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Neil Lennon - 10 years on and the tale of two appointments

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TO say that the scoreline from St Mirren Park on Wednesday, March 24, 2010 didn’t make for pleasant reading from a Celtic perspective is an understatement.

The Hoops had suffered a heavy 4-0 defeat in Paisley, a result which heralded the departure of manager, Tony Mowbray. Twenty-four hours later, Neil Lennon was appointed interim manager until the end of the season, stepping up from reserve coach to take charge of the first-time.

It was a massive responsibility for the Irishman, who had already established himself as a Celtic legend after nearly seven years as a player, during which time he made 304 appearances and was an integral part of the success the Hoops had enjoyed under Martin O’Neill and then Gordon Strachan.

Ahead of his first game as interim manager back in 2010, a home game against Kilmarnock, Neil Lennon took charge of a side that was second in the Premiership table, 10 points off the top and having played two games more than the leaders.

It was a daunting challenge but one that he relished. He was, after all, being given the opportunity to manage his team.

History, of course, has repeated itself, when, just like 2010, the Irishman returned to the club in 2019 as interim manager before taking over on a permanent basis after sealing the Treble Treble.

Speaking to the official Celtic website about his first spell in charge of the team, Neil Lennon said: “It feels like a lifetime rather than 10 years because there’s been so much crammed into it, and there have been so many great times over the 10 years.

“It was obviously off the back of Tony leaving, and I had to very quickly assemble a team together as well. It was myself and Johan Mjallby. He was in Stockholm at the time but he answered the call very, very quickly.

“We just had to get an improvement in the team, get some wins and boost the morale of the players and the supporters as well.

“It was so different from the second time taking over last year, where everything was so successful. It was the polar opposite, where we were struggling, we were inconsistent and the league had already, more or less, gone.”

There were eight games remaining for the Hoops, plus a Scottish Cup semi-final against Ross County to look forward to, and Neil Lennon’s Celtic side got off to a winning start, beating Kilmarnock 3-1 at Paradise. They followed that up with a 1-0 victory over Hibernian at Easter Road before heading to Hampden.

On the day, there was disappointment for the Hoops as their Highland opponents scored twice in the second half without reply to progress to the final where they lost to Dundee United.

“I was just very angry with the players,” Neil Lennon said. “They didn’t show the right attitude on the day and it was only my third game in charge. We’d beaten Kilmarnock and then Hibs, and then it was the semi-final at Hampden against Ross County.

“There was a lack of application and attitude on the day, and I came out and said some really strong words, but I meant it, and it seemed to have the desired effect for the rest of the season.”

Those strong words did have an effect as Celtic won their remaining six league fixtures, including a 2-1 Glasgow derby win at Celtic Park, and come the end of the campaign, Neil Lennon was appointed Celtic manager on a permanent basis. The silverware would soon follow.

“I’ve been lucky enough to work at a club like this where, although you’re not guaranteed success, there’s a good chance of success,” he said. “You’re working with great coaches and players every day, and to get the job for a second period was amazing as well. So I’m just absolutely thrilled with the way things have gone.”

More from the Celtic manager to follow on the official Celtic website.

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