Celtic: Boss Neil Lennon says returning to club was a 'no-brainer'

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Watch: Lennon on fan anger, trophies & replacing Rodgers

New Celtic manager Neil Lennon says he does not want to be compared to predecessor Brendan Rodgers.

Lennon, appointed until the end of the season after Rodgers left on Tuesday to become Leicester City boss, described the decision to return to a job he held from 2010-2014 as a "no-brainer".

"I'm very, very grateful to be here," said the 47-year-old.

"I don't have all the answers, and certainly I don't want to be compared to Brendan."

He added: "I know some people will do that as we go along, but Brendan has his way and it has been fantastic, and I have my way."

Lennon, who will be assisted by John Kennedy and first-team coach Damien Duff, led Celtic to three titles during his first spell as manager. Having left Hibernian last month, he will be considered for the role long-term.

"The board have put the faith in me to see out the season," Lennon added.

"It's been a whirlwind 24-36 hours. The most important thing is the club. We've lost a manager who will go down as one of the greats and I've got big shoes to fill obviously. I'm looking forward to the challenge."

'I'm not as volatile'

With a spring in his step and a huge smile on his face, Lennon strode back into Celtic Park a changed man, he said, eager to begin his second stint as manager.

His first one began nine years ago, when he vowed to bring the thunder back to Glasgow's east end. Now he's a tad more materialistic.

"The thunder is here so I just need to bring some trophies back," he said.

The trophies he's after are the Scottish Cup and the Premiership title, and he arrives well-placed in both. Eight points clear in the league, ahead of tonight's trip to Hearts; followed up by a Scottish Cup quarter-final trip to Easter Road.

If he does deliver both trophies, and seals the treble treble - Celtic retained the Scottish League Cup last November - this will surely not just be an interim appointment for Lennon.

Neil Lennon and John Kennedy
Lennon will be assisted by John Kennedy

So how has he changed since first becoming Celtic manager?

"I'm not as volatile. I wanted to take on the world when I first took over," he said.

"You learn from that, you mellow. But I still have that energy and I still have the will to win, which I want to always bring with me.

"I've been on good behaviour this year. I've had no issues with referees or linesmen.

"I like to have that edge. But in terms of my behaviour, I will monitor that as best as I can. It's maturity, it's experience. Obviously you don't want to sit in the stand and not be able to do your job properly - so I'm very aware of that."

It was clear to all at Lennon's media conference just how much it means to him to be back at the club where he enjoyed his greatest successes as a player between 2000 and 2007, and also won two Scottish Cups during his spell as a manager between 2010 and 2014.

The Northern Irishman's not lost his sense of humour either. When I asked him whether he'd have to rein in the passion a little on the touchline, and alter his behaviour, he feigned outrage, with a big smile: "What are you trying to say?" was his instant retort, the mock outrage raising a few laughs.

Neil Lennon
Lennon is determined to bring more trophies to the club this season

He also had a message to any of the current players who might be tempted to join Rodgers at Leicester, or move elsewhere.

"Once you leave Celtic it's not the same. It's a very special club - very special support," he said.

"I know from my own experience and players who I played with, once you leave the club there's a bit of a hole there. Something in your spirit that isn't quite the same. It's magical. This club provides for players and if they are thinking about leaving then I'll make them think twice."

Former midfielder Lennon made 214 appearances for the Parkhead club in a seven-year spell before leaving in 2007.

Rodgers won all seven domestic trophies available to him after taking over in 2016, and the club have won seven titles in a row.

"Brendan has certainly raised the bar - in terms of trophies anyway," Lennon said. "Everyone is talking about 10. I'd just like to get to eight first and take it from there. That's the most important thing for me and I'm not looking too far ahead.

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