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Lennon: 'I don't know what more they expect Malky to do there'

CELTIC can count themselves fortunate that all Dermot Desmond and Vincent Tan seem to have in common is enormous personal wealth and a moustache.

Mackay's successes at Cardiff seem to mean nothing to owner Vincent Tan. Picture: Getty Images
Mackay's successes at Cardiff seem to mean nothing to owner Vincent Tan. Picture: Getty Images

The men in power behind Celtic and Cardiff City respectively have an entirely different modus operandi when it comes to running a football club.

Desmond, Celtic's major shareholder, is rarely seen and even more rarely heard. Tan is drawn to the limelight like a moth to a flame. To consider just how different the two men are, imagine Desmond attending games like Tan does: sunglasses on, standing up while others around him sit, a Celtic shirt worn over his shirt and tie but tucked into his trousers.

Tan has the look of a figure of fun, but there was no amusement around his treatment of the former Celtic player Malky Mackay yesterday.

Tan was scheduled to meet his club chairman Mehmet Dalman in London last night to discuss Mackay's future. Herald Sport understands Dalman has persuaded the Malaysian businessman to hold one final round of negotiations despite allegedly having a high-profile candidate on stand-by should the Scot be relieved of his duties.

Dalman has been a calming influence on Tan in the past but the owner had issued a "resign or be sacked" ultimatum to Mackay this week from which there seemed no way back. Cardiff are at Liverpool today.

Mackay was a Celtic defender from 1993 to 1998 but has shown the potential to go far further as a manager than he did as a centre-half. He moved to Cardiff from Watford in 2011, reached a promotion play-off in his first season and took them up to the Premier League as champions in May, the first time they had been in the top flight since 1962. Currently they are a respectable 15th, four points above the relegation places. Only Tan seems to detect any grounds for dismissal.

"I don't know what more Malky has to do," Neil Lennon said yesterday as the topic was inevitably raised at the Celtic manager's weekly media promotion. "He got Cardiff City promoted for the first time in decades, he has consolidated in the Premier League and some of their performances have been fantastic. You can't do any more. It just baffles me the way some managers are treated and the way some owners behave, but it seems to be their ball and they can do whatever they want with it. I think Malky has handled himself brilliantly, under probably extreme circumstances. He's dealt really well with the media. He's bound to be frustrated and he's bound to be hurting. I can't fathom the way some owners behave.

"Steve Clarke was sacked at West Brom too. West Brom are normally a pretty solid club. Maybe they're just looking at recent form and felt that they needed a change in direction. But Stevie is a good manager and a good coach."

It does not require a huge stretch of the imagination to contemplate Lennon being a manager in the English Premier League one day and he would certainly regard his managerial career as unfulfilled if that does not eventually happen. The stress visited on Clarke and Mackay this week highlights the brutal competitiveness in that division, though.

For all the pressure that rests on the shoulders of any Celtic manager, none recently has had to endure outrageous problems with the Parkhead board of directors.

"You always think you are in a difficult position, and then you look elsewhere and you think, 'this is a walk in the park compared to what some other managers have to put up with'," added Lennon. "I don't know what you can do about it, what regulations you could bring in, but it's very unfair on some managers, particularly when they have done really tremendous jobs. Malky in particular has done a great job."

Celtic will complete 2013 unbeaten at home in the league if they do not lose to Hearts today. Their recent 7-0 rout of the young Edinburgh team in the William Hill Scottish Cup has led to speculation of another battering, although such results are freakish and very rarely delivered twice.

After that rampage at Tynecastle, Celtic, of course, suffered a 6-1 going over of their own at the feet of Barcelona. "Any team can get a hiding from another team of top quality, and you have to get a reaction any time you get a beating like that," Lennon said. "Gary [Locke, the Hearts manager] will be looking for a reaction from his players. But we want to forge on domestically and maintain our unbeaten run if we can.

"It would be very difficult to go to the end of the season unbeaten [in the SPFL Premiership], there are so many quirks that can get in the way of that. We want to get to 20, if we can. But it is a motivation. Some of the players have got their teeth into it now and want to hold on to it for as long as possible."

Celtic are on 15 unbeaten so far and, given Hearts' current weakness, it would be startling if the sequence was to end today.

Mikael Lustig will be missing this afternoon after having hip surgery that will sideline him for up to three months. Biram Kayal and Steven Mouyokolo remain long-term absentees, while Charlie Mulgrew is a week away from returning from a groin problem. Dylan McGeouch has a sprained ankle and Derk Boerrigter will miss the festive period with a hamstring problem. James Forrest and Adam Matthews are available.

Celtic FC Foundation announced yesterday that more than £60,000 - raised from players, directors, staff, supporters and corporate donors - had been distributed to good causes from the money raised in the Celtic Christmas Appeal 2013.

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