Celtic manager Neil Lennon has backed his Cluj decision that saw Christopher Jullien sit on the bench last month.
Jullien missed out on playing against the Romanians in our Champions League qualifier vs Dan Petrescu’s side. Cluj took a 4-3 victory from Parkhead in an absolute defensive horror-show from the Hoops. Both Jozo Simunovic and Kristoffer Ajer didn’t cover themselves in glory, with £7million worth of talent in Jullien on the bench.
It was a tad more mind-boggling considering Jullien had featured away to Nomme Kalju in the second qualifying round and looked solid for 90 minutes. The defender, however, spoke about this earlier on and also agreed with Lennon that he wasn’t ready (Scottish Sun).
And speaking to the Daily Record, Lenny confirmed why he didn’t feel the big Frenchman was ready.
“Christopher wasn’t ready. He was still looking a bit off it. We felt that it was only after the window shut that we started to see the best of him. He did find his feet slowly but surely after that and with more game time he’s looking far more assured.
“He wasn’t ready that night against Cluj and I don’t think anyone could disagree with that. We did the same with Virgil against Karagandy as he wasn’t ready either and we won 3-0.
“If we had thrown Christopher in to that game it might have killed him or dented his confidence if it hadn’t gone well for him. You make those decisions as a manager and I don’t regret it one bit.”
Lennon will have key regrets from Cluj
The Celtic manager may say he doesn’t regret the decision, but there must be some form of “what if” going through his mind after choosing not to feature Jullien vs Cluj.
In truth, however, it wasn’t the main talking point after the shocking Parkhead defeat. Callum McGregor playing at left-back was an even more stunning decision that took Celtic supporters by surprise. He would go on to lose his man for the first goal, with his influence in the midfield lost.
Lennon has already confirmed in the Scottish Sun that he won’t be doing that again. And, in truth, he likely won’t want to leave Jullien out either.
Cluj was a dark spot for Lenny, but you have to credit him for how he’s bounced back. He’s taken Celtic above Rangers in the Premiership by a point, and has successfully started the Europa League group stages well. On top of that, we’re in the Betfred Cup semi-finals too.
The Romanians were there for the taking. However, to be fair, nobody knows for sure whether playing Jullien would’ve sorted out our problems. But you also can’t say it definitely wouldn’t have.
In any case, it’s all in the past now. Looking ahead, Lenny has confidence on his side heading into Thursday night. Hopefully, that shows on the pitch.