Celtic suffered most from season halting – Lennon
Manager Neil Lennon says leading Celtic to their ninth title in a row is his best achievement in football – and he wants to top it with an unprecedented 10th consecutive championship.
The Glasgow side were crowned champions on a points-per-game average on Monday when the SPFL ended the season.
Lennon says the title is “fully deserved” as he eyes further glory.
“Even when I took over and we got to eight, people were talking about 10,” said Lennon.
“We had to get the nine first and thankfully that’s been accomplished now.
“We can go for 10 now, because I know that’s been on the tip of a lot of our supporters’ tongues.
“The supporters are talking about 10, and we can now go for the 10.”
Lennon’s men have matched the nine-in-a-row achievement of Jock Stein’s Celtic in the 1960s and 70s and Rangers’ run from 1989-97.
The former captain started Celtic’s current streak by leading the club to three successive titles during his initial stint in charge. And since replacing Brendan Rodgers in February last year, he has now helped to deliver the last two.
Asked how it ranks among his achievements, Lennon said: “It’s the best, just the magnitude of it. It means everything to me.
“I grew up on stories of that [Jock Stein’s Celtic] team. So to be here as the manager when we’ve won our ninth title in a row is very special.
“When I got the job a second time I was under a lot of scrutiny. It has taken a lot of hard work, a lot of pain at times, a lot of pressure, but it’s all worth it.
“It probably won’t sink in for a few days until the magnitude of it all grabs me.”
Some fans gathered at Celtic Park to celebrate despite the club asking them not to
Lennon admits it is “surreal” not being able to celebrate with his players and staff as Scotland is still in coronavirus-enforced lockdown.
And while the club urged supporters not to come to Celtic Park to celebrate, that was ignored by some who were pictured outside the stadium’s main entrance.
Celtic had eight matches left and a 13-point lead over second-place Rangers, who had played a game fewer, when play was halted in March.
That gap had been just two points at the turn of the year following Old Firm defeat by an Ibrox side who held a game in hand. But while Rangers faltered after the winter break, Celtic surged clear with 28 points from 30.
And Lennon insists there can be no doubt that Celtic have been “the best team by far”.
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“Of course it’s fully deserved,” he said. “We won 26 out of 30 games, scored 89 goals, we were absolutely rampant throughout the season.
“We were so consistent, played brilliant football. Even at the turn of the year when questions were being asked, they found the answers and smashed the second half of the season. As a squad they’ve been magnificent.”
Chief executive Peter Lawwell echoed those sentiments and paid tribute to Lennon, who has extended the club’s domestic winning run to 11 consecutive trophies after also winning the League Cup this season.
“Under Neil’s guidance, we have produced performances of the highest quality. We have produced exciting, attacking, winning football. We have played the Celtic way and won the Celtic way.”
Celtic midfielder Ryan Christie told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Monday Night Club: “It’s a bit frustrating to not celebrate with the fans and with your team-mates but it doesn’t feel like any less of an achievement.
“Hopefully when everything calms down, we will get the chance to celebrate in the proper style with everybody.
“Nobody can dispute that it was fair to crown us as the champions when you look at how commanding we were. Crowning us as champions was the right thing to do.
“We look back at the hard work and how well we performed from the start of the season. After getting beaten in the Old Firm game, on the [winter break] trip to Dubai we pressed the reset button – after that we were frightening and Rangers could not cope with that.
“Maybe we missed out on a really good trophy day. We were playing some brilliant stuff, it’s frustrating for everyone that the season has finished.
“But there’s definitely a relief at not having to play the games. Watching the games [in Germany] it’s very strange watching it without fans and it looks like a training set-up. These are unprecedented times and we’re lucky that the decision has been taken out of our hands.”