Neil Lennon hopes winning ugly will provide Celtic a psychological boost

Celtic manager Neil Lennon hopes his players will benefit from emerging victorious despite a poor display in Sunday’s Betfred Cup final against Rangers.

Lennon suspects some players were weighed down with expectations after seeing a few tears of relief at full-time.

But, after clinching a 10th consecutive domestic trophy with the help of Christopher Jullien’s controversial goal and a sublime display from goalkeeper Fraser Forster, Lennon hopes his men can relax and enjoy themselves next time round.

Speaking at Celtic Park on Monday, Lennon said: “When we do analyse it, we may look at the weight of expectation, (which) was big on them. Some of them were in tears after the game – with relief more than anything else.

“But I also think that you maybe have to go through a bad performance and overcome it, and come out the other side of it.

“Maybe that’s the one where they have overcome the bad one and say ‘you can play badly and win so there is nothing to fear anymore, you have got to take that sort of pressure off yourselves now and just go and play the game’. Psychologically it was a massive one.

“But I said before the game you have to take cup finals in isolation. Form, whatever, goes out the window.

“So we have done it, we have won it. However satisfactory the performance was or not, the important thing was to win it. And now we move on.”

Lennon, whose side face Cluj in the Europa League on Thursday, added: “I don’t want to dwell on the performance because I don’t want to talk negatively about the players.

“They are human beings and they are not going to play magnificently well every time they step out there, under different circumstances, different pressures.

“For the last two or three months they have played football of the highest calibre. Maybe they didn’t reach those heights on Sunday but they still came up with the win.

“And there were other sides of the game they showed, such as resilience and discipline and mental resolve, which a lot of other teams don’t have.”

Lennon has now completed a clean sweep of major Scottish trophies as both player and manager but he was keen to stress the achievements of his players, who have won 31 consecutive cup ties.

“What these players are doing is just incredible,” he said. “It’s seven cup finals in a row and seven semi-finals, and you have to remember that every team playing against them along the way are desperate to reach a final, desperate to win a trophy.

“And the players keep coming up with answers. I am so proud to be associated with it but it’s an incredible run of silverware and our fans, who were amazing on Sunday, should enjoy it, because we may never see the like of this again.

“I have never seen a run like it. I don’t know if it’s been matched anywhere else in football but it is incredible.

“If you think about all the semi-finals and finals they have played, whether it be Rangers, Aberdeen, Motherwell, Hearts, they have overcome the lot. It’s absolutely fantastic.”

Lennon is set to field Leigh Griffiths in Romania with his side already through to the group stages. The striker was not included in Celtic’s 18-man match day squad at Hampden.

“Leigh will be involved,” Lennon said. “We were going to start Odsonne (Edouard) if he had been fit and Leigh would have been on the bench. But the fact Odsonne couldn’t start we decided to go with (Lewis) Morgan to start and bring Odsonne on.

“So we couldn’t get Leigh on the bench, it was nothing to do with fitness levels or anything like that.”

Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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