Lennon hopes to end traumatic week on a high

Celtic manager Neil Lennon hopes to end a traumatic week on a high note when his side face Rangers in the final Old Firm derby of the season.

Updated: April 23, 2011 08:56 IST
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Glasgow: Celtic manager Neil Lennon hopes to end a traumatic week on a high note when his side face Rangers in the final Old Firm derby of the season.

Lennon has endured a frightening few days after parcel bombs addressed to him were intercepted by the authorities.

With parcels "designed to cause harm" also sent to lawyer Paul McBride and leading Scottish politician Trish Godman, who both have links with the Parkhead club, it is hardly surprising that Sunday's crucial clash at Ibrox has been somewhat overshadowed.

However, Lennon remains sanguine about his unwanted spell in the spotlight and refuses to be distracted from preparing for the Glasgow derby.

Lennon, who also had bullets sent to him earlier in the season, knows Celtic would move two points clear of Rangers, with a game in hand, if they win and he said: "My life has changed a bit but I have tried not to change it too much.

"I am not under armed guard or anything like that but we have had to curtail a few things and change things about my lifestyle which is unfortunate. But I am hoping things can be brought to a head.

"It is not going to deter me from doing what I want to do. For me this is the greatest privilege in my life, to manage this football club and the support I've had from the fans and my close family and friends has been my strength.

"I'm totally committed to the club and supporters and certainly committed to the players.

"It is unfortunate what has gone on in the last couple of weeks and it leaves a bad taste in the mouth but the enjoyment of watching the way the team are playing at the minute more than makes up for it."

The Glasgow giants have met a record seven times this season. Celtic hold the upper hand with three wins in the six matches so far but Rangers triumphed in their last meeting to claim the League Cup.

Rangers manager Walter Smith is hoping for a third successive championship in his second spell at the club to go with the six he won the first time round before he hands over the reigns to assistant Ally McCoist in the close-season.

But despite the enthralling nature of Sunday's game, Smith admits this week's ugly events mean he won't miss Old Firm derbies quite so much when he retires.

"After the happenings of the last week, I'll be delighted it's my last one," he said. "That, more than anything else, is the feeling I've got going into it."

"But it's my last Old Firm game and it's one I hope we can go on and win. It's the result that is going to matter more than anything.

"If we were looking at it from a purely footballing point of view, we have reached the stage of the season that everybody should be looking forward to.

"Now you find yourself in a situation where it's other things that are grabbing the headlines and it should be the football.

"In the 20 years I've been involved and being from the west of Scotland, I've never known a week quite like this. It's sad.

"When you look at people like Neil Lennon and the other couple of people involved in the threats, it's something that unfortunately goes far beyond the footballing aspect." Rangers will be without Vladimir Weiss and Kirk Broadfoot through injury but Lee McCulloch may be fit.

Celtic midfielder Joe Ledley has been ruled out with a hamstring injury, while defender Cha Du-ri is still sidelined with an ankle problem.



Rangers v Celtic, Hibernian v St Mirren

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