NEIL Lennon has pledged to ensure Celtic withstand the Rangers revival and remain the dominant force in Scottish football as well as get the Parkhead club back into the Champions League during his second spell as manager.

Lennon was offered the job full-time at Hampden on Saturday night after the Glasgow club beat Hearts in the William Hill Scottish Cup final to become the first in world football to complete a treble treble.

The Northern Irishman, who will sign his contract when he returns from a short break in Spain later this week, will need to carry out major surgery to his squad during the summer.

But the 47-year-old is determined to ensure Celtic maintain their edge over their city rivals and qualify for the group stages of Europe’s premier club competition during the 2019/20 campaign.

“There is no doubt there is a marked improvement in Rangers, but you would expect that,” he said. “We have to try to endeavour to stay that bit further ahead. I think that’s the whole remit.


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“There is always pressure at Celtic. You just have to not listen to expectations. I will talk to the board and find out what they want. I will stick to that task.

“First and foremost, the priority is the league championship and then you work around that from here on in.

“But getting back into he Champions League would be fantastic. It’s brilliant for the club, the players, me and my coaching staff. It can only help you and develop you but it’s a very difficult thing to do, we have eight games before we can qualify.

“We have to hit the ground running very, very early and again that’s going to be difficult, but we’re going to have to get the right players in as quickly as possible and that can be difficult as well.

“We are looking at players at the minute. We have identified two or three players for a couple of positions already. Myself, John Kennedy (Celtic first team coach) and the recruitment team have been working very hard in the background. We will see if we can get the ball rolling soon.”

Meanwhile, Lennon stressed he wants Mikael Lustig, who helped Celtic captain Scott Brown lift the Scottish Cup at the weekend, remain at Parkhead. The Glasgow club have the option to extend the 32-year-old Swedish right back’s contract for another season.


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Asked if Saturday was Lustig’s final appearance for Celtic, Lennon said: “I hope not. Possibly it could be, he was very emotional at the end of the game. But my personal thoughts are that I’d love him to stay.

“He’s done the full eight (title wins) and three trebles involved in that as well. He’s had a great career, the last 16 of the Champions League. He couldn’t have done any more. A brilliant player, underrated.

“He set up the winner and he defended the far post, he’s been brilliant at that over his career. Towards the end Hearts were throwing heavy artillery at us and he stood up very well to it. He’s a great player. Alright he’s getting on a bit now, but he’s still got plenty to offer.”

Meanwhile, Lennon expects Celtic to appoint a replacement to Lee Congerton, their head of recruitment who joined Brendan Rodgers at Leicester City earlier this month, in the coming days. “That will be the club’s decision,” he said. “Maybe I will have some sort of say in that.”