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Tayside rivals McNamara and Wright will be on English shortlists, says Lennon

NEIL Lennon has tipped rival managers Jackie McNamara and Tommy Wright to be on the radar of clubs in England after their exploits with Dundee United and St Johnstone respectively.

Jackie McNamara of Dundee United, left, is rated highly by Celtic manager Neil Lennon.
Jackie McNamara of Dundee United, left, is rated highly by Celtic manager Neil Lennon.

The Celtic manager is friendly with both men, and while his own club hosts the William Hill Scottish Cup final on Saturday, McNamara and Wright will compete for their first silverware as managers.

Lennon posted three wins and a draw against both United and St Johnstone in the SPFL Premiership and said he found the final too close to call. But finishing in the top half of the league and contesting the season's showpiece game would bring the spotlight on his two peers and friends, he said.

"Up here you get the opportunity to play and coach in a top league. You get a little bit more exposure than you probably would elsewhere.

"And you get the opportunity to win things as well. I think that's all very good for your own mentality and the way you like to set teams up.

"I think there's just a hunger about the Scottish boys. Maybe they're harder than some of the English boys. They've got a good mentality about the game. I think this is a very good breeding ground for that."

Wright is Northern Irish like Lennon himself, of course, but the Celtic manager bracketed him with McNamara as the sort of figure English clubs would want. Blackpool were denied permission to make an approach to United for McNamara last week. "I'm sure there will be people looking at Tommy as well," said Lennon. "If you get in the top four, five or six in your national event, it breeds confidence. You know how to win games.

"Jackie's a quieter type, but he takes everything in. Despite their looks, they're both pretty intelligent! How both teams set up will be interesting. How Tommy tries to stop their midfield from getting a grip of the game will be interesting and Dundee United are going to have a real problem handling May. United score a lot of goals but concede a lot as well."

It would be wrong to view the final as a clash between the United's artists and St Johnstone's artisans, Lennon said.

"Jackie's team likes to play football. Tommy's team are powerful, they keep going and they have ability in their ranks. Obviously, Stevie May has had a fantastic season.

"He's actually a better player than I thought he was, having seen him live on a couple of occasions. They'll do well to hold on to him but I think they're quite confident they can.

"St Johnstone are spirited, well-organised at the back and have a good goalkeeper. There is a sort of an idea going into the game that it is the purists against the hard-working team, but I don't see it that way.

"Dundee United will probably go in as marginal favourites, but it is very close to call. They've both had very, very good seasons and I'm very close to both managers, so I hope it's 6-6."

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