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Neil Lennon raging at Celtic snub in Player of the Year

A slap in the face! Lennon's anger at Celtic stars' absence from PFA shortlist

By
Stephen Mcgowan

PUBLISHED:

12:26 GMT, 25 April 2013

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UPDATED:

23:12 GMT, 25 April 2013

Neil Lennon has vowed to boycott the PFA Scotland awards dinner — after branding the absence of any Celtic stars from the Player of the Year shortlist ‘abysmal’.

A vote by the nation’s professional players ahead of the Players’ Union dinner will see Motherwell’s Michael Higdon, Inverness Caley Thistle’s Andrew Shinnie, Aberdeen’s Niall McGinn and Hibernian’s Leigh Griffiths battle it out for the top prize.

Irate that the feats of his players in winning the SPL title and reaching the last 16 of the Champions League have earned no recognition from their peers, however, Lennon — who is likely to be shortlisted for Manager of the Year — will vote with his feet on May 5 by staying away from the annual Glasgow dinner.

Three out of four: (from left) Niall McGinn, Andrew Shinnie and Michael Higdon are up for the PFA Scotland award

Three out of four: (from left) Niall McGinn, Andrew Shinnie and Michael Higdon are up for the PFA Scotland award

‘I won’t go, no,’ said the Celtic boss.

‘The players haven’t discussed that yet. There weren’t many of them in yesterday, so I’ll speak to them tomorrow and see how they feel about it.

‘I’m surprised to say the least. Are you voting for the best player in Scotland or are you voting for the most improved player

‘I have no axe to grind with any of the nominees — I think that they have all had fine seasons.

‘But for none of our first-team players to be on the senior shortlist is bewildering to say the least.

‘I think the outcome of those votes yesterday belittles all those efforts from the players. It is abysmal.’

Not good enough: Neil Lennon has hit out after his Celtic players were overlooked for the PFA Scotland award

Not good enough: Neil Lennon has hit out after his Celtic players were overlooked for the PFA Scotland award

Celtic players have won the PFA Scotland award in the main category in six of the last seven years.
Of the view that their peers have taken his side’s domestic dominance for granted in the absence of Rangers, however, Lennon describes the perceived snub to his team as a ‘slap in the face’.

‘The players are not happy. They feel as if they’ve been slapped in the face, almost. There was a bit of ill-feeling there yesterday,’ he said.

‘I do feel the influence you media guys have — and I’m not blaming you guys — with the nonsense about “one-horse race”, “foregone conclusion” and “no competition” all plays a part in people taking the club, or the players, for granted.

‘Hooper’s got 28 goals this season and
people keep telling me that he’s not having his best season. But he’s
two goals short of 30, which is a pretty decent return for a
24-year-old.’

Young guns: Dundee United pair Gary Mackay-Steven (left) and Stuart Armstrong (right) are nominated with Celtic's Victor Wanyama

Young guns: Dundee United pair Gary Mackay-Steven (left) and Stuart Armstrong (right) are nominated with Celtic's Victor Wanyama

‘We made the last 16 of the Champions League with 10 points, which is a record for a Scottish team.

‘And on a budget which was very limited compared to other clubs in the past — so these players have performed heroically.

‘Semi-final of the League Cup, Scottish Cup Final, championship … I don’t think they could have done much more this season, really, and for that not to be recognised by their peers is very disappointing.’

Aberdeen midfielder Jim Bett was the last non-Old Firm player to collect the accolade, back in 1989-90.

Celtic’s Charlie Mulgrew collected the main prize last year.

Celtic 1 Motherwell 0 match report: Gary Hooper"s 18th of the season extends Bhoys" lead

Celtic 1 Motherwell 0: Hooper's 18th of the season extends Bhoys' lead at the summit

PUBLISHED:

17:05 GMT, 2 January 2013

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UPDATED:

17:17 GMT, 2 January 2013

Gary Hooper's late strike gave Celtic victory over Motherwell in their Clydesdale Bank Premier League encounter at Parkhead.

Hoops keeper Fraser Forster made a brilliant save from Tom Hateley's penalty, awarded for Kelvin Wilson's challenge on Jamie Murphy, just before the Englishman converted a Georgios Samaras cross from close range with 11 minutes remaining.

Not for the first time this season at home, though, the champions ended up struggling to get three points from a match that should have been over by the interval.

Well keeper Darren Randolph kept Celtic at bay with a series of saves although there were some glaring misses too before Hooper pounced to take Neil Lennon's side into the winter break nine points clear of Inverness at the top of the table.

It's that man again: Gary Hooper slots past Motherwell keeper Darren Randolph

It's that man again: Gary Hooper slots past Motherwell keeper Darren Randolph

Match facts

Celtic: Forster, Matthews, Ambrose (Rogne 84), Wilson, Izaguirre, Commons (McGeouch 82), Kayal (Watt 72), Wanyama, Mulgrew, Samaras, Hooper. Subs not used: Zaluska, Nouioui, McCourt, Chalmers.

Booked: Mulgrew, Kayal, Wanyama, Forster.

Goal: Hooper 79.

Motherwell: Randolph, Hateley, Kerr, Ramsden, Hammell, Humphrey, Law, Lasley, Francis-Angol (Daley 86), Ojamaa (McHugh 86), Murphy. Subs not used: Hollis, Higdon, Carswell, Hetherington, Cummins.

Booked: Ojamaa, Lasley.

Referee: Steven McLean.

Latest SPL table, fixtures and results

However, Motherwell manager Stuart
McCall, set to lose forward Murphy to Sheffield United this week, will
wonder how different it might have been had Hateley scored from the
spot.

Lennon made four changes and returned
to a back four after admitting three at the back did not work in the
1-0 defeat by Hibernian at Easter Road on Saturday.

In came Adam Matthews, Beram Kayal,
Kris Commons and Charlie Mulgrew with skipper Scott Brown, Mikael
Lustig, Lassad Nouioui and Thomas Rogne dropping out, the latter two on
the bench.

Motherwell showed two changes with
Fraser Kerr and Zaine Francis-Angol in for Shaun Hutchinson and Michael
Higdon, the big striker consigned to the bench where he watched the home
side's whirlwind start suggest a demolition job.

Samaras had the ball in the net from Commons' cross in the second minute but was flagged offside.
Commons then flashed a shot from the edge of the box just wide after
being set up by Hooper, who then turned and drove wide after taking a
Kayal pass with his back to goal.

In the seventh minute Randolph made a
fine save from Hooper's stab from close range after more good work on
the left from Samaras, before tipping stand-in skipper Mulgrew's curling
free-kick over the bar for a corner.

Hands on: Fraser Forster saves Tom Hateley's penalty

Hands on: Fraser Forster saves Tom Hateley's penalty

There was no let-up in the pressure
on the Motherwell goal and moments later Randolph flew to his left to
pluck a goal-bound Commons shot out of the air.

The Hoops support groaned once more
when Victor Wanyama then missed Mulgrew's corner altogether from eight
yards, allowing Well to clear their lines.

Murphy, skipper for the day, should
have put the visitors ahead following a break in the 20th minute when he
was played in by Keith Lasley but he lashed the ball over the bar.

Defender Efe Ambrose guided Mulgrew's whipped-in free-kick past the near post from six yards out.
Motherwell slowly grew in confidence as the first half wore on.

Mixed emotions: Neil Lennon applauds Hooper's winner

Mixed emotions: Neil Lennon applauds Hooper's winner

In the 37th minute Murphy tested
Forster with a drive from the edge of the box and moments later curled a
shot from 14 yards past the far post after working his way past Kayal
and into a good shooting position.

Samaras had a low drive from 20 yards saved by Randolph.

With seconds remaining Ambrose missed
the chance of the half when Randolph dropped Wanyama's header from a
Mulgrew corner, the Parkhead defender hooking the ball over the bar from
barely two yards.

Celtic had an unconvincing start to
the second period but with six minutes gone Randolph tipped a deflected
shot from Wanyama over the bar.

Celtic dropped the tempo which
allowed Well to breath slightly easier but Randolph was still seeing
plenty of the ball, making another decent save from Commons'
right-footed drive from 25 yards in the 67th minute.

Watching brief: Norwich boss Chris Hughton was running the rule over potential targets at Parkhead

Watching brief: Norwich boss Chris Hughton was running the rule over potential targets at Parkhead

Both sides were taking turns to
attack but Motherwell were handed a great chance to take the lead when
referee Steven McLean adjudged Wilson to have tripped Murphy in the box.

There was some concern as to whether
Hateley had the ball on the spot or not – and Forster was booked for
pointing this out – but when the Motherwell player blasted his shot to
his left the Celtic flew across to make a great save.

The incident seemed to energise
Celtic and they were soon in the lead when Hooper played the ball to
Samaras and ran into the box to collect the return pass and slip the
ball under Randolph from six yards.

There were some nervy moments before the final whistle as Motherwell went for broke but in the end Celtic deserved their win.

Celtic 1 Motherwell 0: Hooper makes it 14 in a row as Hoops go 23 points clear

Celtic 1 Motherwell 0: Hooper makes it 14 in a row as Hoops go 23 points clear

By
Sportsmail Reporter

Last updated at 6:44 PM on 25th February 2012

Gary Hooper's second-half strike was enough to beat Motherwell and take Celtic 23 points clear of administration-hit Rangers at the top of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League.

After a lacklustre first half, the former Scunthorpe striker latched on to a Georgios Samaras knock-down in the 59th minute and fired in from close range for his 20th goal of the season.

Celtic were not at their best, but it was a game they never looked like losing and Darren Randolph was by far the busier of the two goalkeepers.

On target: Gary Hooper fires Celtic ahead

On target: Gary Hooper fires Celtic ahead

MATCH FACTS

Celtic: Forster, Matthews, Rogne, Kelvin Wilson, Mulgrew, Forrest (Commons 88), Wanyama (Stokes 58), Ki, Ledley, Samaras, Hooper (Cha 76). Subs not used: Zaluska, Majstorovic, Brozek, Izaguirre.

Booked: Kelvin Wilson.

Scorer: Hooper 59.

Motherwell: Randolph, Clancy, Law, Hutchinson, Hammell, Hateley, Jennings, Lasley, Murphy (Humphrey 64), Ojamaa (Daley 79), Higdon. Subs not used: Bradley, Craigan, Forbes, Page, Carswell.

Booked: Hutchinson, Hateley, Hammell, Ojamaa.

Referee: Allan Crawford.

Attendance: 53,486.

The Hoops fans left after watching their side record their 14th straight win as they continue their quest for the treble, but with so little competition in the league there may be a few more days like this before the title is clinched.

But Celtic manager Neil Lennon could surely not care less about the manner in which his team wrest the championship back from Ibrox.

In trying to keep a big squad involved in the run-in to what he hopes will be a domestic treble, Lennon made five changes to the side which beat Dunfermline 2-0 in midweek.

In came defenders Adam Matthews and Thomas Rogne, midfielders Victor Wanyama, James Forrest and striker Samaras for Cha Du-ri, Emilio Izaguirre, Kris Commons and Anthony Stokes, who all dropped to the bench, with captain Scott Brown missing with a groin injury.

Motherwell were looking for a win that would have taken them level on points with Rangers.
Well skipper Keith Lasley returned from suspension at the expense of Omar Daley and they started confidently enough, showing little of the fear displayed by bottom side Dunfermline on their visit.

In the ninth minute Forrest played in Hooper, who turned into the box and drove a dangerous ball across goal which no one got on the end of, seconds before Well keeper Randolph had to rush from his line to thwart Samaras.

Denied: Samaras is thwarted

Denied: Samaras is thwarted

In the 15th minute, after the Well defence struggled to clear their lines, Celtic's stand-in skipper Charlie Mulgrew turned and fired the ball just wide of the post from 12 yards.

As the pressure on the Motherwell goal intensified momentarily, Randolph had to make a good save from Samaras, after the Greece striker had volleyed in a shot from the edge of the box.

Celtic had control of the game with the Lanarkshire side living dangerously if not defending desperately.

Forrest laid the ball off to Matthews on the right and from the Welshman's deep cross to the back post Samaras headed off the back of Tom Hateley, the Well defender appearing to know little about his saving block.

Three minutes from the break Celtic defender Kelvin Wilson headed a Ki Sung-yueng free-kick weakly at Randolph from eight yards and in the final seconds, as the home side finished with a flurry, Randolph made a good save from Ki's driven free-kick from wide on the left.

Hooper turned and fired wide with a 25-yard snap-shot in the first couple of minutes of the second-half, followed shortly by Samaras who missed the target from close range but the home side still looked off the pace.

Nice one, son: Lennon congratulates Hooper

Nice one, son: Lennon congratulates Hooper

Lennon did not wait too long until he made a change, bringing on Stokes for Wanyama in the 58th minute and seconds later Celtic were ahead.

Matthews' long throw-in from the right was chested down by Samaras to Hooper, who rifled the ball low past Randolph from close range with his predator's instinct.

The atmosphere changed with the goal and Celtic pressed the Motherwell defence for the next few minutes looking to tie up the points, with the Fir Park players forced in to some desperate defending at times.

With nothing to lose Motherwell began to throw bodies forward, although in the 70th minute striker Henrik Ojamaa was rightly booked for diving in the Celtic box.

By pushing forward the visitors left themselves open at the back and, after a swift Celtic break, Randolph had to dive to his right to save from Forrest's drive with the corner coming to nothing.

The final stages came to life as play swung from end to end and there were scares at both ends, but nothing more as Celtic rolled onward to their all but inevitable title win.