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Celtic Are Top On Their Own Efforts
Neil Lennon does not subscribe to the belief that Celtic need Rangers to push them.
Neil Lennon does not believe either Celtic or the SPL as a whole need Rangers to be strong to prosper themselves. The Old Firm have always been linked and the argument that one needs the other has always been put forward. Rangers are operating under an uncertain cloud while they wait on the verdict of a tax tribunal which could land them with a bill of £49million and which would almost certainly ensure administration. Celtic are on a more financially secure foundation but it took some hard decisions in the past for the club to achieve that stability. Celtic are one point clear at the top of the SPL with a game in hand as they look forward to today's Scottish Cup game in Inverness. Lennon claims their position of strength is down to hard work at the club and has not been on strong opposition from Rangers. Lennon said: "I'm not in the camp who believe the SPL, or Celtic, need a strong Rangers. I'd be quite happy if we were a lot stronger than Rangers. A lot of people think Celtic and Rangers need each other, well at the minute we don't. We're in a strong position financially with good young players coming through. But we've had to work hard and be patient for that. We are talking hypothetically as we don't know what the outcome is going to be. But the people who suffer the most as always are the supporters and I have a lot of sympathy for the Rangers fans with the situation being the way it is at the moment." Lennon did recognise that Nikica Jelavic's move from Rangers to Everton on deadline day has given his side a boost in their bid to bring the title back to Parkhead. However, Lennon was at pains to make clear that the departure of the Ibrox club's top scorer does not mean that the SPL title is now, as someone put it, Celtic's to lose. He said: "It will certainly weaken Rangers' squad because he is a superb player. For the time he was here he scored very important goals for them at crucial times in games. But it is not our title. Rangers are the champions, we are trying to win it back. I see this week that people are trying to crank it up. But the remit is the same for us as it has been from day one. We've got to win the league, whether Jelavic is here or not here. Whether it weakens Rangers remains to be seen. It might galvanise them I don't know. But our boys are totally focused on what we have to do." Lennon declared himself "delighted" that the transfer window had closed without any of his top players leaving the club. The former Celtic captain managed to recruite Polish striker Pawel Brozek, Nigeria midfielder Rabiu Ibrahim and Swedish right-back Mikael Lustig but he confirmed that he had failed to tempt striker Leon Best from Newcastle. He said: "I am absolutely delighted. We didn't want to break the squad up. We have bought some players in and thankfully we were able to keep all the players who were subject to speculation. That's it, the squad is settled and we can look forward to the next three or four months now. We did try to get Leon in and the deal was agreed with Newcastle but Leon felt that, with a young family, it might have been disruptive to come up here but we wish him well." Lennon revealed that none of the new boys will feature in the fifth round tie in the Scottish Cup today. He said: "Brozek is a little bit short on fitness which is understandable. I don't think he has played since the fourth of January and he has had a lot of travelling this week. He will not be involved tomorrow, he will have a good weekend's work with the fitness coaches and hopefully get him up to speed and get him involved for Hearts next week. Mikael has a slight hip injury and Rabiu is still away getting his visa stamped so we are waiting on him returning." Inverness have twice knocked Celtic out of the Scottish Cup, in 2000 and 2003, but Lennon is relaxed about the possibility of them achieving their hat-trick. He said: "People forget that we have knocked Inverness out of competitions. But the more we play these teams the law of averages means that every now and again they will win one. That doesn't concern me too much. The players are very focused and hungry at the moment. I know Terry Butcher will have Inverness fired up for the game and we will be the same." Lennon also confirmed that striker Mo Bangura will be out for the rest of the season following knee surgery. He said: "He had a scan and it revealed he needed the surgery. The surgery was a success but he will be out for 12 to 16 weeks. It is unfortunate for him and possibly the reason he hasn't recaptured his form, maybe it was hampering him a little bit."
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