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‘NEIL WILL ALWAYS BE A WINNER,’ INSISTS LISBON LION

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NEIL LENNON is very much his own man with his own ideas – that’s the verdict of Lisbon Lion John Clark.

The Irishman answered Celtic’s SOS in February last year following the sudden departure of Brendan Rodgers to Leicester City.

The champions were due to play two massive games in Edinburgh within four days with a Premiership encounter against Hearts at Tynecastle 24 hours later and a Scottish Cup quarter-final against Hibs at Easter Road.

Lennon hit the ground running with a 2-1 triumph over Craig Levein’s outfit and followed up with a 2-0 win over his former side in Leith. Both victories paved the way for the club’s treble treble campaign.

He followed that up with a Betfred League Cup success in December with a 1-0 triumph over Steven Gerrard’s Ibrox team and, of course, the ninth successive title was secured during the week when the SPFL bosses awarded the Hoops yet another crown.

Clark, who was Billy McNeill’s partner in the great Jock Stein that swept all before them in the historic 1966/67 campaign, has been impressed by Lennon.

The 79-year-old Hoops kitman, speaking to the Scottish Sun, said: “Neil’s a different person now than he was before as a player then as a manager.

LEGENDS…John Clark and Billy McNeill, the rocks in Jock Stein’s defence.

“He’s more disciplined now than he has been for the last few years. As you grow older, I think that’s what happens.

“He’s got his own habits and ways of doing things in life, and who can argue with them when you look at the amount of success he’s had at Celtic?

“Neil’s got a tremendous record and he deserves every bit of praise. In his early days as manager first time here, he was too highly strung at times perhaps.

“I wouldn’t say hot-headed or that he didn’t know what he was doing.

“But his emotions would be high, and for the foreigners under him back then it was probably a shock. These boys aren’t used to folk getting right into them. Neil would point the finger.

“But Martin O’Neill had that kind of thing about him, too. That kind of strictness. When he pointed the finger you knew he was really after you.

“Lenny, though, has slightly calmed down compared to what he was like originally. That’s not to say he still doesn’t have his moments, but, overall, he’s a bit more considered in the job.

“I believe he thinks things out better now.”

Clark added: “I like Neil’s style. I think it makes him a better manager, even allowing for the big success he had before in the job.

“I’ve never had problems with him at any time of my life, and I hope I’ve never been a problem for him. We’ve always got on well and we enjoy a laugh when we can.

“But I do see a difference in him. I think Neil’s more settled in himself. There’s a contentment about him.

“It’s not hard to see what it means to him to be back at Celtic. He’s matured as a boss and maybe that spell at Hibs helped him.

“A Celtic manager has to get results and those have gone for him since he came back. Lenny’s done well and now he’s guided the club to nine in a row.

“Hopefully, there is also the Scottish Cup still to play for, although we don’t know what’s happening with that.

“Neil, no matter how he goes about things, will always be a winner. He loves the challenge and hates to lose games.

“He wants his players to show how good they are.”

Lennon picked up his 10th league medal on Monday – his fifth as a manager to match his five as a player.

Now his eyes are on the historic ten in a row for the Parkhead side. Don’t bet against him!

 
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