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Europa League round of 16 draw

Europa League
By ESPN Staff

Lennon scotches talk of Commons clash

Celtic manager Neil Lennon has dismissed rumours of a bust-up with Kris Commons and insists there is no problem between himself and the player.

•  Lennon 'enjoyed' pressure

Lennon was responding to speculation circulating on the internet that the pair had clashed with each other - prompting Commons to play a prank on photographers by turning up for training on Wednesday wearing a neck-brace, a head bandage and a large plaster across his nose.

Lennon is well aware that his side's recent form is no laughing matter - Celtic have only won six of their last 16 games in all competitions - but is adamant there is no rift with Commons or any of his other players.

He said: "When things start to go wrong, people will start rumours and look for things that aren't there. That's just us laughing at all the speculation and rumours basically. There never has been a problem between myself and Kris. I think he's a wonderful player. I get on very well with him and I've known him for a long time. I know he's going to have a big impact, when he's fit, on the rest of our season.

"As regards to rumours, if people want to believe them, that's their problem. There's not a lot I can do about it. I can't stop the rumours and I can't stop the speculation. But I know what goes on in-house and I know I've got a really good group of players who I'm very proud of. At the minute, they're just not doing themselves justice.

"It's up to me, I've got to look at my role in that as well and do better and make the players better. But I know I've got a very talented group of players and they're not far away from hitting the ground running now.''

After Saturday's goalless draw against Hibernian at Parkhead, Lennon described some of his players as passengers and threatened to "out'' those he believed were lacking effort. Speaking on Wednesday, he said: "I'm not going to go over the top on the players. They have been brilliant since I took over. It's a short-term problem but I need to rectify it very, very quickly and just get them playing to their potential on a more consistent basis. There is no dressing room unrest. We've got a great relationship with them.''

He added: "The fans have been very supportive. At times when I thought we might lose them, they have actually gone the other way and reinforced their support for us. We've got to take that on board. It is a huge club, with huge expectations, and we're not living up to them at the minute.

"I know we are capable of turning it around very quickly. I know we can win games on a consistent basis because we have done it before. We're just missing that little ingredient at the minute and once we find it we will be fine.''

Celtic face two massive games this week, which could have a huge impact on both their European and domestic campaigns. They host Rennes on Thursday in the hope of boosting their Group I prospects in the Europa League, before facing second-placed Motherwell on Sunday, who sit three points ahead of Celtic in the league.

Lennon said: "I take this job very seriously. It means so much to me. I'm a very proud person and I've dealt with things as professionally as possible and will continue to do that. I'm not worried about the consequences. It's a fact of life. It's all negative at the minute but I'm looking for the positives.

"There were aspects I didn't enjoy on Saturday but in the main I'm very proud of this team. We are still in all the competitions, which a lot of teams can't say, and we will go hell for leather on all fronts for as long as we can.''

Meanwhile, Lennon stressed his desire to retain the services of James Forrest after Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp confirmed he is monitoring the progress of the 20-year-old winger. He said: "I don't like other managers talking about players who are contracted to our club, but I've got great respect for Harry and I suppose he was asked the question out of context.

"We think James is a great talent and he is progressing very well and we want him to progress here. He is an important player for us and he's only going to get better. It doesn't surprise me that other clubs are sending their scouts to watch him because he has been playing so well and so consistently as well.''


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