Exclusive: Jackie McNamara defends Lennon's team tinkering; notes tactical advantage Celtic have over Rangers

By John McGinley

September 21, 2020

Celtic are unbeaten in the Scottish Premiership this season but canvass the opinion of supporters and many would tell you they aren’t that happy with the way Neil Lennon’s team are playing right now.

The Bhoys’ last two matches were narrow victories of St Mirren and Livingston, while the 5-0 scoreline away to Ross County arguably flattered Celtic’s performance on the day.

One frustration for some fans is Neil Lennon’s insistence on chopping and changing his starting elevens.

That’s become clear on matchdays when supporters take to social media to check out what team he’s gone for.

Celtic manager Neil Lennon / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Is there reason to worry? Does Lennon know his best team and formation?

We put that question to one of the manager’s former teammates – Celtic icon Jackie McNamara.

The former defender gave an alternative point of view and it’s all to do with fitness.

He told 67 Hail Hail: “Certain managers don’t change a lot, once they have something there they just keep going and going and going, but I do believe he needs to give others game time.

“There are European games coming up and there are going to be injuries or little knocks. If someone’s not played for over a month, how do the players get fit? There are no reserve matches because of the pandemic.

“When they do come in, they need to be bang on it, the team can’t afford to carry any players.

“There’s so much pressure on every decision Neil makes but he has to keep a group of players happy. Beyond the starting eleven there’s another group of six or seven guys.”

Midfielder Callum McGregor celebrates a Celtic goal / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

As McNamara alludes to there are bigger games on the horizon and none more so than next month’s massive derby at home to Rangers.

That one is destined to be a top of the table clash and with both teams unbeaten in the early stages of the campaign, a lot will be riding on it.

We’re already seeing injury problems hit their squad with Ryan Jack, Joe Aribo and Kemar Roofe all doubts for the fixture.

McNamara reckons that the options Lennon has on hand are a huge advantage heading into the game and will allow him to show real tactical flexibility if need be.

The former Celtic captain said: “For me, Rangers can’t really change a lot and I think Celtic can, that’s the difference. We have got more in our armoury.

“You see it yesterday, they put Defoe on for the last 10 minutes to see if he can get a chance. Their team doesn’t really change.

“We’ve got enough in our squad to change so many things. I think Neil has got so many players at his disposal to go compact and solid in the midfield area to compete or go more expansive and I think you need that.”

Celtic celebrate a win over Rangers / (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

Fans will be hoping Lennon can find the perfect blend for that fixture, ideally well in advance.

Despite results going our way domestically this term, our performances are very much a work in progress but as McNamara says, we do have the depth and quality to get it right eventually.

You can watch the rest of our chat with Jackie McNamara on the 67 Hail Hail YouTube channel.