Dundee V Celtic at Dens Park Stadium : Match Preview

24 December 2012 06:31
Dundee V Celtic - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

Lennon relishing Dens Park return

Celtic manager Neil Lennon will return to a ground that holds special memories when he takes his team to play Dundee on Boxing Day.

Lennon made his Celtic debut at Dens Park on December 10, 2000, and marked the occasion with a 2-1 victory.

The win, courtesy of goals from Stiliyan Petrov and Didier Agathe, came two games into a six-month unbeaten run that carried Celtic to the treble in Martin O'Neill's first season as manager.

Lennon now finds himself aiming for the same goal in his third full campaign in charge at Parkhead with his side five points clear going into Christmas.

The former Northern Ireland international, who made more than 300 appearances for Celtic, said of his debut: "I remember it as if it was yesterday. I came up on the Thursday, trained on the Friday at Barrowfield.

"It was 11 o'clock in the morning and we had to put the floodlights on because it was so dark and wet.

"We started the game very, very well but Dundee had a great team then with (Claudio) Caniggia, Giorgi Nemsadze and Juan Sara, people like that.

"They had a real go at us and got an equaliser. Then Didier got the last-minute winner and we went on this incredible run for about three or four months unbeaten. They are very happy memories, very special."

The 41-year-old added: "Twelve years down the line and a lot has happened obviously, a full career almost in football. It's been wonderful.

"I'm sitting here now and I don't think I could have envisaged things going any better for me as a manager in this position right now."

Celtic remain in all four competitions at Christmas for the first time since the Jock Stein era but Lennon is looking for more with a fifth consecutive SPL win for the first time this season the aim on Tayside.

"I don't expect to pull away but I expect us to kick on," he said.

"We are playing well, it was an excellent second half on Saturday, a top-quality performance from everyone.

"With the likes of (James) Forrest coming back to the team, he gives us an extra dimension as well.

"The players have acquitted themselves brilliantly so far and we just want to keep that going.

"Whether other teams can stay with us, I don't know, but it doesn't look like Inverness are letting up and Aberdeen had a good win again at the weekend. It's still very vibrant, the league at the minute."

Dundee manager Barry Smith admits it is a major boost to have club captain Stephen O'Donnell back in his squad, but he will tread carefully over his reintroduction to action.

The 29-year-old was an unused substitute during Saturday's 4-1 defeat at Inverness after recovering from the hamstring injury that has kept him out since August.

Central midfielder Iain Davidson is suspended for the visit of Celtic, but Smith will not throw O'Donnell straight back into the starting line-up.

Smith said: "He's not quite ready to start the game but I think it's great to have him back on the bench and available.

"He's not actually match fit but it's good to see him recovered from what he's had and available for the bench at least.

"We'll see how he's feeling. It's not an easy thing and we will just see how he is between now and Wednesday."

Dundee have Aberdeen at home and St Johnstone away after hosting the champions and goalkeeper Rab Douglas believes it will be a crucial period.

Douglas, who played alongside Celtic manager Neil Lennon at Parkhead, said: "They are massive, we have Aberdeen and Celtic and it will be big crowds. It will be good to see Dens full.

"We have got to believe. The Inverness game is history. We have to look forward to the next game and cut out the basic mistakes.

"After a game where you lose and you are still in the game, you want a game quick, and that's what we have got.

"I have been at Celtic, boys almost seem to try harder against the Old Firm and then maybe lose against a lower team the following week.

"I'm quite sure Lenny will have them warned about that.

"We have got to have a go against Celtic."


Source: PA