NEIL LENNON will be DEVASTATED if he fails to deliver a tenth successive title for Celtic.
That’s the verdict of his former team-mate Chris Sutton as the Hoops boss gears up his champions for another tilt at history in a season he has already tagged “monumental”.
Lennon kicked off the charge towards the record books with the first three crowns during his original reign at Parkhead. Ronny Deila added two and Brendan Rodgers kept the sequence going with two more before quitting in February last year to allow the Irishman to guide the team towards No.8.
And he was victorious again last time out when the club, 13 points ahead with only eight games to play, were awarded a ninth championship in a row following the premature conclusion to the campaign due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Now Lennon is preparing his squad for another assault on the silverware and is in no mood to fail with an ever-lasting place in the club’s annals of fame beckoning.
Former Celtic goal hero Sutton, speaking in the Daily Record, said: “Neil Lennon would have his name in Celtic folklore forever if he delivers the 10th straight title, having been there to collect the first three and returning to take home the last trio.
“He has everything to gain, Steven Gerrard has everything to lose.
“Of course, Lennon would be devastated if he doesn’t get over the line. But he has still proved himself as a trophy-winning manager of some substance over the years.
“It would hurt badly not to get it now Celtic are so close, but he’d still have a sackload of trophies in his bag as a manager.”
Sutton pointed out: “Gerrard has to stop Celtic winning 10-in-a-row or he is a Rangers failure. It really is that simple.
“The Ibrox team get this season started in Aberdeen at lunchtime and it’s going to be the most momentous campaign in living memory for most fans on both sides of Glasgow.
“Gerrard and Neil Lennon have the greatest motivation for the coming 10 months. Gerrard, at this stage, has none and he’s going to have to win the big one or it’s curtains.
“There is no middle ground in Glasgow. You are either a winner or a loser and, at this point in time, Gerrard has been the latter in all six domestic competitions he has been in charge.
“No-one expected him to just step in and halt the Celtic juggernaut immediately. That would have been unfair.
“Celtic are an excellent team with excellent mentality and it was always going to take time for the former Liverpool captain to start to make inroads.
“But that time is now over. It’s been and gone. The last two years were the time afforded for closing the gap.
“Two years where a team should have been built to put the squad into a position where they were ready to take over the mantle and dislodge Celtic from the top of the tree.
“Judging by the performances in the second half of the season before the game shut down, Rangers were on course to finish even further behind the champions than they had done in Gerrard’s first season.
“Despite the whines to the contrary and words of defiance, most sensible people could see that’s where it was going.
“Gerrard has had his apprenticeship. He’s had his time to learn the ropes and put his practices into place.
“Now it is time to prove he has the ability to complete the deed.”
The one-time England international added: “I can’t see much margin for error and, given that Celtic have been over the course before, it’s Rangers who have to prove they can handle that situation.
“A proper Cup win would be nice for Gerrard to at least end the club’s silverware drought, but that’s not why he was handed the job.
“He was handed the job to stop 10-in-a-row.
“And if he doesn’t do it, he’ll go down as a Rangers failure. End of story.”
Gerrard will take the Ibrox side to Pittodrie for a 12.30pm kick-off while Lennon’s champions start the campaign with a visit from Hamilton Accies tomorrow with a 4.30pm start when the ninth successive title flag will be unfurled at Parkhead.