The scene was the auditorium of Hampden where Scottish football managers and coaches had gathered in January of this year to listen to Marcello Lippi, the coach who led Juventus to a Champions League title and Italy to a World Cup. The questioning had been gentle, understandably deferential and then the mic moved to the Celtic manager. "September 2001," he started, "and Celtic are playing Juventus. Amoruso goes down in the box? Penalty or dive?"
Lippi, of course, was the Juventus coach on that evening in the Stadio delle Alpi when Nicola Amoruso fell under the close attention of Joos Valgaeren and converted the subsequent penalty to give the Italian side a 3-2 victory. Lennon was in the Celtic midfield. Martin O'Neill, the Parkhead manager, was sent to the stand for his voluble complaints and the Celtic players, including a certain Northern Irishman, were incensed by the award from Helmut Krug, the German referee.
Lippi, with the air of a coach familiar with the capricious nature of footballing fortune, replied to the effect that it was a dive if one was the Celtic manager and a penalty if one was the manager of Juventus. Lennon immediately asked a supplementary question: "Why should I play three at the back and what kind of players do I need to play in that position?" Lippi was expansive, if hardly revelatory, in reply.
However, the exchange was revealing. The first question was testimony to the passion of Lennon and his ability to nurse a hurt for more than a decade. The second was an example of his need to extract information from the most informal of occasions.
There is a caricature of the Celtic manager as some sort of raving lunatic on the sidelines and he has franked this by intemperate outbursts, most notably his marching on to the field to confront the referee at the end of the William Hill Scottish Cup final semi-final defeat by Hearts. But this unbridled passion also fuels a cool, focused ambition. Lennon wants to be a great manager and looks for every piece of information, any possibility of gaining an edge, in every encounter.
The "three at the back" question harks back to Lennon's tour of duty as O'Neill's captain. In Turin in 2001, Valgaeren, Johan Mjallby and Bobo Balde were the three centre-backs and Didier Agathe and Alan Thompson performed as wing-backs.
Lennon has taken another route in Europe. The first marker in this journey has been Celtic's first away victory in the group stages of the Champions League, a run of failure that started on that night in Turin in 2001. He has thus achieved as Celtic manager what was beyond O'Neill and Gordon Strachan.
On Tuesday in Moscow, Lennon chose to play a flat back four in a formation described by players as a "diamond". It was certainly multi-faceted. Lennon wanted to provide cover for his centre-backs and Charlie Mulgrew and Victor Wanyama tried to protect Efe Ambrose and Kelvin Wilson.
But the Celtic manager was also aggressive in his intentions when Celtic had possession. Scott Brown, Kris Commons and Georgios Samaras were charged with the task of supporting Gary Hooper on the counter-attack. The English striker was outstanding but the three midfielders supported him with both energy and creativity with Brown sometimes appearing to be an auxiliary forward, so advanced was his position.
Crucially, though, Lennon used his full-backs almost as wing-backs when Celtic broke. All the goals were created from crosses – the first from right-back Mikael Lustig, the third from left-back Emilio Izaguirre and the second from Mulgrew from a left-back position. The tactics thus provided goals, though the double-lock in defence did not work as well with both Spartak efforts coming from home players being afforded too much room in central areas.
Lennon has every right to be delighted by the victory, but he will also be heartened at the strength of his squad. Celtic's bench was strong: Lukasz Zaluska, Miku, Joe Ledley, Thomas Rogne, Tony Watt, Biram Kayal and James Forrest. With Adam Matthews missing through injury, Lennon has options in defence, midfield and attack.
Ledley and Kayal will surely push Mulgrew for a midfield slot and give the manager the personnel to employ a variety of formations. Forrest, whose form had dipped, has a wonderful habit of always contributing at least one significant moment in a match. His shot produced the equaliser. There are strong hopes at Lennoxtown about Miku once the Venezuelan settles and Watt has already made a favourable impression. Rogne, at 22, can only improve as a defender and is already a Norwegian internationalist.
Significantly, Lennon also has a striker of quality. Gary Lineker, known to score the odd goal for England, praised his fellow Englishman on Twitter, suggesting the former Scunthorpe United striker could be the answer for England up front. Lennon has made a similar observation, but his focus will be on how Celtic can capitalise on a marvellous night in Moscow. His side now stand on four points in Group G with two matches against Barcelona, a trip to Benfica and Spartak at home to come.
The sober assessment is that the crucial match is against Moscow at Celtic Park and that third-place and the consequent entry into the knockout phase of the Europe League is the most realist achievement. The events in Moscow, though, will have given the Celtic players an increased belief in themselves and, crucially, in their manager.
Lennon will now ask tougher questions of his squad. These will include securing participation in the Champions League beyond Christmas. He will demand answers that satisfy his ambition.
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