Celtic cup success will be Lennon’s biggest test
Unmoved: Neil Lennon (pic: SNS Group)
Guiding Celtic to a third successive Treble remains interim manager Neil Lennon’s most powerful weapon in his bid to land the job on a permanent basis beyond the summer.
With the League Cup already in the Parkhead trophy room and the league title all but secured, retaining the Scottish Cup will be the biggest test facing the Northern Irishman in his second spell in the dugout following Brendan Rodgers’ exit.
Aberdeen stand between the Hoops and another final appearance on Sunday, although it would appear victory over the Dons will do nothing to quell the speculation over who will get the job.
The likes of Michael O’Neill, Roberto Martinez and Andre Villas-Boa are among the names linked with the post, though Lennon appears unperturbed by all the chat.
“You can’t stop it,” said Lennon as the club announced a season ticket waiting list of 10,000 people.
“It may be that’s the way the club want to go. They’ll make a decision, it’s important for them that going forward they’re happy with what they’re doing.
“I’m here for the players and it’s important that I try to get them over the line. All I can do is focus on the game on Sunday.
“The players know they’re a game away from another final. They’ve handled these situations brilliantly in the past few years.
“It’s the most important game of the season simply because it’s the next one. We’ll always be under pressure to perform.
“We’ll need to get on the front foot, create chances and try to take them.”
The winner of Sunday’s showdown will face either Hearts or Inverness Caledonian Thistle, who go head-to-head in the first semi-final at Hampden Park tomorrow.
A season which is threatening to fizzle out for the Jambos after a promising start could yet end up with a memorable finale if Craig Levein can get the better of former team-mate John Robertson.
The draw has been kind to the Edinburgh club, with the team having faced lower-league opposition in every round.
This is as good an opportunity to get to another final as Hearts could have hoped for, although the Highlanders will fancy their chances of upsetting the odds.
“I’ve been looking forward to it for a while,” said Levein. “The fact that Robbo is involved as well is good.
“He’s done a fantastic job up there and they’re finishing they’re season very strongly. Because of that, we’ve got to be on our toes.
“I think both teams have a degree of pressure. We have the lion’s share of that. We’ll be expected to win the match. I prefer that, I prefer to have the odds in our favour.”
Robertson knows Levein well and if Hearts are not on their game in Glasgow, their former striker will be confident he has the players capable of hurting their top-flight opponents.
There has been added interest in the fixture following this week’s appointment by Inverness of former Hearts chief operating officer Scot Gardiner as their new chief executive.
Gardiner, who left Hearts in the summer of 2017 after three years as part of the senior management team, became good friends with Robertson during the Hearts legend’s spell in the Tynecastle club’s commercial department prior to his managerial return in the Highlands.