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Lawwell: Celtic must charm, not threaten, their way out of Scottish football

PETER Lawwell insists Celtic must try to charm their way into English football rather than rely on threats and legal action.

Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell believes there is a better way to bring Uefa round than Rangers counterpart Charles Green's threat of legal moves Photograph: SNS
Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell believes there is a better way to bring Uefa round than Rangers counterpart Charles Green's threat of legal moves Photograph: SNS

The Parkhead chief executive recently represented Scotland on a sub-group of the powerful European Club Association which looked into the issue of cross-border leagues.

"Our natural partner is England, so we're in a wee corner talking to ourselves," Lawwell said. "But flip it and ask what happens if this does take off and we're not part of it.

"It actually gets worse because you have nations our size and bigger joining up and becoming bigger markets, and we're left behind. It changes from an opportunity to a threat if it does take off.

"If you took legal action all the way, it would be like Bosman, you'd win in the end because it [Scottish clubs being unable to play in England] is anti-competitive. But in all of these things you need commercial pull rather than pushing.

"If you're going against the grain there's friction and it'll never work. You need someone to want you. And no-one has ever wanted Scottish football or Celtic and Rangers.

"Where we are at the moment is that we're just keeping an eye on it and seeing what develops. It [beating Barcelona] was a reminder of how big we are – they were genuinely delighted we were in the draw for the last 16 of the Champions League.

"The problem is that we could buy Carlisle and call them Celtic, but we couldn't move them to Glasgow. Giving up the Champions League would also be a huge consideration. I genuinely feel, though, we would be supported through it."

Lawwell, who was speaking as Celtic unveiled a new shirt sponsorship deal with Magners estimated to be worth £3.5 million a year, is also aware that the team's European success could have its price. The future of Neil Lennon – currently on a one-year rolling deal – will now be the subject of more speculation than ever.

Lawwell regards it as his job to ensure the club will continue to run smoothly regardless of key personnel leaving. "I think Neil is content and happy," he said. "He's focused on the next three or four months and I guess it is a compliment to the club that there could be interest.

"He's done such a good job, but I think the challenge for us as a club is to ensure the pipeline of talent continues to flow. If people are there and do a good job, whether it is a player, a manager or a coach, and are tempted to move on, then you have people in the wings to fill in. But hopefully he'll be around for a long time."

Lennon's profile, and his chances of moving on to other challenges, will be further enhanced by the fact he features on a guest list that reads like a Who's Who of football for a dinner being hosted by Sir Alex Ferguson tonight, with other invitees including Fabio Capello and Jose Mourinho.

The doyen of the managerial world has given Lennon his seal of approval, hence the invitation to join the great and the good this evening and at meetings organised by the League Managers Association at St George's Park over the next couple of days.

"The list of managers down to attend is impressive, so, to be in among that is fantastic," Lennon said. "It is the elite. To be involved in that is something I didn't want to miss out on. It was an invitation through the LMA, and it's an honour. There will be lectures during the day from other managers and so on. It can only be good for your base of knowledge."

Lennon admits he is not sure he will be comfortable in such illustrious company. "I will feel like the new boy," he said with a somewhat nervous smile.

"I won't be the youngest but I will probably the least experienced. But having the Champions League [last 16] to look forward to gives me that extra bit of kudos and stature.

"I've been at a couple of dinners, one a hall of fame dinner about a month ago, at which people were very complimentary about the team. It's all good.

"Making contacts in the game is important, especially at this time of year. There might be a few deals getting done while we're there. We will be mingling, but there's no-one in particular I'll be seeking out. They are all top managers and have had good and bad experiences. The interesting thing will be learning how they have dealt with the disappointments and bounced back."

Ferguson and Lennon have their similarities, not least their shared passion for the game, which at times boils over into confrontations with match officials.

Lennon, however, insists he is a changed man after he was spoken to by Lawwell and Celtic's major shareholder Dermot Desmond in the wake of marching on to the pitch at Hampden at the conclusion of last season's Scottish Cup semi-final defeat to Hearts.

"It was a private conversation," Lennon replies when asked what the pair said to him. "The two of them weren't happy, put it that way. The last place I want to be is in the stand again, so I definitely had to rein it in a little bit.

"I got a bit of a dressing down after the Hearts game, and rightly so. It's not a good profile for the club, but sometimes it's human nature. I'm now more comfortable in my own skin.

"Winning the championship gave me a certain sense of comfort in the job and more confidence because until you reach your target you are always insecure about things."

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