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Lennon blasts want-away stars

Celts count cost of early Champions League exit

Neil Lennon: ‘anger and frustration’ (pic: SNS Group)

Celtic 1 Ferencvaros 2
2nd qualifying round
Celtic Park

Celtic’s hopes of a lucrative run in the European Champions League were cut embarrassingly short after defeat to a well-organised Hungarian side.

Just three days since Bayern Munich lifted the Champions League trophy, Celtic are already out of this season’s competition, the defeat costing them the chance of a £30 million pay cheque courtesy of making it into the group stages.

It’s the third campaign in a row the Hoops have come up well short, losing in the third qualifying round to AEK Athens in 2018/19 and going down to CFR Cluj at the same stage last term.

The Glasgow side will now have to settle for the Europa League third qualifying round as compensation.

Whether some stars who featured against the Hungarians will be at Parkhead for much longer remains to be seen, with boss Neil Lennon adamant any player unhappy with life at Parkhead can leave.

The last time Celtic went out of the Champions League before the third qualifying round was in 2005, against Artmedia Bratislava.

The opposition this time, Hungarian champions Ferencvaros, at least had a strong European pedigree as former Fairs Cup winners and finalists, and European Cup Winners Cup finalists.

But the manner of the Scots’ defeat did not please Lennon whose team needed a good run in the competition to make up for revenue lost to the pandemic.

“It’s anger and frustration,” he said. “The game was actually a lot easier than what I thought it was going to be, but we didn’t take our chances. We had plenty of them.

“I’m not saying Ferencvaros are a bad team, they’re not, but looking at the game in the cold light of day, we had so much control of the game that we should’ve won. But we haven’t.

“That doesn’t make us weak, it doesn’t make me weak but people will cast aspersions that we’re not good enough. They are good enough, they haven’t performed anywhere near what they can tonight and let the game get away from them.

“The players have to be better, get your attitude right, get your mentality right. Some of you don’t want to be here? Leave. I just want the players who want to be here.

“There are some players who may want to leave and have made inroads into that in the last six months or so. If they are making waves to leave the club they are obviously not committed. I have just put this out there because it has been bugging me for a long, long time. If they don’t want to be here we have to do something.”

Skipper Scott Brown later said he was stunned to hear Lennon say that some of his team-mates want to quit the club.

“For me, the lads want to be here,” he told the Daily Record. “I don’t know what people have said to him individually.”

Celtic: Barkas, Elhamed (Frimpong, 78), Jullien, Ajer, Taylor, Brown, McGregor, Forrest (Ajeti, 78), Ntcham, Elyounoussi, Christie.

Goals: Celtic – Christie (53); Ferencvaros – Siger (7), Nguen (75).

UPDATE 27 AUG: Bookies back Lennon to quit

Celtic’s shock Champions League exit has prompted Paddy Power to cut the odds on Neil Lennon leaving his position in the next month.

Lennon is now odds-on not to complete the season in charge (1/4), while it is evens he leaves before the end of September.

But, before Rangers fans get too giddy, it’s still 4/7 that Celtic win the league for the tenth season in a row.

A Spokesman at Paddy Power said: “Celtic have failed in their latest attempt to get back to the Champions League group stages – leaving Neil Lennon in urgent need of help.

“Let it be said, though, the Hoops remain heavily odds-on to win the Scottish Premiership – so their season should still come together. With or without the manager.”

What next for Celtic?

1/9        To win on Sunday
1/4        Neil Lennon to leave Celtic before the end of the season
4/7        They win their tenth Scottish Premiership title in a row
EVS        Neil Lennon to leave Celtic before the end of September

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