Lennon hails McCann legacy
Neil Lennon hailed Fergus McCann as one of the great figures in Celtic's history as the Parkhead club prepare to mark the 20th anniversary of the Canada-based businessman's takeover of the Glasgow giants during Saturday's home match against Inverness.
McCann rescued Celtic from the brink of bankruptcy in March 1994, before restructuring the club financially and rebuilding the stadium.
His prudence in the transfer market and with wages, however, found little favour among a section of the Celtic support as rivals Rangers dominated the decade.
And even though he was in charge when the Hoops prevented the Ibrox club setting a new Scottish record of 10 consecutive title wins, he was booed by Celtic fans when unfurling the championship flag on the opening day of the 1998/99 season before a game against Dunfermline at Parkhead.
McCann sold his shares at the end of his five-year plan but his legacy has only recently been properly appreciated and indeed brought into sharper focus with Rangers' recent descent into administration and liquidation, and the Govan club's continuing battle to find some sort of stability.
Ahead of the Scottish Premiership clash with Inverness, where defender Virgil van Dijk will play after Celtic appealed the red card picked up against Aberdeen on Tuesday night, Hoops boss Lennon cast his eyes across the city and said: "It may put more emphasis now on what he did back then but to maybe use it as a comparison, I don't know.
"All I will say is that it was a very critical time for the future of the club.
"You just wonder what state the club would be in or if we would have had a club at all.
"He came in, stabilised the club, took it forward and built a magnificent stadium into the bargain.
"Obviously I wasn't around at the club in those days but the fruits of his labour are there to be admired and I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Fergus.
"He had to make tough decisions at the time but when you look back at it, those tough decisions were the right ones.
"He delivered what he said he would do. There was probably a little bit of pain along the way but he stayed strong to his beliefs.
"We are all very appreciative and thankful for that and he has left a fantastic legacy behind him.
"He is appreciated now. I think he is held in healthy respect by the supporters.
"I think at the time some might have questioned his methods but looking in the long run, he was proved to be right."
Lennon understands the need to work under similar financial constraints in the current "difficult economic climate", although he admits to occasional frustration.
"We must be sustainable for the next five, 10, 15 years and the board have that foresight and plan to take the club forward," said the former Celtic skipper.
"Frustrating at times for me, obviously, yes, but that's part of the strategy in place here.
"We need a bit of investment in the team. People say we haven't progressed this season and that is true.
"But we have sold Victor Wanyama, Kelvin Wilson, Gary Hooper and Joe Ledley, so it is going to be very difficult to progress when you have sold four of your best players.
"But I understand why we do it. I think we will improve again next year."
Inverness manager John Hughes reckons Saturday's trip to Celtic Park is the perfect dress rehearsal for next month's League Cup final.
The Highlanders will face Aberdeen on March 16 on neutral ground at Parkhead as they look to claim their first-ever major trophy.
But before that, they must take on a Celtic side still hurting from their first Scottish Premiership defeat of the season following the Dons' 2-1 success at Pittodrie on Tuesday night.
Hughes, who boasts a fully-fit squad, told CaleyJagsTV: "We can expect a backlash from Celtic. I had the privilege of playing for the great club and very rarely did they go back-to-back games suffering defeats.
"But the match will give us a right good taste of the atmosphere before the cup final.
"It has to inspire you, collectively and individually. As a player, you must want to go there to that stage, play against the best players in Scotland and show them how good you are.
"They need to show their mental toughness. If you are a shrinking violet, you shouldn't be putting that Inverness strip on.
"We need to go there, stick together and give it a right good go. If we do that then, hopefully, Celtic will know they have been in a game and who knows, with the way that we can go about our business, it might just go our way."