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Page last updated at 15:39 GMT, Wednesday, 31 March 2010 16:39 UK

John Hartson backs Neil Lennon for Celtic manager's job


Lennon can claim Celts job - Hartson

John Hartson believes Neil Lennon will become Celtic's permanent manager if he oversees a Scottish Cup triumph and a strong Scottish Premier League finish.

Hartson was a team-mate of Lennon's when both played for the Glasgow club.

"I don't think the club are looking further than Neil right now; the job is his if he does well," said Hartson.

"It's been obviously a disappointing time for Celtic but they'll be back. They won't stop fighting, especially under the leadership of Neil Lennon."

Lennon was put in caretaker charge after Tony Mowbray's sacking last week and the former club captain has stated his desire to land the post on a full-time basis.

"He's a great candidate for the job," said Hartson.

"I think they've just said to Neil, 'just go in, do what you can, get the lads up for it again'.

I think the fans love Neil, he's well respected amongst the crowd

Former Celtic striker John Hartson

"If they can reduce the points deficit in terms of the league and win that final Old Firm game, the Old Firm games mean so much to the supporters.

"Under Tony Mowbray they just lost far too many games to challenge, really. Rangers have put a good run together and they find themselves 10, potentially 13 points clear. It's been pretty easy for them this year, I think Celtic have made it quite easy for them with the amount of games that they've lost and points they've dropped to Falkirk especially, home and away.

"They've got a great chance to go and win the Scottish Cup, which is a major trophy in Scottish football. With Rangers out of the competition, it maximises Celtic's chances of winning the trophy.

"No disrespect to Ross County, it'll be a tough game for Celtic in the semi-final."

Former Blackburn and Manchester City manager Mark Hughes has also been linked with the Celtic job.

"When you are a manager of such a big club, there's always other managers being linked and I think Sparky's also a very candidate," said Hartson.

"I worked with Mark Hughes for five years with the national team and he's another great manager, he did very well at Blackburn and Manchester City.

"Personally, I'd like to see Neil have a go at this. I think the fans love him, he's well respected amongst the crowd. You saw 41,000 at the weekend there giving him a rapturous applause."

Both Old Firm sides have suffered heavy defeats in the last week with Rangers losing 4-1 to St Johnstone less than a week after St Mirren triumphed 4-0 against Celtic.

Mark Hughes
Hughes is out of work since leaving Manchester City

"I think it's quite healthy, the Old Firm getting beaten now and again, it gives other teams an opportunity," said Hartson.

"Apparently St Johnstone played very, very well last night and so did St Mirren last week.

"I don't know if the other teams are getting stronger. With all the happenings at Celtic with losing their manager and Rangers having no money to spend whatsoever, you don't know if the Old Firm are getting a little bit sloppy, it's the end of the season.

"But I think it's healthy that teams can compete with the Old Firm now.

"In my day, when I played up here, we lost games to Dundee United and we lost to lower league sides; we lost to Inverness in the cup. We beat Liverpool on the Thursday and went to Inverness and lost on the Sunday.

"So it can happen. Bad results and shock results happen all the time.

"The league was gone two months ago for me. I said Rangers would win the league, I didn't think Celtic had it in them to put a run together, this is before the St Mirren result I said this, and it's a shame but as I said they'll be back; Celtic will be back."

Hartson was last year diagnosed with cancer and has undergone chemotherapy and surgery in battling the disease.

"I'm feeling great," added the former Arsenal striker.

"I've just had the second of my lung operations about five weeks ago.

"I'm just recovering from that now, it's a bit stiff but I'm feeling good, feeling really good."

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see also
Celtic job has big appeal - Brown
30 Mar 10 |  Celtic
Lennon relief at Celtic victory
27 Mar 10 |  Celtic
Celtic 3-1 Kilmarnock
27 Mar 10 |  Scottish Premier
Lennon wants to succeed Mowbray
26 Mar 10 |  Celtic
Celtic sack manager Tony Mowbray
25 Mar 10 |  Celtic
Celtic not good enough - Hartson
16 Feb 10 |  Celtic
Hartson faces two more operations
15 Jan 10 |  Welsh

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