ONLY in the madcap world of Scottish football could a manager lead his team to a a fifth consecutive trophy and a domestic treble and still find himself under intense pressure.

Yet, Neil Lennon, whose Celtic side defeated Hearts on penalties in the rescheduled William Hill Scottish Cup final at Hampden yesterday, has work to do to silence his detractors and remain in the Parkhead hotseat.

Draw or lose against Ross County on Wednesday night, Hamilton on Boxing Day or Dundee United next week and fall further behind Rangers in the Premiership and the rumblings of discontent among supporters of his side will return.

Fail to defeat the top flight leaders at Ibrox on Saturday week and there will be renewed calls from fans for Lennon to be replaced.

The penalty shoot-out triumph against Robbie Neilson’s men was exciting and celebrated joyously by everyone involved - but it will not be enough to placate some malcontents.

Only 10-In-A-Row, an achievement that followers of the Glasgow club have been singing about in the stands for years now, will suffice for some in the 2020/21 campaign.

The performance in the final was good enough to secure the trophy. But it was far from perfect. Their Championship rivals were the better side in the second-half, fought back to level and could have won in regulation time if they had taken one of the two late chances they created.

The defensive failings that have proved so costly for Celtic in the Betfred Cup, Europa League and Premiership this term were very much in evidence and much work has to be done to eradicate them.

Goalkeeper, too, is still an area of concern. Conor Hazard, who was given the nod ahead of Scott Bain and Vasilis Barkas yesterday, might have produced two vital saves in the penalty shoot-out. But proceedings wouldn’t have reached that stage had he not made errors at the second and third Hearts goals.

Elsewhere, Lennon insisted his decision to restore Scott Brown to his starting line-up had been vindicated by the win. The midfielder certainly did brilliantly to meet a Ryan Christie corner with a header before the third Celtic goal.

But many still feel his captain, who turned 35 in the summer, is past his best and Ismaila Soro is the better option.

The Celtic board stated, when they gave Lennon a second vote of confidence in a week following the draw with St Johnstone at Parkhead earlier this month, that his situation will be reviewed in the New Year.

Their refusal to bow to the pitchfork-wielding hordes was admirable given all their manager has had to deal with – match cancellations, injuries to key men, positive coronavirus tests – in the first half of the season.

The success he has been responsible for since taking over from Brendan Rodgers in difficult circumstances last year also deserved to be taken into account.

However, Neil Lennon must extend Celtic’s three game winning run and close the gap on Rangers in the weeks ahead to quell the off-field unrest and survive long-term in his position.


As angry Celtic fans gathered outside Parkhead and called for their manager Neil Lennon to be sacked following their Betfred Cup exit last month, winners Ross County were rather overlooked.

The implications of the result, which came hard on the heels of defeats to Rangers, AC Milan and Sparta Prague as well as draws with Aberdeen and Hibernian, for Lennon was the main talking point among supporters online and in the media.

Before long, as players were pelted with missiles, perimeter fencing was ripped up and scuffles with police broke out, the shocking scenes of affray were dominating social media websites and news bulletins.

It was unfortunate and unfair that County’s triumph was overshadowed by the events that followed because the Highland club had produced an excellent performance and thoroughly deserved to go through.

Yes, their hosts were playing poorly at that time, struggling for confidence and missing vital personnel. Still, the visitors contained them brilliantly, worked their socks off from kick-off to the final whistle and took their chances on the counter attack when they came.

It was a display of which their young manager Stuart Kettlewell could be proud and one that suggested that he had, despite his side’s struggles in the Premiership, a long and bright future in the dugout ahead of him.

That the man responsible for that famous County victory was sacked on Saturday night, just four games later, underlines what a precarious profession he is in and just how ruthless a business football can be.

All of those matches, to Rangers, Livingston, Aberdeen and Hamilton had been lost and the Dingwall outfit are four points adrift at the bottom of the table. But was he not deserving of greater loyalty given all he has achieved?

As well taking County into the as the Betfred Cup semi-final he had, together with Steve Ferguson, led them to a Championship and Challenge Cup double in the 2018/19 season and then, after his co-manager took over as chief executive, kept them in the top flight in the curtailed 2019/20 campaign.

What is the point in appointing a young and inexperienced coach, and Kettlewell was just 34 when he took over two years ago, and then dispensing with his services at the first sign of trouble? He should have been allowed to make mistakes and learn from them, not unceremoniously axed.