season's European nightmare, according to midfielder Kris Commons.

The Irishman's first full season in charge of the club began in depressing fashion last term as the Hoops were dumped out of the Champions League and Europa League at the qualifying stages by Braga and Utrecht respectively.

Commons can distance himself from that embarrassing and costly aberration having only joined Celtic from Derby in January. However, the Scotland international has been included in the warning given to the Hoops players ahead of tomorrow night's Europa League play-off first-leg tie against Swiss side Sion at Celtic Park.

"Obviously it was a failure last year," said Commons, speaking at Lennoxtown where he was promoting ticket sales. "I know I wasn't part of it but the manager has certainly made us aware that it can't happen again.

"He thinks we are a better squad than at the start of last year and we are more prepared for Europe now so hopefully we can kick on. We know we are in for a tough test. We have to approach every game in a professional manner. You have to do your background and research on any team in Europe.

"I think the coaching staff and scouts have gone out and watched them [Sion] so there are no changes on the night that we don't expect. We will now look at their qualities and weaknesses and hopefully we can capitalise on their weaknesses."

Commons will be playing in his first European tie, and added: "It's a completely different test and challenge for me. I will come up against some good players and in tricky away fixtures but I just can't wait for the game at Celtic Park. A lot of people have spoken about European nights at Celtic Park and that's something I want to play in."

Despite a naturally positive disposition, Commons would not be persuaded to claim Celtic could go all the way to the final. "It's a little too early to say that at this minute," he said, straight-batting the question.

"We went out pretty poorly last year so it's important that we can improve on that, get to the group stages and start making small steps instead of thinking about the final. I think that's way off at the moment. So there are no set targets, it's just to get as far as we can."

Celtic's most recent financial results were revealed yesterday and showed how important European football is to the club. The 14.8 per cent decrease in turnover to £52.6m was, in part, due to no extended run in Europe. However, Commons insisted that will not add any extra pressure to the players tomorrow night. "It's not something the players think about," he said.

"As a footballer, it's important that we concentrate on the job in hand and that's playing football. Hopefully, if we can get through to the group stages, more royalties will come our way."

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