Celtic are focused on the Cup now, says Lennon

Hoops manager admits title is gone as he prepares for Ross County semi-final
Click to follow

Celtic's interim manager, Neil Lennon, admits the Scottish Cup is their best chance of silverware this season – suggesting he believes the title race is all but over. Although the official party line from both Celtic and Rangers is that the championship is not decided, Lennon has opted to take a realistic stance on their hopes of overhauling the deficit with just six games to go.

That is why the Hoops manager is placing such importance on their Scottish Cup semi-final with First Division side Ross County this weekend. He said: "While we keep pushing Rangers for the title, this is our most realistic chance of silverware so we want to get to that final. It's the most important game of the season for us now. I know semi-finals are very nervy occasions. They are difficult and have a different atmosphere in a different stadium, so we won't be taking anything for granted. There will be no complacency on our part."

Aiden McGeady believes there are shades of previous managers Martin O'Neill and Gordon Strachan in Lennon's style of management. The former captain has enjoyed an impressive start to his tenure with wins over both Kilmarnock and Hibernian in the SPL. McGeady said: "He has taken things from them and is using them. The training is very similar but Lenny is his own man and has his own ideas."

Henrik Larsson has distanced himself from a return to Celtic as manager – for now. The Hoops legend emerged as one of the candidates for the job in the wake of Tony Mowbray's departure. Larsson, who is in charge of the Swedish side BOIS Landskrona, says now is not the right time for a return to Glasgow. He said: "I will always be connected with that [Celtic] job.

"It doesn't matter what I say, it's a great honour to be connected with that job. But I don't think it's fair to speak about another man's job, either, and that is why I have refused to say too much. The future will tell if it will be or not."

Larsson believes that if Lennon can deliver silverware this season, the former captain will land the role for good. He added: "If Lenny wins the Scottish Cup, then the job is in his hands and it's great for him. I feel for sure he is going to do it. Both he and Johan Mjallby know what it means to play for Celtic and I'm sure he is going to instil that into the players."

Meanwhile, Lennon heralded the return to form of Darren O'Dea after Celtic's run of two wins. "I think Darren O'Dea is in a good place at the minute," he said. "I think he is back to where he was a couple of years ago in terms of his composure, consistency and defending."

O'Dea insists the reason for the upturn in his form is simple – playing regularly. "This is the first time in my career I've strung 10 games together and I think that is why my form is getting better. Previously I have come in for four or five and then went out for four or five games. I'm playing more and that will improve me in itself.

"We have won a few games since I've come back but this is the one I'm most happy about."