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Neil Lennon relief at Celtic victory

Celtic manager Neil Lennon
Lennon was bouncing for joy against Kilmarnock

Neil Lennon was delighted but relieved to win his first game as Celtic's caretaker but said it was a small step towards being manager in the long term.

"I am thrilled," he said after the 3-1 win over Kilmarnock at Celtic Park.

"I was talking to Paul Lambert the other day and he said the only thing I will feel is relief and he is right.

"I am feeling better because we won. I don't know how I would be feeling if we didn't. But it's just one game - nine to go."

Lennon was appointed until the end of the season after Tony Mowbray was sacked following Wednesday's 4-0 defeat by St Mirren.

It is Lennon's first managerial job and he has been taking advice not only from fellow former Celtic midfielder Lambert, now Norwich boss, but particularly from former Celtic manager Martin O'Neill.

However, as Lennon's side cruised to victory, O'Neill's Aston Villa side were being hammered 7-1 by Chelsea in England's top flight.

Some of the stuff was wonderful to watch at times

Celtic caretaker manager Neil Lennon

"He will maybe be ringing me for advice now," joked Lennon after earlier admitting that he had spent some time on the phone to O'Neill after taking charge at Celtic Park.

"It has been non-stop. I worked with the guy for 10 years and I could not wish for a better mentor, tutor or whatever you want to call it.

"He had one of the best in Brian Clough, so I would be stupid not to take his advice.

"He has been one of the best British managers of the last 20 or 30 years."

The likes of Lambert, former Manchester City manager Mark Hughes and ex-England boss Sven Goran Eriksson have all been touted as possible successors to Mowbray.

However, it is believed that Lennon, who said he would also learn from the experience of previous Celtic managers Gordon Strachan and Mowbray, is likely to hold on to the job should he win the Scottish Cup and impress in the remaining league games.

But Lennon himself insisted: "There are no guarantees. That's been made clear to me.

"I just want to improve the performances and improve the results and try to finish the season on a high.

"I have been thrust into the spotlight, but I am more than prepared for it.

"I am trying to be level-headed and not think of the gravity of the job."

Lennon was delighted at the way the players had responded in his first couple of days in charge.

"Wednesday night was unacceptable," he told BBC Scotland.

"I just gave them a bit of belief and took the shackles off them. I wanted to let the good players breath a bit and not complicate things too much.

"I thought from the first to the last minute they did everything we asked of them.

"Some of the stuff was wonderful to watch at times."

Robbie Keane, on loan from Tottenham, opened the scoring with a fine finish after a mazy bit of trickery and also added the second.

"I said to him I thought it was world class," said Lennon. "We are lucky to have him for the length of time that he is here."

Captain Scott Brown, who scored the third goal, also earned praise from Lennon.

"I was delighted for Brownie," said the manager. "That's what I've been asking him to do. I want more goals as he has that energy and drive about him."

Lennon had restored experienced full-backs Lee Naylor and Andreas Hinkel to the starting line-up.

"Naylor can be as good a full-back as anybody when he puts his mind to it and I have had a chat with him over the last couple of days," he said.

"That was as good as I have seen Andy playing for some time.

"Those two's experience is vital for the next eight or nine games that we have."

Lennon also explained his choice of former Celtic defender Johan Mjallby as his assistant.

"He did not know the players and the players did not really know him," he said.

"But he knows me inside out and we have the same ideas about the game.

"Plus, he is a big guy and, if I get any nonsense, I will just send him in!"

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see also
Celtic 3-1 Kilmarnock
27 Mar 10 |  Scottish Premier

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