Neil Lennon at Celtic BSI

Neil Lennon: Ivan Toney The One That Got Away At Celtic

We caught up with former Celtic player and manager Neil Lennon and he gave us insight on how close Ivan Toney came to a deal at Celtic Park.

Lennon enjoyed two spells in charge at Celtic Park where he enjoyed a lot of success and brought many trophies to the club, 21 to be exact. During our interview with him he dropped plenty more fascinating insights to go with the Toney story.

The former Celtic manager told us about the Irish players he would have loved to have seen put on the green and white for Celtic, how he views the time he spent at Celtic Park and much more.

Ivan Toney The One That Got Away

Which player did you always want to sign that never quite came off?

Ivan Toney before he went to Brentford. I was really interested in him.

We were close to getting him and he’s gone on to do brilliant things.

I definitely didn’t want to sign anyone from the blue side of Glasgow! They had some good players like Jelavic, Steven Naismith and Steven Davis – they were players that I begrudgingly admired.


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Irish Players At Celtic

Many great Irish players were at Celtic – is there anyone you wish you could’ve had in your teams?

Robbie Keane came to Celtic for six months and I was interim manager at the time before I got the job permanently. I would have loved him to have stayed a bit longer. He was an unbelievable, outstanding striker.

Damien Duff is another one. I ended up coaching with Damien for a year at Celtic and he was fabulous.

I would’ve loved to have had him with me as a player.

It’s up to him how high he wants to take his managerial career. We were very successful alongside John Kennedy and we were doing great things until the season was curtailed by lockdown.

We looked like we were going to reach 100 points and 100 goals and we’d also beaten Lazio home and away that season. We were romping the league and you wonder where we would’ve ended up if it wasn’t for the lockdowns and COVID.

Fond Memories At Celtic Park For Neil Lennon

Who did you enjoy working with most at Celtic?

Joe Ledley was a great lad. Charlie Mulgrew was very funny and James Forrest was a revelation – he’s a Celtic legend.

Browny, McGregor and Victor Wanyama stick out too, but they were all great lads. Michael Lustig was another very special person. He was a really brilliant player and great in the dressing room. He was one of the players that I admired for a long, long time.

Was your time at Celtic the best time of your career?

Oh yes. As a player and manager I’ve won 21 trophies which isn’t bad.

I had an unbelievable time, it was a privilege.

It was always my ambition to play for Celtic.

My time at Celtic was a huge part of my life and I absolutely loved it. I’m proud of it, as are my family as well.

Scott Brown ‘A Great Leader and Player’

Who’s the one player you could count on in a final as a manager?

Scott Brown. He liked the big games and he was a similar type of player to myself. A great leader and player.

In all the big games, he was always at the forefront of everything positive we tried to do.

He always stamped his authority on games and dominated games for me – even when I first came in after the brilliant Tony Mowbray left – who was very prominent in me getting the job in the first place.

Did you always see Scott Brown becoming a manager?

I didn’t initially see him becoming a manager but he was always a bit of a rascal and had a bit of the devil in him, like me.

As he matured, he became a really iconic captain and to be fair to him, he’s gone into League One at a pretty unfashionable club in Fleetwood and he’s doing a brilliant job – I’m delighted for him.

He’s taken in one of my old players Steven Whittaker and the two of them have a huge wealth of experience whilst also being very intelligent guys so I watch the results with interest and I’m delighted that they’re both doing so well.

Furuhashi In The Premier League?

Do you think Kyogo Furuhashi could flourish in the Premier League?

Depends which team he signed for. I’m a big fan and he’s been a great signing for Ange.

He’s a player who has genuine top class qualities and he could definitely play in the Premier League – I just hope he doesn’t go anytime soon because I’m really enjoying watching him play for Celtic.

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