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Lennon’s joy for Scotland tempered by Christie workload

The Celtic manager was concerned at his star playing three games in six days.

Lennon’s joy for Scotland tempered by Christie workload SNS Group

Celtic manager Neil Lennon has congratulated Scotland on reaching the Euros but was disappointed that Ryan Christie played three games for the national team in the space of six days.

Christie gave an emotional post-match interview after being part of the team that beat Serbia to qualify for Euro 2020, ending a 22-year wait for the men’s team to reach a major finals.

After playing 87 minutes in that play-off final, he played the full games against Slovakia and Israel as the national team tried in vain to win their Nations League group.

“I‘m absolutely delighted for him as an individual, delighted for Scotland,” Lennon said. “It’s been a long wait and I think it gives the game here a huge shot in the arm and more credibility.

“There’s a lot of boys in the squad and in the team that ply their trade here in the SPFL so I’m delighted for the player and for the club for making such a huge contribution to the Scotland setup.

“It’s been a huge wait but I think everyone is looking forward to the Euros.”

But when asked later about the fitness of his players after their international efforts, Lennon admitted he wasn’t impressed with how Steve Clarke had used his players. While Callum McGregor was one of many players rested for the Slovakia game as the national team manager rang the changes, Christie was in the starting line-up.

“He didn’t rest Ryan,” Lennon said. “That didn’t please me.

“They look okay. There may be a kick-in effect later on down the line but certainly for tomorrow they’re fit and available. I think when you’re feeling good about yourself you want to keep that run going and I think it can only help us rather than hinder us.

“It was three 90 minutes in six days, which is a big ask for any individual.

“I think Steve balanced the squad as best he could but it looked like he didn’t want to play without Ryan.

“I can’t be over critical about it but I would have liked him to be rested for at least one of the games but he’s played in all three.”

Despite that displeasure, Lennon was effusive in his praise for Scotland and had praise for all involved, saying that you could see a marked improvement in the team.

“It’s just confidence,” he said. “You have to remember that the games were all away from home and they were unlucky not to take something from the second and third games.

“You can see that the system is working and there’s obviously strong unity in the squad.

“I think they showed great mental fortitude to win. They suffered the hammer blow of conceding in the last minute and sort of turned a corner in a physical and mental point of view.

“Obviously Steve is thinking they have a bit more work to do, which you never stop doing as a manager.

“But I think everyone should take stock and enjoy it. For our players in the squad it’s a great incentive for the second half of the season as well.”