Records no distraction, says Lennon
Celtic manager focused only on trophies and not on matching the historic exploits of 2004 vintage
Wednesday 22 February 2012
Neil Lennon insists he is targeting trophies rather than records as his Celtic side steamroller their way to a possible treble. Victory over struggling Dunfermline at Parkhead tonight will extend the Hoops' domestic winning run to 19 games and take them 20 points clear of administration-hit Rangers at the top of the Scottish Premier League.
With little doubt as to where the championship will end up this season, thoughts have turned to records and three points against the Pars will be Celtic's 13th consecutive win in all competitions – equalling the mark of Martin O'Neill's side of 2004, in which Lennon was a lynchpin.
However, the Parkhead manager, who is waiting for No 2 goalkeeper Lukasz Zaluska to sign a new three-year contract which has been agreed, said: "It is something I haven't been aware of but if we can do that then great.
"Martin was and is an exceptional manager and he had a very good team here at the time and to emulate that record would be fantastic for this group of players. But these numbers mean nothing. The performances and results mean everything to me, the records don't mean a great deal at all."
When the conversation returned to records, the former Celtic captain bristled before playing down comparisons between the class of 2004 and his own side.
"You keep asking me about records, I'm not interested," he said. "I don't care. We want to win the league, we would like to win the League Cup and we are in the final of that, and we would like to win the Scottish Cup, and we are the holders of that. We have a lot to play for but I have no interest in breaking records, we are just interested in winning trophies this year.
"The two teams are different. The team I played in was a lot more experienced than this one. When you looked across the dressing room and you see Sutton, Larsson, Lambert and Petrov, that gave you a lot of confidence.
"I think the players here have a lot of belief and confidence in each other as well but we haven't got anywhere near emulating what that team did so I don't think they can be compared.
"This team has grown together, they are in a good place, the squad is healthy, there is good competition but again we are not taking anything for granted."
However, asked to project forward to possibly clinching the title at Ibrox next month, Lennon insisted it would be "just the way the cookie crumbles" before claiming he would rather win it at Celtic Park.
The SPL and Strathclyde Police harbour fears that the title is on course to be clinched by the Hoops against Rangers in Govan on 25 March.
Since the Light Blues won the league in an ill-tempered match at Celtic Park in 1999 there have been attempts to schedule the Old Firm fixtures early so they do not coincide with the conclusion of the title race, but with Rangers being deducted 10 points for going into administration last week, those plans may have been scuppered.
Asked about the possibility of winning the title at the home of their bitter rivals, the Northern Irishman said: "That's just the way the cookie crumbles. Again we are not getting ahead of ourselves, we can drop points along the way, Rangers can drop points along the way, I don't know. But if that's where we are on the 25th of March we will approach the game and try to win it. It's not up to me to make that decision [to move the fixture] but I don't see the reason why the fixture should be changed.
"It's just the way the season has progressed and maybe coincidental that it could be an opportunity for us to win the title there. I wouldn't be overly pleased if they started changing fixtures for the sake of it. But I would much rather win it here at Celtic Park in front of our own supporters."
Lennon revealed his delight over the inclusion on Monday of defender Charlie Mulgrew in Craig Levein's Scotland squad for next week's friendly in Slovenia.
Mulgrew is in his second spell at Celtic after being let go as a youngster, which the Hoops manager held up as an example to others who have been released by the Old Firm. He said: "It is not over, it is one man's opinion. I had the same problem at Man City, I was released and a lot of top players have been in the same situation but dealt with it and gone on and had great careers. I am delighted for him."
Celtic are expected to win easily against bottom-side Dunfermline but, as expected, Lennon urged a note of caution. He said: "Results haven't been great for them and probably the last team they would want to play would be us but again, we talk about the unpredictability of sport, anything can happen.
"They are fighting for their professional lives, they have been giving everything for Jim [McIntyre] and I expect [this game] to be no different."
Lennon confirmed that 17-year-old Portuguese striker Edinho Junior is training with the club. He said: "We are having a look at him. He would be one for the development team."
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