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Triumph in adversity

'Lennon the winner in a season that was anything but dull'

Andy Walker - Andy Walker Posted 23rd May 2011 view comments

In what has been a truly remarkable season for Scottish football - unfortunately for all the wrong reasons - Celtic finished on a high with a comfortable Cup final victory over a Motherwell side that offered very little.

Neil Lennon secured his first trophy success as Celtic manager in his first full season in charge after missing out on the SPL title by a point and losing to Rangers in the League Cup final.

For all the observations about Lennon surrounding his conduct and behaviour - he is no angel - he has shown a remarkable strength of character to push to one side the death threats, viable packages addressed to him in the post, 24-hour police protection and who knows what else to guide his team to victory.

Shown some ticker: Lennon has shown a remarkable strength of character

Shown some ticker: Lennon has shown a remarkable strength of character

Ki Sung-Yeung opened the scoring with a marvellous 30-yard strike that separated the team at half time. Motherwell's only effort of note was an equally impressive strike from Gavin Gunning that cannoned off the underside of the cross bar.

Two goals in the last 15 minutes put a fair reflection in a game that I'm sure Motherwell will look back on with regret. They just didn't get going and rarely troubled Fraser Forster in the Celtic goal.

The prospect of Lennon going head-to-head with new Rangers boss Ally McCoist is fascinating.

Andy Walker
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In difficult conditions, I thought referee Calum Murray took the difficult playing surface into account and handled the game really well.

Other refs may have shown a zero tolerance to Keith Lasley for a dangerous, sliding tackle on Glenn Loovens; or to Daniel Majstorovic for two potential yellow card offences but Murray strikes me as being one who seems determined to keep all the players on the pitch unless something outrageous happens that leaves him with no option.

Triumph

In the end, the Cup final was a personal triumph for Neil Lennon.

Unsure of the length of his contract, he is now destined for a new, improved deal from majority shareholder Dermot Desmond.

The number one priority for every Celtic manager remains the same.

Lennon has to wrestle the title back from Rangers and following their much-publicised spat in the Scottish Cup replay at Celtic Park some months ago that sparked a government summit, the prospect of Lennon going head-to-head with new Rangers boss Ally McCoist is fascinating.

Last season, Lennon spent wisely in pre-season securing the services of Emilio Izaguirre, Beram Kayal and Gary Hooper. All three have been a big success but perhaps the bargain of the season was the signing of Kris Commons from Derby County.

At £300,000 in January he represents the perfect example of what a wide midfield player should provide, namely goals and assists.

Having already netted 13 times down south before his move to the cup winners, Commons also found the net 13 times for his new club.

Add his two goals for Scotland during the season and he is shaping up to be fantastic value for money.

Commons will miss the forthcoming Carling Nations Cup game for Scotland in Dublin with an injury but his has been a season to remember.

Painful

Sadly, the Scottish game in general was rarely out of the headlines but for all the wrong reasons.

Rather than debate the quality of football, we discussed some astonishing issues that took hold of our national game.

It's painful to remember that our referees went on strike for one weekend for no apparent reason. What an embarrassment that was.

One of the country's top officials Dougie McDonald felt the need to lie to Neil Lennon in a post match discussion that ultimately cost him his job and the head of the refereeing department Hugh Dallas also fell on his sword when forwarding an offensive email.

I imagine for some time now we will face the dreadful problem surrounding the game involving bigotry and sectarianism that culminated in an attack at Tynecastle on Lennon.

Even the SFA were exposed when they failed to understand their own disciplinary procedures and made a mess of imposing a sensible punishment on Lennon for aggressive touchline behaviour.

In Scotland's quest to qualify for Euro 2012, we travelled to Prague for a vital clash against the Czech Republic and played with no strikers. What a missed opportunity that may prove to be.

Worst of all, UEFA fined Rangers and banned their supporters from the next away leg of European competition for sectarian singing, their third punishment in five years from Europe's governing body on account of sectarian singing.

There are plenty of labels attached to Scottish football but one thing we're not is dull.

Who knows what it will throw up next season?

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