FROM NEIL DOHERTY AT CELTIC PARK: Neil Lennon was one hoopy man here in Glasgow tonight as Celtic completed the second leg match with Helsingborgs with a 2-0 victory – goals from Hooper and Wanyama in each half seeing the Hoops into the Champions League group stages.
The atmosphere was electric at Parkhead with a wall of noise from the Celtic faithful, including, of course, a large contingent from Donegal.
No wonder then that Lennon described the evening as the “best night” of his career/
“It’s not often I pat myself on the back but I’m going to,” he joked afterwards.
“The pressure going into the game was huge; I’ve never experienced anything like it as a player.”
The €20M windfall means that Celtic can now buy players after letting 16 members of the squad leave in the past two months.
“We will bring in players,” he said, “we have a coupled lined up and hopefully we’ll get the medicals done before Friday.”
After tonight’s match the Armagh man was bouncing around the pitch like a five year old – hugging each and every player, and shaking hands with anyone within ten feet of him.
“I’ve been to hell and back these last six or seven week trying to get things right,” he said.
“It’s a great night for me, for the club and for the players. It’s a minor miracle, the squad is so thin but we have a good core of players and I am very proud of them.”
Looking ahead to the draw today (Thursday) Lennon added: “It’s a great privilege to manage this club and to manage in Champions League is beyond my wildest dreams.
“It doesn’t matter who we get and I’ve no idea how we’ll do.
“But we’ve got the infrastructure to be a Champions League club and the players have done their talking on the pitch.
“They have worked so hard to get to this point.
“It’s unfair on British sides to play these games so early [in the season] but we’ve overcome that.
“The expectation level for this game was huge but for the group stage it’s not so big.
“From from that point of view, the pressure is off and we can go on and develop the team against some of the best teams in the world.”
The Hoops could get Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea or Arsenal in the draw in Monaco.
“That would be great,” he said. “That gets the juices flowing, you know, the Battle of Britain.
“I have some great recollections of Liverpool and Manchester United over the time and it always creates an extra bit of excitement.
“If we can avoid Barcelona and Real Madrid, we might have half a chance. But it doesn’t matter.”
The win here at Celtic Park turned out to be fairly straightforward against the Swedes.
“We didn’t start they way I’d have liked,” Lennon said. “But nerves played a part; these games are so tense.
“There is a fear factor and I lived with that. I am thinking of the ramifications if we don’t go through, what it would mean for me personally, how I would get through it and how I would get over it.
“That was part of the build-up. Everyone had us in the Champions League but in the back of your mind there is always that worry, that fear.
“We have overcome that and dealt with the two qualifiers very well.”
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