Celtic boss Neil Lennon hails Olivier Ntcham's Celtic performance

By David Walton

July 30, 2019

Olivier Ntcham’s return to the Celtic starting line-up has been hailed as “outstanding” by Neil Lennon.

The Hoops boss made several changes to the starting line-up for tonight’s 2-0 win over Nomme Kalju in Estonia. Ntcham had come on for a cameo against Kalju in the 5-0 first leg romp last week.

And there was something mightily impressive about the way he went about his business tonight. Ntcham dictated the game from the midfield, and showed he’s already up to full match-sharpness with his display. He effectively ran the show, showing his box-to-box nature in full fashion as he grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck.

Olivier Ntcham performed well tonight (David Young/Action Plus via Getty Images)

Lennon spoke to BBC Sportsound (20:32) post-match about several of his stars. Here’s what he had to say about the display, with Ntcham given a glowing mention.

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“I’m not getting carried away but I’m pleased for the new boys coming in. Christopher had his first 90 minutes. Boli looked good.

“I thought Olivier Ntcham was outstanding considering that was his first real run out since he got back. So a lot of positives.

“A great goal from Marian when he came on. So we’re in a good place at the minute. I’ve got Forrest and McGregor to factor in. Ajer and Edouard to come back as well. So the depth is looking a lot better now.”

Ntcham’s return brings out the positives for Lennon

Ntcham expressed how much he wants a move from Parkhead with his comments this summer (L’Equipe). We all know what was said, and it’s no use now going back to it. His apology can be through performances on the pitch if that’s how he chooses to go about things.

But it’s clear Lennon is also keen to forget about it. There has been no touching on it from the Celtic manager. Instead, he’s looking ahead and pleased with what Ntcham’s brought to the table since returning a couple of weeks ago.

Ntcham has returned in good shape (Mark Runnacles – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

It’s going to take a lot more than tonight’s fine outing to win over many Celtic fans. In fact, some may not ever be won over again after what he said. But tonight was a positive step for him in his rebuilding of the bridges he carelessly burned this summer.

Ntcham is clearly a part of Celtic’s plans

The main positive to take away for him is that he’s clearly in the manager’s plans. Whilst we can all speculate whether he’ll be away before the window is over or not, he’s still in the team with no offer in sight of a departure.

Neil Lennon has offered Ntcham an olive branch (Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

As for supporters, it was pleasing to see Ntcham in such a confident and composed mood this evening. He was perhaps Celtic’s best player on the park, with his footwork back to its dazzling best. It’s this kind of Ntcham that will one day earn a move, not the imposter that featured too often last season.

His class is there for all to see on his day. Hopefully, tonight provides a real springboard for him ahead of the new season. If we can get Ntcham flying again and he repays us with good displays, nobody’s a loser here.