‘We have to concentrate on the job in hand’: Neil Lennon dismisses talk of Celtic winning a 10th Scottish title in a row as his side prepare to open the campaign against Hamilton
- Neil Lennon insists Celtic can cope with pressure of winning tenth title in a row
- The Scottish champions face Hamilton in Premiership curtain raiser on Sunday
- Lennon said he wants to continue to develop young players as they push for ten
Neil Lennon insists Celtic have been coping with the pressure of ten in a row for the last four years.
Scotland’s champions will unfurl their ninth successive Premiership flag before Sunday’s curtain-raiser against Hamilton behind the closed doors of Parkhead.
Burdened by the hopes and expectations of a support fixated on a slice of history, Lennon insists the expectation is nothing new.
Neil Lennon insists Celtic have been coping with pressure of ten in a row for the last four years
The Scottish champions kick off their ninth successive title defence against Hamilton
‘There has been ten-in-a-row chat for the last three or four years,’ said the Celtic boss. ‘When we won seven, people were talking about it. When we won eight, it was all about getting to nine.
‘So it’s no different and we try to do what we normally do, which is try and block it out. We have to concentrate on the job in hand.
‘It’s not just about this season, it’s about seasons after that in terms of developing young players and integrating young players into the squad and bringing in new players allied to the core that we’ve got already.
‘So this season we are again looking to achieve the Champions League group stage. Trying to get through the qualifiers will again be immensely difficult, but it’s not beyond us.
‘And we will be defending all the trophies as best we can.’ With Champions League qualifiers looming on the horizon and a quadruple Treble up for grabs before Christmas, Lennon insists it’s not all about reaching a goal neither Celtic or Rangers have ever achieved.
Lennon said that preparations are normal and they will focus on more than just the title
‘Everything doesn’t just stop at the end of this season if we achieve ten,’ he continued. ‘The club will go on and there are players here we want to bring through.
‘We’ve just got Vasilis Barkas in and he needs a little bit of adaptation time, so we are excited about him coming in.
‘Hopefully we will add one or two more as well.
‘The main focus obviously – as with any season – is to try and win the title. But it just doesn’t stop after this season. We look to go on again while trying very much to stay in the present as of now.’ A £5million signing from AEK Athens, goalkeeper Barkas is likely to sit out tomorrow’s Hamilton opener as he adjusts to a new footballing environment.
‘He is a goalkeeper the club have liked for quite a while,’ admitted Lennon.
He said he wants to continue to grow young players and look past this season’s achievements
‘Going back to when we played AEK in the Champions League qualifiers a few years ago, goalkeeper coach Stevie (Woods) has been keeping his eye on him. He has progressed very well.’ Ruling out a move for a second keeper, Celtic are still in the market for a striker after missing out on a loan deal for West Ham’s Albian Ajeti and having a £4m bid for Peterborough’s Ivan Toney turned down.
Asked if former Scotland striker Steven Fletcher could still come into the equation after leaving Sheffield Wednesday, Lennon was non-committal.
‘He is a good player,’ he said. ‘I am not going to confirm or deny that.
‘There are one or two areas we want to add to because we have let a few players go.
‘We let seven or eight go and we have only added Barkas, so I think it’s important we bring some quality in, in the areas we are looking for.’