NEIL Lennon has told Celtic manager Ronny Deila that his first Old Firm game will "change his life".

Lennon, who left Celtic in May and is now in charge of Bolton, also said that both of the Glasgow rivals had weaker teams now than when they last met almost three years ago.

Lennon is a veteran of Old Firm games as a highly-successful Celtic captain and manager and he was in charge of a 3-0 win in April 2012, before Rangers collapsed into liquidation. The clubs will meet again a fortnight today in the League Cup semi-final at Hampden, with two first-time derby managers in Deila and Kenny McDowall. Celtic are strong favourites to win, but Lennon was cautious.

"The assumption is that Celtic will win, but you can't call an Old Firm game. It's all on the day. It's never a guarantee although I watched Rangers against Hibs after Ally [McCoist] left and they are a shadow of the team that they were. They're not as strong as they were, both teams. Both would admit to that, but it's still a great fixture.

"My advice to Ronny would be win the game. Even if it's penalties, just win it because it will change Ronny's life. If Celtic come through, it will change the perspective of things. It will give him a huge shot of confidence, it will give the club a huge shot in the arm and the supporters too, like every Old Firm game does until the next one.

"When you win you just feel relief afterwards. When you lose you don't go out, you lock yourself in a dark room for three or four days and then come out and face the music."

Because of Rangers' demise there were only 12 derbies in Lennon's four-and-a-bit seasons as Celtic manager. "I had seven in my first year, that's enough for a lifetime."

He told the Sunday Herald he was loving life at Bolton, but missed the pressure of his old club. "It's good whereas at Celtic it was intense. There's not the intensity there. Sometimes you miss the intensity."

l Happy Wanderer, page 10