NEIL LENNON admitted being Celtic manager is not all about “money or medals” – but pride and passion in being in charge of a special club.
The Irishman is back for his second stint as Hoops gaffer after answering the call in February following the swift departure of Brendan Rodgers to Leicester City.
And now Lennon has returned he agrees he is “older and wiser” and will NEVER walk away from the club of his own accord in the future.
The Parkhead boss, speaking to the Sunday Mail, admitted: “I can’t imagine a feeling like we had against Lazio anywhere else in football. That’s just what Celtic brings.
“I talk to the players a lot about that feeling. It’s not about money or medals, it’s about the feeling you get after a performance like that.
“Only those players as individuals can experience that glow of complete satisfaction.
“It doesn’t last long in this game – but that’s what you play for. When you hear Lazio boss Simone Inzaghi talking about us and the atmosphere at Celtic Park, it’s a great compliment. He spoke really well after our home game.
“It made me proud of the club and it meant a hell of a lot to me.”
HOOP HOOP HOORAY…Neil Lennon celebrates with matchwinner Olivier Ntcham in Rome.
Lennon has piloted the team to next year’s knock-out stages of the Europa League following three wins – two against the Serie A cracks – and a draw from the four Group E encounters, Goals from Ryan Christie and Christopher Jullien turned around a dramatic confrontation in Glasgow after the visitors had swept into a half-time lead.
And history was made in Rome when Olivier Ntcham clipped in the winning goal in the fifth minute of stoppage time for the club’s first triumph on European soil in 13 attempts.
Again, Lazio had taken the lead, but James Forrest lashed in the leveller before the break and the French midfielder sealed it with a deft chip in the fading moments at the Olympic Stadium.
As he reflected on his first time around as the team boss, Lennon said: “Have the Lazio nights made me ask myself why I left here in the first place?
“Listen, I had my reasons for leaving at that time. I don’t regret it because it was the right thing for me to do at that moment in my career.
“I was ambitious then and wanted to try other things. But I feel differently now.
“After Barcelona, we changed the squad, sold a lot of good players – and there was no Rangers.
“In my last year, we won the league by 29 points, so you’re thinking: ‘Is it time for me to change and time for the club to make a change, as well?’.
“Maybe it needed a new voice because four years is a long time in modern football at a club like this. So, it was a good time to go.
“And I left on the best of terms so the door would maybe be open again in the future. You can’t predict that, but, thankfully, that’s how it’s turned out.
“And having this opportunity again is fantastic, I’m really enjoying it.
SHAKE ON IT…Lennon and Lazio boss Simone Inzaghi embrace after the historic win in Italy.
“I wanted to bring those type of big nights back to Celtic Park. And the Lazio win was the perfect storm for a European game at Parkhead.
“The game matched the atmosphere, occasion, performance and result. We got a taste against Cluj at home, but Lazio was even better. And I want more of it.
“Once you get a taste, you want the players and fans to get more nights like that.
“It makes me never want to leave again. I’m older and wiser now.
“Now, I’ve got a second crack at it, I’m really grateful for the opportunity.”
He added: “I inherited a good squad, but we’ve brought in quality players. So, I’m loving what I’m doing.
“It’s a high-pressure job, but I’m embracing the challenge.
“We’re top of the league, top of our Europa League group and in a Cup Final, so I can’t ask more of the players.
“Also, the fact that Rangers are back challenging, that drives me on, too. It heightens the senses and pushes me on. The way we’re playing right now is fantastic.
“With these big games we’ve got coming up, I can’t ask for much more as a manager.”