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Hoops boss Neil Lennon reflects on the superb season his team has enjoyed after securing the league title, but also vents anger at PFA nominations

DIGEST
By Martin Macdonald

LENNON PROUD OF MEMORABLE SEASON

Celtic manager Neil Lennon has heaped praise on his players and hailed a superb overall campaign for his side, in the wake of The Hoops' second consecutive Scottish Premier League triumph at the weekend.

The reigning champions knew that a victory against Inverness on Sunday would see them retain their title, and goals from Joe Ledley, Georgios Samaras and a double from Gary Hooper saw them run out 4-0 winners over Terry Butcher's outfit.

The Northern Irish coach struggled to hold in his delight as he beamed with pride after the match, and insisted that this achievement dwarfed his first league title as boss.

"It's like any other championship - there is a feeling of pride and happiness, along with real joy for the players, the club and the supporters," said Lennon. "It's always a momentous feeling and occasion when it comes round, and it's a tremendous effort by everyone.

"This means more to me. The first time was brilliant at Kilmarnock.

"But to do it again, it's your remit and priority at the start of the season, and obviously with the Champions League run and getting to the cup final, it all just adds up to what's been a fantastic, memorable season for us."

Before Christmas the Hoops had been drawn in a Champions League group alongside European giants, Benfica, Spartak Moscow, and the mighty Barcelona, and were written off by a variety of pundits throughout the game.

But a superb 2-1 away win against the Russian side, and a momentous 2-1 victory at home to the Catalans acted as a catalyst for the SPL champions to progress to the last 16.

They were eventually undone by Juventus, but Lennon has looked back on the run without nothing but an immense sense of achievement, and is looking forward to future challenges.

"We had other targets in mind this season," said the Irishman. "The season started so early with the Champions League, and it's going to start early again in July.

"There have been times where we have been a little inconsistent, predominately after the Champions League games, and that's something we need to improve on going into next year as you are always looking to improve and progress the team. So the experience from that will stand us in good stead if we qualify again."

Celtic have the opportunity to make it a famous double this season when they face Hibernian at Hampden Park on May 26 in the Scottish Cup final.

 

HOOPS BOSS BEMOANS 'ABYSMAL' NOMINATIONS

Neil Lennon has spoken of his extreme frustration and fury at the fact that not one single member of his championship-winning Celtic squad has been nominated for the PFA Scotland's player of the year award.

The Glasgow side have had a prosperous season this year, with a league title in the bag, an impressive Champions League run, and a Scottish Cup final on the horizon, but the solitary PFA nomination for the squad came for Victor Wanyama in the Young Player of the Year category.

The Celtic manager was full of disbelief at the results, and insisted that the nominations should have been littered with names from his squad.

"It beggars belief," said Lennon. "We make the semi-final of League Cup, the final of Scottish Cup, win the championship and make the last 16 in Europe, beating Barcelona, Spartak Moscow, and putting the country on the map again as far as European football is concerned.

"I think the outcome of those votes yesterday belittles all those efforts from the players."

Hibernian's Leigh Griffiths, Motherwell's Michael Higdon, Aberdeen's Niall McGinn and Andrew Shinnie of Inverness are the players who are nominated for the prize this year, but former Celtic player, Lennon, believes that the system may be flawed.

"Not taking anything from the candidates that were nominated," said the Irishman. "They have all had fine seasons, but to not have one Celtic player in that group is unbelievable.

"Are people voting for the best or the most improved player?"

Lennon then shed some light on the atmosphere in the dressing room after the result, insisting that a lot of players have the right to feel aggrieved at being left out.

"I have no idea what way the voting goes but you can't tell me that [Fraser] Forster,[Victor] Wanyama, [Kris]Commons, Kelvin Wilson and [Gary] Hooper weren't in the forefronts of people's minds when the votes were made. It's ridiculous.

"There is a lot of ill will in the dressing room now. The players are very, very disappointed with the outcome. They have performed heroically."

 

NEXT MATCH: TRIP TO FIR PARK

Celtic's next match sees the recently crowned Scottish Premier League champions travel to Fir Park to take on their closest rivals in the league, Motherwell.

The Bhoys claimed their second consecutive title last week when they defeated Inverness to go 15 points clear of the second-placed Steelmen.

Stuart McCall's men never really put up much of a title challenge to Neil Lennon's men at any point in the season, but they will still be out for revenge this Sunday when both sides clash in Lanarkshire.

The previous match between the sides actually saw Motherwell come out victorious in a rainy Wednesday night SPL fixture in February.

Chris Humphrey opened the scoring for the hosts, who were pegged back shortly after the break by a Georgios Samaras header. But Michael Higdon popped up in the second period to make it 2-1 to delay Celtic's inevitable assault on the title.

With the title in the bag, some payback may be on the mind of the Hoops as they travel to Fir Park once again.


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