by Stuart Anderson
Neil Lennon left Hampden last night clutching the Scottish Cup and carrying the promise of a new contract as Celtic manager with it.
The Hoops manager, whose future has been clouded in doubt for the last few weeks of a turbulent season, was told after his side’s 3-0 victory over Motherwell that majority shareholder Dermot Desmond had publicly guaranteed him a new deal that would keep him in place “for a long time”.
A stunning strike from Ki Sung-Yueng, an own-goal from Stephen Craigan and a thumping Charlie Mulgrew free-kick saw the Hoops cruise to victory.
“That’s nice to hear but he hasn’t said it to me yet and I wish he had told me first,” smiled a delighted Parkhead boss.
Lennon used his moment of triumph to praise Desmond and the other powers-that-be at Parkhead for backing him through an incredibly difficult season.
“Mr Desmond has been a great supporter of me, and after Ross County a year ago he phoned me that evening and gave me great encouragement,” said Lennon.
“Throughout the season he’s given me a lot of good advice as have Peter Lawwell and John Reid, and the support I’ve had from behind the scenes has been fantastic.
“We’ll sit down in the next two weeks and see where we go from here, but I love the job and the challenges that lie ahead.”
Lennon added: “I am so pleased for the players and supporters along with the backroom staff, the board and Mr Desmond. It’s a great day for the club.
“We played very well and took control of the game in the second half. We could have been a bit more clinical at times but to win a cup final 3-0 and play in the style we’ve tried to play all season is very pleasing.
“And this was a reward for the players’ efforts. There hasn’t been a trophy at our place for a couple of years which is not good enough for a club of our standing, and I’ve told the players you have to cherish these days because we were a dominant team under Martin O’Neill and Gordon Strachan and sometimes you take it for granted and then when you don’t have it you realise what you had.
“This was a nice way to finish the season.
“We’ve got a taste of winning trophies and hope the players are feeling good about themselves.”
Lennon will now begin to plot and plan for next season.
He added: “There are no guarantees. We wanted to win the league this time and didn’t but I hope that doesn’t happen again next year.
“We have a young squad but they have a taste of it, they’re growing and they are men now.”
The spotlight inevitably stays on the manager after all his trials and tribulations.
But he insisted: “This isn’t so much a weight off my shoulders. I’m just pleased to have it on the CV. Winning the cup is not enough but it’s important and important to me personally.
“I haven’t felt under peressure at all but maybe that will come next season when the expectation builds but that comes with the territory. I hope we’ll come back better and stronger next time.
“This season has been conflicting with some good stuff and some disappointments along the way but we have finished the season the way we wanted to.
“I have enjoyed this challenge and we will learn from where we went wrong and try to eradicate that plus bring in a few quality players to top up the squad.
“We have looked at various positions we think we can strengthen but it’s whether we can get them in or not. We’ll try hard.”
Courtesy of Scottish Sunday Express