26 May 19
The Scottish Sun
WE should know better than to write off this Celtic team.
But with an hour of the Cup final gone and Hearts ahead, anyone fancying Neil Lennon’s side should have been certified.
Neil Lennon and Scott Brown celebrate at full-time
How Celts dug this one out beggars belief.
Yet on a day they were a poor imitation of Scotland’s dominant team, they still got the job done.
And given what was on the line, it was a miraculous effort.
No wonder manager-elect Lenny slumped to his knees on the final whistle. This would have been up there with his sweetest moments.
Lennon with the League Cup, Scottish Cup and Premiership trophy
Argue all you like about the quality of this Hoops team — and a blind man can see it needs rebuilt — but when it comes to resilience they’re out on their own.
Digging a result out late has always been in the club’s DNA but this lot have turned it into an art form.
In a season of great escapes, this was the daddy of them all just when it mattered most.
Craig Levein could only have left Hampden sick to his stomach. With half an hour to go, the Jambos were ahead and in cruise control.
That was down to Levein getting his approach bang on.
On a day Celtic were one-paced and predictable, Hearts controlled the game. Their rope-a-dope routine worked perfectly.
By sitting in deep, they were never going to boss the ball. But Celtic’s possession was passive with the Jambos allowing the champions to play in front of them.
Where it mattered, Hearts choked the space brilliantly.
Lennon on the touchline
By doubling up on James Forrest, they ensured Scotland’s Player of the Year never got a sniff.
On the touchline, Lennon’s body language said it all. He’s been in the game long enough to know Celtic were in bother.
Having created just one clean chance for Odsonne Edouard, he looked like a worried man heading up the tunnel at the break.
In the other dressing room, Levein must have been pinching himself.
With John Souttar and Christophe Berra outstanding, the Jambos looked anything but 8-1 shots.
They had pressed and countered as a unit, with 16-year-old Aaron Hickey impressing. It took big balls for Levein to start the kid.
All Hearts needed was something to show for their performance, something to hold on to — and Aussie midfielder Ryan Edwards provided it.
Lenny must have seen the treble Treble evaporating in front of his eyes.
Ryan Edwards celebrates after scoring for Hearts
Cue Edouard, who’d been posted missing for most of the game. And if ever the £10million man earned his money, it was yesterday.
First, winning a penalty before converting it, then showing clinical composure for the winner.
It was enough to see Lennon leave Mount Florida with the clean sweep and nobody can say he doesn’t deserve it. His neck has been on the line big-time.
Make no mistake, Lennon would have been slaughtered had Celts lost yesterday. He’d have been marked down as the man who blew Brendan Rodgers’ legacy.
There’s a healthy number of supporters who’re still not having him long-term. They should remember what he took on.
He accepted a poisoned chalice from Rodgers. It was a no-win situation that could have blown up in his face.
And if performances have been unspectacular, he’s delivered all that was asked of him.
Makes you wonder why Dermot Desmond left it until yesterday to offer Neil the job when a midweek announcement would have given the dressing room a real shot in the arm ahead of the final.
Odsonne Edouard celebrates after firing Celtic into the lead
Either way, Lenny has to be strong enough to demand the cash he needs.
He should be looking beyond nine in a row to make Celtic relevant in Europe again. He can’t do that without the backing of the board.
It’s time that Peter Lawwell rediscovered the keys to the safe.
At the opposite end of the M8, Hearts will feel they’ve been on the wrong end of a mugging. Those of us who felt they would melt at Hampden were wrong.
They found the “one outstanding performance” Levein claimed they had left in them.
But if they can match Celtic in the Cup final having already beaten them in the league, why are they finishing sixth in the Premiership?
Hearts can’t afford yesterday’s performance to be a one-off. It’s not good enough to turn it on now and again.
Levein should look no further than Celtic to see the difference in mentality.
Yesterday, Lennon’s side looked dead and buried but still dug it out. That’s why they’re making history.
[article-rail-curated title=”RELATED STORIES” selected_posts=”4289872,4289786,4289705,4288030,4289435,4289394″ /]
AFTER the goalless play-off first-leg draw at Tannadice, Robbie Neilson said he would have taken that result pre-match.
Really? Why would Neilson choose to settle this tie in Paisley? By saying the pressure’s all on St Mirren now, I get the psychology.
But in front of a bumper Tannadice crowd, United should have made home advantage count.
Unless the inspired Paul McMullan repeats his first-leg display, the wise money should be on Oran Kearney’s men.
CREDIT to the SFA for landing Steve Clarke.
My only worry is that he’s offered a good club job in England before long. In the meantime, the Cyprus and Belgium double-header is the perfect start.
The Cypriots should be overcome at home while Belgium away is a free hit. But if Clarke is to succeed, he has to confront the call-offs.
Managers in England regularly bully players into pulling out. Steve needs the bottle to use the five-day rule and have half a chance.
TAPPING up has always been rife. You won’t find a pro worth his salt who’s not had an illegal approach.
But after Dundee’s dodgy attempt to land Jack Ross two years ago, their approach to John Robertson was idiotic.
Why didn’t they use an agent to sound Robbo out for the job?
Instead, their direct contact with the Caley boss is likely to earn them a bumper fine.
As for Robbo, it’s a mystery why he’d blank Dundee to stay at Caley. And even more of a surprise that he snitched on the Dens Park board.
RIP Celtic legend Harry Hood passes away aged 74
BEFORE New Year, I said Rangers would do well to finish within ten points of Celtic. They made it by a whisker.
But having been turfed out of both cups by Aberdeen, it has hardly been a successful campaign for Steven Gerrard’s team.
Following a derby win over Celtic, last week’s defeat at Kilmarnock summed Gers up — hopelessly inconsistent.
Solving that problem will be keeping Gerrard awake at night.
ARSENAL’S Armenian midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan will miss the Europa League final because he wouldn’t feel safe in Azerbaijan.
While a dispute with the countries stops Armenians entering Azerbaijan, Mkhitaryan was granted dispensation but still won’t travel.
How do Uefa justify a player missing a European final because of safety fears?
And what would they have done in the unlikely event an Armenian club had made the final?
Keep up to date with ALL the latest news and transfers from Scottish football plus fixtures, results and live match commentary
[bc_video video_id=”6041197826001″ account_id=”5067014667001″ player_id=”default” embed=”in-page” padding_top=”56%” autoplay=”” min_width=”0px” max_width=”640px” width=”100%” height=”100%” caption=”Hilarious moment Celtic fan has can of Tennent’s lowered to him from flat window during treble treble celebrations”]