Joe Ledley has revealed just how Neil Lennon motivated Celtic to a stirring comeback against Shakhtar Karagandy in 2013.
The Hoops were 2-0 behind to the Kazakhs from the first-leg. A dreadful performance and weak result saw Lennon’s men on the brink of Europa League football over Champions League.
Given it was a playoff round, no motivation should’ve been necessary. Celtic had just come out of a Champions League last-16 campaign the season before. Motivation to get into the groups this time around should’ve been there.
But, to help push them over the line, Lennon offered the Hoops players another tempting carrot – a night out. Ledley was part of that side that won 3-0 to overturn the deficit, and opened up to Open Goal (55:57) about Lennon’s offer.
“It’s probably the worst thing he’s ever said. He’s said ‘If you beat these….we’re going out, proper going out’. I was thinking I want to beat them because I want a night out.
“We beat them 3-0 and we went out Thursday. Obviously it gos through to Friday morning. We’ve gone down to Drake’s in the West End and had a few beers. We have a game on Saturday morning – early kick-off vs Dundee United away.
“I think he was looking at us thinking ‘I shouldn’t have said that’. It went through to Friday at 5am. We were hanging, and one of the boys had a two-day hangover on Saturday. We won 1-0 (at United).”
Don’t expect many nights out then Bhoys
When Lennon speaks about improving as a manager, you wonder how much this moment sticks out for him. Perhaps we all would’ve been a bit worried that it took a night out to gee up the team for a Champions League playoff too!
In all seriousness, however, Lennon’s man-management skills are right up there. You can see in how Ledley talks about Lennon throughout the interview how much he’s fond of him.
Celtic now have themselves a manager who certainly lives and breathes the club. He’s had over a decade in employment at Parkhead over several spells as a player and a manager. And it’s clear he knows how to get the best from his squads.
There’s so much we don’t know about what goes on behind the scenes at Celtic. It certainly doesn’t seem a case of just turning up for training and match-days. Lennon has dealt with the politics of management for nearly 10 years, and that’s another reason this temporary (hopefully permanent) appointment makes perfect sense.
Stories like these are funny, but when you strip layers off it, it shows just how Lennon got the best out of his Celtic sides.
But as for the current crop of Hoops players? Don’t expect a similar night out after a European game by the sounds of it!