JIMMY Greaves was right. Football really is an amusingly, unpredictable and ageing sport.

Neil Lennon began this season as manager of Hibernian. Tomorrow afternoon, if Rangers don’t beat Hearts today, he will be manager of a Celtic teaming securing an eighth title in a row should they beat his not-so old club.

If they were to do so, history would repeat itself.

It was on April 28, 1973, when the club won eight in a row the first time around. At Easter Road, believe it or not, but in more dramatic circumstances.

On the last day of the league season, Jock stein’s team had to win in the Capital - because Rangers were winning - against a fine Hibernian side, which finished third, and had beaten Celtic in the League Cup final.

Thanks to a Dixie Deans double and Kenny Dalglish’s goal, Celtic won 3-0 and the title was theirs once again.

If it doesn’t happen this weekend, Lennon’s men will get it done soon enough with a Treble still to fight for. It is all a bit surreal. At least for one man in the middle of it all.


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Lennon said: “If you said to me at the start of the season I’ll win the league at Easter Road I’d have thought ‘**** me, we’re having some season.’ It’s just funny how football throws these quirks up and coincidences.

“But listen, Rangers could win at Tynecastle and all that goes out the window. All we’re thinking about is winning two games. We negotiated the semi-final brilliantly when we were under a lot of pressure.

“We’re looking for more of the same on Sunday against a team that’s playing very, very well. We’re at our best when we’re under pressure. The players take their foot off the pedal and raise their game brilliantly in pressure games, they handle them so well.

“This is just the next one, the most important one because it’s the next one.

“Hibs won’t just let us walk in there and go away with the three points so we’re going to have to be bang at it again. Psychologically, though, last Sunday was big for our players and it’s been a good week.


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“We’re now looking forward to what should be a cracking game of football.”

A challenge for Lennon was to get to know the players, almost all of them, as quickly as he could.

Brendan Rodgers had such an influence over the group, even those who would not have been broken hearted to see him leave, that even a force of nature as Lennon had to tread carefully around strong personalities, many of whom would be waiting for the new manager to impress.

“They just want picked,” was Lennon response when it was put to him that player after player have praised the interim gaffer in recent times. He might have a point but a connection seems to have been made.

Lennon said: “The players were brilliant at Hampden (against Aberdeen) and for some it’s just been a case of man-managing them. Sometimes players can feel the season is getting away from them. Then they can get a little bit of a lift.

“Jozo (Simunovic) is one we have to manage properly with the knee problems he’s had “I thought he was outstanding on Sunday and looked a really good player. It’s just the confidence he’s picked up from playing and playing well.

“Jozo has had some injuries but he’s 25 and talented.


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“He’s been in and out but you can see what a good player he is. He’s also good in the dressing room, he’s a man, and we need more of those types. I thought he handled Sam Cosgrove really well on Sunday, as a player who can be a real handful.

“I’ve been delighted with Jonny Hayes. He gives us a different dimension to the way we play. He can play on both wings, like Jamesey Forrest, and that causes defences a lot of problems. I just feel his quality is getting better.

“But it’s good to see these boys playing with confidence. I’m just delighted for the players because it’s not easy.”

And it’s not going to get any easier.

Success means more games for club and country. Scotland play Belgium on June 11. The Celtic players are due back for training eight days later to prepare for four qualifying rounds before they reach the Champions League or Europa League.

As Lennon pointed out: “Players are human beings, they’re going to suffer eventually and I’ve seen that already here. These boys have played all the domestic competitions, they’re playing in Europe, they’re playing in the Europa League, they’re playing for their countries and now and again the body packs in because they’re playing too much football. It’s like 12 months of the year, when do you give them a rest?”

“It’s just common sense. Martin O’Neill was huge on that. Some days you’d be in on a Saturday and he’d say ‘right I’ll see you on Wednesday or Thursday’. You wouldn’t see him until the following Saturday right enough!


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“Initially I couldn’t get my head around it but eventually I realised it worked because you needed the rest. Now the maximum I would have taken would have been maybe two days and then you sort of get itchy feet, but you get away from it, you rest your body and eat right and you come back and you feel the benefit.”

And with Europe comes VAR, which Celtic have yet to experience.

Lennon is a fan, even if he believes the system still needs tweaked. He felt the way VAR worked for Tottenham and Liverpool but against Manchester City shows that it’s the way forward.

He said: “I like it. I don’t see anything wrong with it. Both decisions were correct. The decision in Porto for Mane’s first goal was correct. On another day that might have been ruled offside.

“The Llorente goal was a goal. I don’t think it was handball, it hit him on the arm and hip and there was no way he could have seen it until late.

“The Man City goal was offside. There is a gap that will be less and less as the technology improves, but I think it’s a good aid for the referee.

“The only thing is it takes away from a bit of the emotion when you are away celebrating then you are waiting.


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“You’re thinking, ‘that’s just ruined the moment and I had a double somersault lined up!’

“But ultimately it’s about getting the decision right. It just makes you think about all the decisions over the years that were wrong.

“It’s taken all that away. Whether it will be good for the game overall, I don’t know, maybe if they can speed it up. But it is a good aid for the referee and what if Spurs had been knocked out by a goal that shouldn’t have stood?”

“The one in the World Cup was about how the referee sees it. It’s still down to a human and how they interpret it.

“I don’t like it when we are talking millimetres, goals, penalties, all that kind of thing is fine.”

And talking of refereeing decision, Lennon felt for Derek McInnes who was sent to the stands last Sunday for reacting to sectarian abuse at the Scottish Cup semi-final.

He said: “I have certain sympathy for him. He’s a human being at the end of the day. We condone it across the board. I don’t like to see it.

“I know Derek very well, he’s a great football guy with a lot of integrity, and he’s even said that he got it wrong. I think that will work in his favour. I don’t want to hear it from our fans and elsewhere. I believe certain managers are due more respect at times.

“Derek knows he maybe shouldn’t have reacted the way he did and in the cold light of day, I know, that you might have reacted differently. Sometimes you make mistakes.”