NEIL Lennon will not fancy that he requires any endorsement other than from his dressing room as he prepares for a formal unveiling as Celtic manager later this week. But in a climate in which his permanent appointment to the role was met with an underwhelming response by a section of the Parkhead support, one of Lennon’s former success stories has backed him for a fruitful second spell in charge of the club.

Kenyan midfielder Victor Wanyama, who was signed by Lennon as a raw teenager in 2011 from Belgian side Beerschot for just £900,000 before going on to become a then Scottish transfer record two years later when he went to Southampton for £12.5m, has endorsed the appointment of the Irishman to the role.

Wanyama will be part of Spurs’ squad this weekend in the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid as Mauricio Pochettino’s side go head-to-head with Liverpool for football’s most prestigious trophy. And the 27-year-old has maintained that the foundations for what could be the pinnacle of his career were laid in Glasgow as Lennon “matured” him as a player.

“I will always be grateful to Celtic for what they did for me and my career and I will always be grateful to Neil Lennon, too,” said Wanyama. “Celtic taught me what the Champions League was all about. I think he is a fantastic manager and a fantastic coach but he is also a good man. He taught me the game. He made me a mature player. He gave me that understanding which let me go on.


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“He taught me that it doesn’t matter who the opponents are or what they can do or who is in their team. We faced big teams with Celtic in the Champions League but we did it with belief. I learned so much from him about that. Neil gave me a platform and also a belief that I could go and play at the highest level.”

If Wanyama was one of Lennon’s brightest moments in his first spell as Celtic manager, he was not alone. Virgil van Dijk was plucked from the relative obscurity of Groningen and will line up against Spurs this Saturday evening. Lennon can also claim credit for Fraser Forster and Leigh Griffiths and while his detractors will list the likes of Derk Boerrigter and Amido Balde, the fact that he nurtured the early years of two players who have gone on to compete in the Champions League final is notable.

“It is incredible,” said the midfielder. “You can see how good a coach he is from that.”

If there is a persistent accusation of scepticism whenever former players preach of their love of a former club, Wanyama has maintained that Celtic holds a particular sway for him because it set the foundations for the career he has gone on to enjoy.

“Celtic is still like a family to me,” he maintained. “It is still a home. They gave me the platform on a big stage and I took it. I haven’t heard from him but I watched their game against Hearts in the Scottish Cup final on Saturday and I was cheering for them but I haven’t had a chance to speak to him. I am pleased to see him get the job.”

Wanyama’s finest moment in a Celtic shirt was also Lennon’s best moment in the dugout as the Parkhead side celebrated their 125th anniversary with a 2-1 win over Barcelona in the Champions League. And for the Kenyan, that goal was a turning point in the perception of his own abilities and how far he could go.

“Playing against Barcelona and scoring and winning against that side at that time – they were such a good side that people though they might have been the best side ever in Europe – but we won,” said Wanyama. “It gave me so much and taught me about competing at the highest level. It showed me the kind of attitude you need if you are going to play and compete against the best.


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“Hopefully the Celtic family will be rooting for me and for Spurs. I hope they give me their support. They always gave me so much support when I was at Celtic so hopefully I can win this and they will enjoy a bit of it too.”

It will be a family celebration on Saturday as Wanyama flies in six members of his family to Spain as he seeks to emulate the achievement of his brother, McDonald Mariga, who won the Champions League in 2010 with Inter Milan. Liverpool have beaten Spurs twice domestically this season but Wanyama has every confidence that Pochettino’s side are not there simply to make up the numbers.

“I have learned so many good lessons and this feels like this is the achievement I have been striving for and now there is a chance to redeem it,” he said. "We have started the job but now we need to finish it. I think it could be an amazing achievement. It is a great thing to be in the Champions League final but it is not just about being there and about playing, it is also about winning. It would be good to win it.

“It all comes down to winning now. We have trained well. We want to win the game. We have struggled at times but we have also shown what we can do with hard work. That hard work has got us where we are and now when we get to Saturday we want to keep that going and achieve our ambition which is winning the Champions League.”