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A decade on from Neil Lennon's dugout debut at Paradise

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IT was on Saturday, March 27, 2010 that Neil Lennon took charge of a Celtic team for the first time. Kilmarnock were the visitors to Celtic Park, and the starting XI for that momentous moment in the Irishman’s career read: Boruc, Hinkel, Naylor, Thompson, O'Dea, Brown, N'Guemo, McGeady, Keane, Samaras, Fortune.

And it was a fellow countryman in Robbie Keane who netted the first goal of the new regime, scoring in the 37th minute to give the Hoops a first-half lead. He would add a second before Scott Brown scored Celtic’s third just after the hour mark, while Kilmarnock managed to net a late consolation goal.

Then, as now, Celtic were captained by Scott Brown and he has been a mainstay of Celtic over the past 10 years, and a pivotal figure in all the success the club has enjoyed in its two spells under Neil Lennon.

For the Celtic manager, his captain is a key component of Celtic’s recipe for success over a prolonged period now, and he said before of the midfielder: “He brings great maturity in his role in the team, he’s evolved his game into a top holding-midfield player now. Reading the game, covering the ground, breaking up attacks and prompting attacks - his leadership qualities are invaluable here.

“It’s immeasurable to put in the words the contribution that he’s made over the last 12 years and he’s still, at 34, playing as well as ever.

“I think that’s testament to his professionalism and dedication. It’s not easy playing here and it’s certainly not easy being the captain here for the length of time he’s been here because there’s a huge responsibility.

“The club has been so consistent over the past few years, and when you think of the likes of Scott Brown and James Forrest who’ve been there for all of the titles – to have already won eight league titles in a row is just an amazing level of consistency, and under pressure as well.  

“They are two modern day greats for the club, and they’ve been ably assisted by other great players as well along the way.”

It was Neil Lennon who got the ball rolling in the current eight-in-a-row success with his first league triumph back in 2012, a success borne out of the previous season’s disappointment at having been pipped at the post for the title.

His words to a packed Paradise on the last day of the league season in May 2011, when he told supporters that ‘this is not the end, it’s only the beginning…’ proved to be prophetic, given what has happened since.

“I didn’t realise it at the time when I said that, how things were going to turn out, but I felt we had the nucleus of a very good team,” he said.

“It was a young team, with the players we’d brought in at the time and the players we already had, we felt we could go places with the exuberance of the youth, and the quality we had as well to make a prolonged attempt on winning the title back, and that proved to be the case.

“It was still brilliant to win the Scottish Cup in 2011 despite the real disappointment of losing out on the league title. We galvanised ourselves for the final against Motherwell and the support was magnificent as well. To win the Scottish Cup was a great way to end the season for us, and then you’re looking to build, and we certainly did that from then on.

“And the club had a really good policy of finding young, talented, hungry players to come in and make the club better, and then they could go on and forge their careers elsewhere, but Celtic really gave them a strong platform to do that.”

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