Lennon and Mjallby press Celtic claim by winning run

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The Independent Football

Johan Mjallby claims he and Neil Lennon must be contenders for a long-term management role at Celtic Park if they maintain their winning run in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League.

Celtic clinched their fifth consecutive SPL victory under Lennon when they ended Dundee United's 11-match unbeaten run at Tannadice.

The spectre of the Scottish Cup semi-final defeat by Ross County will linger over Parkhead throughout the summer, but some pride can be restored if Celtic beat newly crowned champions Rangers next Tuesday.

Mjallby, the temporary assistant manager, believes victories over Motherwell and Hearts as well would put himself and Lennon in the frame for a permanent appointment.

"I think the main thing for the board is to try to take the club forward," said the Swede, who was promoting Celtic's friendly against AZ Alkmaar tomorrow night.

"It's up to them to decide who is going to be in charge. But if we win the last three games, we have got eight on the trot in the league.

"Then, at least, I think you could say our names should be in the hat."

Mjallby was always aware his stint at Celtic Park could be a short one when he was approached by Lennon, a former Parkhead team-mate, after Tony Mowbray was sacked last month.

"If we [play well for the rest of the season], hopefully Neil has a good chance of getting the job. If he wants me on board, I'm going to say yes because it's brilliant to be here," the former Celtic defender said.

"Obviously, the Rangers game is going to be a very important one. As a player it's very important to go out and show that you love the club, that you're proud to wear the Celtic jersey."

Mjallby insisted the uncertainty over the managerial position was irrelevant to the players in the coming weeks.

"I don't think it's a big thing for them who is going to be in charge next season," he said.

"The main thing for them is to show they are good enough as well. So there are still three big games for them as well as for us."

Mjallby claimed that Lennon's man-management had been "spot on" and believes he has restored spirit to the team following the Hampden shock against County.

"I would say Neil has been outstanding so far. He has been great with the players and has been making the right decisions," the 39-year-old added.

"Unfortunately, when we lost in the semi-final, I don't think the tactics were wrong. We just didn't pass the ball or work hard enough as a team.

"After the disaster against Ross County, we have seen a bit more passion in the team... You all saw that on Sunday against Dundee United, which was a hard game. We were much more solid than we were before.

"Obviously, there are a lot of things to work on to make this team really successful again, but we only had a few weeks to work on things so it's not easy.

"When you start pre-season, then you can work on things tactically."