Manager: Hard work has started for Hearts
By: Mark Henderson on 05 Oct, 2012 14:43
IT has taken a while for the euphoria to diminish in the Celtic camp following the terrific 3-2 triumph over Spartak Moscow, and that was understandable given the magnitude of the result and Georgios Samaras´ dramatic late winner.
On the back of a dominant display at Fir Park as the champions surged back to the SPL summit, it´s been a memorable six days at the club. But with fresh challenges on the horizon it´s necessary to consign these emotions to memory and start afresh.
And with traditionally tough opposition in the form of Hearts visiting Paradise on Sunday, Neil Lennon recognises that his side must be fully focused on that ecounter.
"It´s been a great start to the week, winning at Motherwell, playing so well and going top of the league, and then the pinnacle of beating Spartak in Moscow," said the manager
"It wasn´t just the result, but the performance as well. All the attributes the team showed – the character, the quality, the pace – everything how you dream the team to play all came to fruition on that night.
"Now it´s back to work. We have had a couple of days to reflect on it and take it all in. We have had a lot of nice things said about us but we have a big game on Sunday now and we´re all looking forward to it.
"It will be a tough game and as always Celtic-Hearts games whet the appetite. We are at home which is great. I´m looking forward to it and hopefully the crowd will be energised by the game this week.
"We have to make sure we keep our feet on the pedal. John McGlynn is a good manager and I have a lot of admiration for what he´s done in the game so far.
"They have been a wee bit inconsistent but that´s understandable with a new a manager coming in. They can give any team a run for their money as we saw already against Liverpool. It´s a good game to come back into after Tuesday, a good game to get our teeth into."
The latest piece of positive news for the club arrived on Thursday when Fraser Forster was named in Roy Hodgson´s England squad for the World Cup qualifying double-header against San Marino and Poland.
As someone who had frequently called for the keeper to be given international recognition, the Hoops boss was delighted at his call-up.
"I applaud Roy Hodgson," he said. "He must think I´m a pain in the backside as I´m always on his case about Fraser and Gary but it´s a wonderful moment for him and vindication for bringing players to the club.
"It´s a vindication of Scottish football that it´s not all it seems to be according to some media outlets.
"It´s great for the kid. He´s worked incredibly hard. I´m sure there have been people in his ear over the summer saying he wouldn’t progress if you went to Scottish football. So there have been a lot of positives to come out of that one as well.
"I´m delighted for him and Stevie Woods who has done a fantastic job in my time here and probably doesn’t get the credit he deserves sometimes.
"Goalkeepers are a different breed and we sort of quarantine them off in one section of the training ground and leave them to it. So I´m really pleased for Stevie and it’s great recognition for him and his goalkeeping coaching as well.
"And long may it continue and hopefully Gary Hooper if he keeps continuing to play the way he is won´t be far away either."
Scott Brown may miss out at the weekend following his exertions in Moscow, while Adam Matthews remains a doubt. However, Lassad returns to the reckoning after missing out against Motherwell. With the squad almost at full strength there is huge competition for places.
"Everyone is pushing one another for places," said the manager. "I came in yesterday to watch the rest of the guys training who weren´t involved and they were looking great as everyone feeds off everyone else," said the Irishman.
"The challenge, the incentive and the inspiration is there to play. So the squad is good.
"Browny will struggle for Sunday. He put in a remarkable performance on Tuesday night because he didn´t train on the Monday. He did two strides in the warm-up and walked off, so with all the press around, I said just stay on and let on you´re okay.
"But his performance was brilliant, a real captain´s role. He´s one of those players for who my admiration grows every day. I have spoken to Craig Levein about his situation. And he knows what it is. He will go with Scotland and he will play but I don´t know if he will be able to play the two games.
"Adam Matthews is 50/50 still at the minute so we still have a doubt over him. Apart from Scott, I don´t think we have any fresh injury worries. We have Kayal and Ledley to call upon and Lassad should be fit for the weekend as well."