Lennon urges Hoops to kick on
eil Lennon held a meeting with his Celtic players following the remarkable SPL game against Kilmarnock in a bid to kickstart their season. The Hoops were losing 3-0 at the Rugby Park interval and needed a dramatic second-hand turnaround to salvage a draw which ultimately kept them 10 points behind leaders Rangers and three adrift of second-placed Motherwell. Lennon later admitted he had concerns about his position as he walked up the tunnel at the break and, despite the rescue operation by his players, there was a meeting called on Sunday. And ahead of Thursday night's Europa League Group I clash with Rennes in France, the Northern Irishman hinted that the dialogue had been one-way. "I'm not sure the players were in the position to get things off their chest," he replied, when asked if the meeting had allowed both sides to lay bare their grievances. "We just analysed the game, the good and the bad and there were a lot of positives to come out of it. "I am very proud of the players for the way they fought back. They showed great character and great fortitude and great mental strength so I want them to build on that for the upcoming games." The players acknowledged what they had heard from Lennon and his coaching staff, according to stand-in skipper Charlie Mulgrew. "Everything was taken on board. These meetings are always helpful," he said. "It is good to look back and see where you could have done better. "Everybody took a lot from that meeting so hopefully we can kick on and get a few good results and hopefully go on a run." Celtic, though, face a difficult task against the French side on matchday three. The Parkhead club, bottom of the pool on goal difference with one point from two games, have triumphed only once away from home in Europe in their last 31 attempts and have won only four of their last 12 games this season. When asked how a side with such apparent defensive frailties would cope against such a potent side as Rennes, Lennon replied: "It wouldn't matter who we were playing. "We have to defend better than we did on Saturday and I know Rennes are an excellent side. "I watched them against Lorient and they are very exciting going forward but we have exciting players ourselves and we feel we can cause them plenty of problems." Once again in a pre-match press conference in a foreign stadium, Lennon was forced to address his club's dreadful away record in Europe. "It's not a real issue for me," said the former Celtic skipper. "It is a different team from over the years. "But it's not good and the best thing to do about a poor record is break it and we are looking for a good performance from the players. "This group was always going to be difficult, especially in the away games, but that doesn't perturb us and we will give it everything tomorrow night to break that hoodoo." Lennon denied the threat of Rennes coach Frederic Antonetti to rest star midfielder Yann M'Vila and some of his other regulars was symptomatic of a malaise around Europe's second-tier competition. Italian side Udinese fielded a second-string side in the 1-1 draw at Parkhead in September but Lennon, who played for Celtic in the 2003 UEFA Cup final defeat by Porto, said: "If you get to the last 16, last eight, last four or the final, I wouldn't say it would be a malaise. "I think it's a great competition. "I was fortunate enough to reach the final and I know what it meant to me and my team mates at the time. "In terms of what the Rennes coach does, that is his prerogative. "M'Vila is a great player but I know that he has chopped and changed his side on occasions and whoever comes in, they have great strength in depth. "He might have one eye on the weekend, as we will, but it's a great competition as far as we are concerned. "It's good for our club and our players." Lennon will be without injured trio Georgios Samaras, Kris Commons and Gary Hooper, while defender Badr El-Kaddouri is cup-tied. Teenagers Callum McGregor, Paul George, Marcus Fraser, Joe Chalmers, Patrik Twardzik all travelled with some hope of seeing some action. The Celtic boss said: "It will be a great experience for them and some of them may be on the bench and depending on how the game is going they might see some action."
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