Lennon: We must keep believing
Celtic coach Neil Lennon has told his Celtic players to keep believing as they head into the final weekend of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League season dreaming of an unlikely title success.
The Hoops host Hearts in a lunchtime kick-off on Sunday trailing Rangers by two points and knowing anything short of a win will end their dreams of a fourth consecutive SPL title. They must also hope for some help from Dundee United who would also need to take at least a point off Rangers at Tannadice.
The Parkhead club had been in pole position to claim their fourth SPL title on the spin ahead of last weekend's fixtures - but Sunday's goalless draw at Hibernian means they are now banking on their Glasgow rivals slipping up. Despite their fate resting on that Tannadice result, Lennon remains optimistic a memorable final day could still yet eventuate, adding should the Hoops win the title it would be no more than they deserved.
"I just think we have played well enough for the majority season," he told Celtic TV. "We've let ourselves down a few times obviously and it's not in our hands, I know that, but we can still win the league so we have to keep believing. It's not over, so we're very optimistic still."
Lennon also believes Celtic's own last-day heartbreak four years ago offers hope that their deficit can be overcome. It was a case of role's reversed four years ago when Celtic, with Lennon amongst their playing ranks, enjoyed a two-point lead heading into a final-day encounter at Motherwell.
Celtic had looked to be coasting to a title-clinching win that day until two late strikes from then Motherwell striker Scott McDonald condemned them to a 2-1 defeat and, more significantly, handed the title to their city rivals after they won 1-0 at Hibernian. That day still rankles with Lennon, now the first-team coach at Parkhead, however he said it proves the title is still very much up for grabs.
"We were heavy favourites in 2005. People say we blew it and probably we did," he said. "It was one of the worst days of my career. So anything can happen.
"You feel okay going into the game but as soon as the game kicks off and the longer it goes the more nervous you get. We've just got to make sure we're ready, that we're prepared and know that anything can happen."