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LENNON, PUNCH-UPS AND VICTORY OVER GERRARD

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NEIL LENNON can lead Celtic into the history books when they face Hearts in the delayed Scottish Cup Final at Hampden on Sunday.

Victory over the Edinburgh outfit will bring the Parkhead club their TWELFTH successive domestic honour while completing the unprecedented quadruple treble.

The focus of attention after the showpiece showdown will switch to the Premiership encounters against Ross County on Wednesday, Hamilton Accies on Boxing Day and then Dundee United on December 30 as the curtain comes down on an eventful 2021.

Steven Gerrard’s hopes of his side emulating Celtic’s feat of season 2016/17 and going through the entire campaign unbeaten to earn the tag ‘The Invincibles’ was obliterated by St Mirren in Paisley last night as he failed in his seventh consecutive attempt to win a domestic trophy since taking over the Govan club.

READ ALL ABOUT IT…Alex Gordon’s latest Celtic book, ’50 Flags Plus One’.

Lennon’s men are playing catch-up in their pursuit of a phenomenal tenth title in a row, 13 points adrift with two games in hand. The aim is to gather nine points from their remaining three outings before he takes his players across the city for a head-to-head with their neighbours on January 2.

It’s an intriguing clash, but no more interesting than the one the Irishman faced on only his fourth league game back since taking over from Brendan Rodgers in February 2019. On his return to the club, he had seen the Hoops beat Hearts 2-1 at Tynecastle, draw 0-0 with Aberdeen in Glasgow and overcome Dundee 1-0 at Dens Park with a stoppage-time strike from Odsonne Edouard.

Author Alex Gordon recalls the moment he faced up to Gerrard and Co for the first time in his latest Celtic book, ’50 Flags Plus One’, when he was tasked with maintaining the momentum to see the team over the line in their quest for title No.8.

Alex, veteran of fifteen Celtic books, writes: “All eyes were on Celtic Park on March 31 when Steven Gerrard brought his Ibrox squad across the Clyde for a thought-provoking meeting; Lennon’s first as a Celtic manager against the club’s foes in seven years.

“In the east end of Glasgow that afternoon, nitro met glycerine in an explosively engrossing encounter as goals from Odsonne Edouard and James Forrest delivered a 2-1 victory. It’s rarely peaceful when the Glasgow adversaries lock horns and this was to prove no exception.

“The visitors were left with ten men in the first-half following controversial Colombian striker Alfredo Morelos’ off-the-ball assault on Scott Brown when the miscreant thumped his left elbow into the face of his opponent. Referee Bobby Madden, on the say-so of one of his assistants, had little option but to produce the red card, the disgraced Rangers player’s fifth dismissal of the season.

“Remarkably, Gerrard’s team, despite their numerical disadvantage, produced a leveller with their first shot on target when Ryan Kent, the winger on loan from Liverpool, capitalised on some sloppy concentration in the Celtic rearguard to rifle a drive beyond the exposed Scott Bain.

“The goal shook Celtic who were also left with ten men when Dedryck Boyata, in his last game for the club before his out-of-contract move to Bundesliga outfit Hertha Berlin, limped off with a ruptured hamstring. Neil Lennon had utilised all three substitutes and both of the rivals’ quota of players was even for the remaining sixteen minutes.

“Forrest rolled in the winner four minutes from the end after being set up by Edouard. In the immediate aftermath of the goal, Kent, inexplicably, lashed out at Brown and whacked the Celt flush on the jaw with a vicious punch. Curiously, all four match officials missed the incident, but justice caught up with the obstreperous Englishman through retrospective action from the Scottish Football Association after the unprovoked assault had been caught on camera. Deservedly, Kent received a two-game suspension.

SEEING RED…Scott Brown is punched by Ryan Kent.

“Celtic moved a virtually-unassailable thirteen points ahead with the victory and by the time they met up with Gerrard and his players at Ibrox on May 12, the championship had been done and dusted.

“The title winners could afford to lose 2-0 in another disturbingly off-colour showing in Govan. Thankfully, though, it had been an entirely different tale at Pittodrie the previous week when the eighth successive flag had been delivered with a team on full throttle.

“A draw would have been enough to bring home the crown, but goals from Mikael Lustig, Jozo Simunovic and Odsonne Edouard added some gloss to the occasion to see off the Dons 3-0, a winning margin that replicated the result in the Scottish Cup semi-final the previous month.

“It was also the fourth Premiership title under the auspices of Lennon and, thankfully, he did not waste time indulging in today’s fairly absurd soccer jargon where some observations border on the indecipherable and unfathomable. The Northern Irishman cut to the chase as his players paraded happily in front of the travelling support and he admitted tremors in the “heebie-jeebies” category.

“Possibly not the most eloquent of tributes to an assortment of players who had conquered all before them for the eighth consecutive year, but it delivered the message.”

The dramatic 2018/19 season is told with insider knowledge by Alex Gordon, a former sports editor of the best-selling Sunday Mail, and his latest publication is acclaimed by club legend and Lisbon Lion Bertie Auld as “a truly unique tribute to Celtic”.

CQN Bookstore is the only place to buy the book – and we are giving away a copy of ‘SEVILLE: The Celtic Movement ABSOLUTELY FREE with every order.

Please hurry – the offer is limited to while stocks last and they are going fast.

’50 Flags Plus One’ is the unique collection of hitherto unknown tales behind the fifty-one title triumphs in Celtic’s glorious history.

* REVEALED! The half-time pep talk by Jock Stein against Rangers that sparked the first nine-in-a-row title sequence.

* FROM the dole to title delight – how things changed so dramatically and gloriously for a Celtic legend in the club’s Centenary Year.

* DAVIE HAY reveals how Hearts HELPED Celtic to overcome the Edinburgh team in the dramatic race for the 1986 title.

* THE day Neil Lennon threatened to quit in his first spell as Celtic manager.

* THE History Bhoys – the day Celtic won TWO games in the same day to claim their thirteenth title.

* FIFTY-GOAL Jimmy McGrory ends a decade in the doldrums with eighteenth flag in 1936.

* THE Jimmy Johnstone Show – Celtic icons remember the day Wee Jinky ran amok at Ibrox. And the team won their second successive title in the nine-in-a-row glory days.

* JOCK STEIN’S heartfelt salute to Celtic greats after the Lions’ Last Hurrah with title victory in 1971.

* BIG Jock’s tenth championship – the legend goes out with another remarkable title triumph in 1977. The legend talks about dealing with tension in a thrilling campaign that was capped with a Scottish Cup victory over Rangers. Discover what Kenny Dalglish did to bewilder the Celtic manager.

* ‘CELTIC are a fairy-tale football club,’ insisted Billy McNeill on his return to Parkhead as manager. And his first-season success with the championship – and the transfers that made it happen.

* THE night ten men won the league. Why Billy McNeill threatened to throw red-card culprit Johnny Doyle ONTO the field.

Read the fascinating revelations in ’50 Flags Plus One’, the brand new Celtic book, which is only available at CQN Bookstore – and get ‘SEVILLE: The Celtic Movement’, rrp £18.99, absolutely free.

* ‘CELTIC: 50 Flags Plus One’ celebrates the club’s remarkable fifty-one league championships in their glorious history. To order a copy – and get a FREE book, ‘Seville: The Celtic Movement’ – please go to: ‘CELTIC: 50 Flags Plus One’.

* PLEASE note that CQN will be processing orders as swiftly as possible to make certain the books are with you well in time for Christmas. The Post Office has stressed the importance of having the books processed early and to allow three working days for the books to be shipped. All orders before midnight tonight, December 17, WILL be in the mail the following morning for pick up and delivery. Hail! Hail!

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