Lennon: We’ve earned respect

Hibernian 0 Celtic 3
Celtic manager Neil Lennon hopes his players are finally given the respect he feels they deserve after clinching the domestic double by winning the William Hill Scottish Cup yesterday.

A double from Gary Hooper and a Joe Ledley strike saw the Hoops come out on top against Hibernian at Hampden and add another piece of silverware to their Clydesdale Bank Premier League title.

Lennon’s men also impressed on the continental stage this term by reaching the last 16 of the Champions League — including a victory over Barcelona along the way.

The Celtic boss knows his side were expected to deliver the goods domestically but he believes a double and a better-than-expected European run means no one can ask any questions of his players.

“For a team that gets nipped at a little bit, they are a great side and I hope they get the respect they deserve,” said Lennon.

“People shouldn’t be asking questions. Okay, domestically we are expected to do things but surely no one could have expected what we did in Europe this season?

“People were raising their eyebrows at the qualification stage. Then, when the group stage came out, people were raising their eyebrows at that.

“We overcame it all. They were playing the 59th game of a marathon season. The majority of them will be back in on June 20 so I hope they enjoy their break because they thoroughly deserve it.”

With so much at stake for both sides, Lennon admits nerves were a major factor.

He said: “It feels amazing. I felt so nervous before it and all the way through the game. It was just the weight of expectation riding on the game.”

Hibs boss Pat Fenlon was disappointed to lose a Scottish Cup final for a second year running but felt this defeat was nothing like last year’s drubbing by their derby rivals Hearts. He said: “There is no comparison. I thought we contributed to the game and we didn’t do that last year.

“I can’t fault the players for effort. We are bitterly disappointed that we lost a cup final but I can’t ask any more of the players and the supporters today. They were tremendous.

“We are disappointed but we lost to the better side and there is no shame in losing to Celtic.”

Meanwhile Anthony Stokes says he is “100%” confident he will sign a new deal with the Parkhead club. The Dubliner is out of contract soon but reminded the Parkhead fans of his talents by setting up Gary Hooper for his first-half goals. “I expect to be here, 100%. The contract is getting sorted out and I am very confident about it. My agent has been speaking with the club for the last week or two so I’m sure something will get sorted.”

Lennon described Stokes’ performance as one of his best in a Celtic shirt, but the striker said: “I don’t know about that. I was happy with my performance but the most important thing was the result.”


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