Motherwell V Celtic at Fir Park Stadium : Match Preview

27 April 2013 02:01
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Lennon hails McCall revolution

Celtic manager Neil Lennon has credited Stuart McCall with changing the face of Motherwell.

Motherwell go into Sunday's meeting with Celtic in second place behind the Clydesdale Bank Premier League champions and looking to secure a second consecutive season as the best team outside Glasgow.

McCall has also led Motherwell to the Scottish Cup final and Champions League qualifiers in less than two-and-a-half years in charge and Lennon has been impressed with his work.

"I wouldn't say they have over-achieved but what I think he has done is changed the face of Motherwell," Lennon said.

"They play great football, very good attacking football. They have a good core, a good work ethic and they are very consistent.

"He has signed a new contract so obviously he is very happy to stay in that environment and I think that will settle the players as well.

"He has been a little bit imaginative and brought in (James) McFadden out of nowhere really and given him a lease of life. He is rolling back the years with the style of football that he is playing.

"So I think he has done a fantastic job."

Celtic travel to Lanarkshire without four players who Lennon gave a week off after they clinched the title last Sunday.

Defenders Efe Ambrose and Kelvin Wilson and midfield pair Joe Ledley and Kris Commons will all be absent along with unfit trio Lassad Nouioui, Scott Brown and Adam Matthews.

With others set to get next week off, Lennon is hoping to keep his team fresh for the William Hill Scottish Cup final against Hibernian.

Meanwhile, Lennon will hold talks about his future as Celtic manager after the Hampden showpiece on May 26.

The Northern Irishman has guided the club to the title this season in fine style and could secure the double with victory over Hibs later this month.

But Lennon admits he is not sure what the future holds after that and has not ruled out an exit from Celtic Park this summer.

When asked where his future lies on the BBC's Football Focus programme, Lennon said: "I don't know."

He added: "I've got magnificent support from chief executive Peter (Lawwell) and the board, I've got a great club here and a great group of young players.

"But you just don't know what's around the corner and what challenges lie ahead for you, not just in your professional life, but in your personal life as well.

"So we'll take stock of everything after the Cup final, have a sit down and see what we do for next year."

Stevie Hammell has hailed Motherwell team-mate Michael Higdon for winning over the fans and securing what he believes is a well-deserved nomination for PFA Scotland player of the year.

It took a few months for some Motherwell fans to appreciate Higdon's attributes after he arrived from St Mirren in the summer of 2011 but he is now the holder of the club post-war record for league goals scored in a top-flight season with 24 so far ahead of the visit of Celtic.

Hammell said: "I'm delighted for big Higgy. I think he deserves it. The goals he has scored have been excellent.

"We have players who can create chances but he tucks them away and makes it look easy.

"He has been scoring all kinds of goals - the two he scores up at Tannadice last week were excellent."

The 31-year-old added: "He has shown great character. It was only a small minority of fans but you could hear them at games and you could see it was getting to him.

"But he slowly turned it around and he has been scoring goals for fun this season.

"He has come back from being someone who gets a little bit of stick to someone who is one of the fans' favourites, so fair play to him."

Celtic manager Lennon was not quite so pleased with the four-man award shortlist, which also contains Hibernian talisman Leigh Griffiths, Inverness playmaker Andrew Shinnie and Aberdeen forward Niall McGinn.

Lennon described the absence of any of his title-winning side as "abysmal" and a "smack in the face" for their efforts in reaching the last 16 of the Champions League.

Hammell said: "I can see why they are disappointed about it, they are top of the league and have done well in the cups and in Europe.

"But you hear the arguments for the other way: because they have done really well as a team, there has not been one stand-out individual.

"They have had six or seven players who have done really well but not one stand-out.

"If you ask Celtic fans who is their player of the year, a lot of them would come up with a different one."

Motherwell have a full squad to choose from. Manager Stuart McCall is likely to field the same team that beat Dundee United 3-1 at Tannadice last Friday night.

Source: PA